I ran through the possibilities quickly: this couldn't be important or she'd have either buttoned her blouse up or worn a better bra, but equally she rarely invited me anywhere, let alone to lunch. I concluded that this was going to be about that female blogger, Rosemary, again.
"Sure," I said, forcing a smile. "Burger King?"
"Good grief, no! You're a food critic, we'll go to wherever you're reviewing next. This should be a business lunch."
I was a little alarmed now, as it was becoming clear that my editor was planning on watching how I conducted my analyses and reviews, and decided to head things off at the pass.
"This is about that blogger, Rosemary, isn't it?" I said. "Don't tell me that you're actually listening to her complaints?"
To her credit, my editor laughed. "We can't listen to all of her complaints," she said. "She filled up the voicemail service before she'd finished. We're getting them transcribed though, we think we can put them in the Christmas magazine as an example of the kinds of madness we have to deal with sometimes. She's also written us a forty-page letter, did you know? And posted a hundred-and-fifty thousand word essay on her blog."
"Yes, exactly. We're still considering hiring her though, if we can get her to sign off on a fairly heavy editing policy. Someone that crazy will generate a certain kind of audience, the obsessive kind who never stop buying the paper to read what she's written next."
"Quite. So, no, lunch isn't about that, or about your increasingly bizarre expenses claims, or even the fact that you don't seem to have found a restaurant anyone can actually eat at in the last two months. It's... an internal matter."
The waiter presented us with a menu that appeared to have been hand-written on card torn from a corn-flakes packet.
"I'll have... well, the starter," I said, as there was only one listed, "the beef, and for dessert... the dessert." I passed the card to my editor, who concurred with my choices, and the waiter disappeared before I could ask if they had a wine menu.
"A little primitive," I said, "but let's see what the food is like. So, what's this internal matter then?"
"There's a little bit of a scandal about to break," said my editor. "It seems that certain journalists, whose names aren't to be mentioned, might have been stealing people's mobile phones, listening to their messages, and then 'finding' those phones again and returning them."
"That doesn't sound too good, certainly," I said. A plate of foie gras and brioche with a hint of salad was deposited rudely in front of me, but the smell had me salivating like a Pavlovian hound.
"Well, it's not illegal, exactly, but given the current climate, it's not something we'd really like to have to explain."
"Stealing's not illegal?" I said, a little indistinctly. The food was heavenly.
"Well, that bit might be, I suppose, but that's very hard to prove. The rest isn't really very illegal."
"Have you been talking to our lawyer again?" That woman was as twisty as a corkscrew, and about as attractive even in a good light.
"It was necessary, she thought you were one of the journalists."
"!" There was no way I was spitting food this good out, no matter how shocked I was, so I chewed, swallowed, and only then glared at my editor.
"Well, you're abrasive, you make strange expense claims, she thought you were just rather ineptly covering your tracks."
"So... does she now know that I'm not?"
I glared at her, interrupted only by the waiter leaning over me to take my plate away.
"Well," she said. "This is kind of why we're still entertaining Rosemary."
I raised an eyebrow and refused to comment.
"We're going to get her onboard, and then use her as our scapegoat. She's unpleasant enough that people will love to see her getting her comeuppance. But we need you to agree to hiring her, since she'll be in your department. There might be a little overspill of blame, but we'll be behind you 100%."
"I'd prefer you to be 100% in front of me," I said. "This is blackmail."
My editor nodded, and tried to look ashamed.
"Fine," I said, making a quick decision. "But no more questions about my expenses."
"We'll double the limit before we question them," she said quickly.
I think she might have held out longer, but then the beef arrived and neither of us wanted to be that close to something that smelled that good and not be eating it, so we shook hands and the deal was sealed.
And I finally had a restaurant so good I could recommend it. Which I'm not doing, as I'd like to be able to keep going back there myself, so I'm keeping it a secret.