I should have been less trusting, I suppose.
I might at least have suspected that the Honourable Marcus Finkelgreen’s intentions were less than honourable, but the thought that I was on the verge of a major scoop clouded my judgement.
I could envisage the screaming headlines: “Downfall of a politician. Allegations of sleaze and corruption” and the by-line: “by our investigative reporter Sally Smith”.
My editor had sent me to this northern constituency to interview the deputy Prime Minister, a task which he considered to be fairly straightforward and well within my capabilities which were, in his estimation, pretty limited.
Naturally I disagreed with this assessment and had loftier ambitions.
I saw this assignment as my chance to shine. I knew that a lot of acrimony existed between the premier and his deputy and that the latter was dying to be the next incumbent.
My plan was to wheedle some compromising information about our head of government which could be used to undermine his credibility thus giving the nation the chance of ridding itself of a corrupt leader.
I had hatched a carefully detailed scheme which would, hopefully, yield the desired results.
I met my interviewee at the Caprice restaurant, where I had booked a table and given the wine waiter precise instructions as to what wine to serve and told him to keep replenishing the stock.
Being a believer in the saying ‘In vino veritas’, I thought that my target’s tongue would soon loosen and reveal the most intimate secrets.
I hadn’t met him before and when he entered the room and approached the table
I liked what I saw.
He had an athletic build – the result, I guessed, of frequent visits to the gym – and his hair was greying at the temples.
All in all a very distinguished look. A man I could really fancy, was my initial reaction, and I nearly felt guilty at the subterfuge I was going to put into action.
All throughout the meal we talked about the forthcoming elections but I kept the tone of the conversation very light and flirtatious.
We had got through three bottles of Barolo and I was motioning the sommelier to bring another, when I noticed that the wine was having the intended effect.
It was then that I struck. I asked him in a jovial manner if there were any naughty stories about the Prime Minister he would like to share with me.
He tapped his nose, leaned towards me conspiratorially and whispered:
‘Off the record?’
‘It goes without saying’, I replied, ‘You have my word.’
And to show my good faith I placed my pen and notebook on the table.
My hidden tape-recorder was meanwhile whirring away.
He seemed to relish relaying to me our esteemed premier’s predilection for young boys and girls.
An added bonus for me was that he had photographs to prove it.
I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by what he said next:
‘I, on the other hand, am attracted to older women like yourself, dear Sally.’
The cheek of the man! I was after all in my early thirties.
He gently squeezed my thigh as he spoke and it was clear that I was expected
to be grateful for the information he had supplied.
So when he suggested that I stay overnight at his flat rather than driving hundred of miles back to London I didn’t have any qualms.
The only question in my mind, as I adjusted my make-up in the powder room, was debating if the six johnnies I had in my bag would be enough.
As it happened they proved to be six too many.
By the time I slipped into something comfortable he was fast asleep on his bed. I never had the opportunity to combine business with pleasure.
The next morning he was full of apologies but never offered to rectify the deficiency of the night before.
He kissed me chastely on the cheek, promised me wonderful times ahead when he came to the metropolis and sent me on my way.
The article and the photos that appeared in the paper did the trick.
The Prime Minister resigned in disgrace and his deputy replaced him.
He was now the darling of the people.
My editor took the glory for the exposé, the newspaper’s proprietor was knighted and I ended up with nothing; the promotion I was expecting never materialised.
To add insult to injury, they transferred me to the society pages where my task consisted in attending parties given by celebrities where I was expected to listen to tittle-tattle and gossip and write a piece to be accompanied by glossy pictures of the cavorting participants.
As for dear old Marcus, he gave me a wide berth. Having exploited my gullibility to achieve power he had no more use for me.
I realised that instead of being the clever one, I had been manipulated.
I was resigned to being the dupe that everyone took me for but I still secretly yearned for the big chance.
This came unexpectedly on my next assignment.
I knew right away that something fishy was going on at the party I had been sent to cover when my camera was confiscated at the entrance.
‘This is strictly a private gathering and no photographs are allowed’, a burly bouncer said.
I feel naked without my trusty equipment but I am nothing if not resourceful.
I had a miniature camera which doubled up as a clasp for my trousers belt and luckily this had not been spotted.
Nothing out of the ordinary was happening, just the usual minor debauchery, and
I was on the point of calling it a day when a familiar figure caught my eye.
In a corner, discreetly away from the throng of revellers, the Honourable Marcus Finkelgreen’s hands were groping the buttocks of a buxom female who was bending to sniff cocaine from the glass top of a table. I managed to take a quick snap and a second one followed just as he too applied his nostrils to the white powder.
The revealing photographs came out really well and made the front page.
Now, to get rid of one Prime Minister is quite a feat but to dethrone two in quick succession takes some doing. Yet this is what little old me had managed.
I finally got the prize I always wanted: I was promoted to Deputy Editor.
But whether it was the reward for my scoops or the fact that I eventually gave in to my editor’s advances and slept with him, I shall never know.
© Luigi Pagano 2006