It was my idea, but Deb's last rejection, which came on a square of toilet paper, clinched it.
Deb rented a fountain pen costume and stood at the bar. Sixty seconds later, EE hit on her. Pervert. Once she lured him home, he swigged the spiked Mai Tai and went down like an over-microwaved marshmallow. Strapping him into the chair in our cellar was exhausting, but the indignation on his face when he came round was worth it. He threatened to call our agents, our mothers, our high school English teachers.
We let him bluster until he noticed the machine. We could have filled him in then (literally) but we waited- till he noticed his pants were missing. Then I held up the probe. “See this?”
He nodded. His eyes followed the wires, one red, one black, that connected them to the machine.
“This,” I indicated the machine, “is a lie detector. This,” I put the probe under his nose, “is your incentive to tell the truth.” He squirmed and bitched and moaned, but Debbie snapped on rubber gloves and we got to work.
“Is it true the only reason you accept unsolicited manuscripts is to use them to heat your 12 room chalet in Zermatt?” I asked him.
EE looked stunned. Debbie and I had a good laugh at his big eyes and slack jaw. But then his mouth curled up at the corners. This made us nervous.
“What?” I said.
“Nothing,” he said. “Next question?”
“Uh, yeah. Is it true that you steal authors' ideas and f-”
EE smiled, his eyes half closed.
I asked Deb, “Did you put that probe-”
“Yes, as far in as it would go!”
“And the power?”
“My mother was a possum!” yelled EE.
“He he he he!” He was beginning to drool. “Stephanie Meyer is a literary genius!”
“Wah ha ha ha!”
Every light on the machine was flashing and the thing was starting to smoke.
“That's enough,” I yelled. “Pull the plug!”
“I lust after John Grish- ohhhhhhhhhh, please! Turn it back on, please! I'll tell you anything!”
Now it was our turn to smile.
“Tell us exactly what we need to write to get published.”
“That's it? That's easy...”
Debbie took notes.