[SCENE I. NICHOLAS’s office. It has absolutely no decoration to speak of, though his laptop is covered in various stickers. He is typing; a paper with the header ‘Portland Loves Fat Cats’ sits on his desk, and he is occasionally consulting it. As he works, a RECEPTIONIST pokes her head in the door.]
RECEPTIONIST: Mr. Hayes? There’s a reporter from the Examiner here to see you. Shall I send her in?
NICHOLAS: Uh, sure.
(The RECEPTIONIST departs. After a moment, SOPHIE walks in, notepad in hand.)
SOPHIE: Hello, Nick. Or do you prefer Nicholas?
NICHOLAS: (Looking SOPHIE over suspiciously.) I don’t really care.
SOPHIE: Really? Then why does Melissa only call you Nick when she’s angry at you?
NICHOLAS: Does she?
SOPHIE: You haven’t noticed?
(NICHOLAS shakes his head.)
NICHOLAS: So, what brings you here? I take it you’re not doing a story for the Examiner.
SOPHIE: (A sinister smile.) No, I’m not.
NICHOLAS: And I don’t think I’ve even talked to Melissa since New Year’s, so if you’re hoping to–
SOPHIE: (A little too intense.) I’m not obsessed with Melissa! Why do people keep assuming I’m obsessed with Melissa? I have a life! I have goals!
NICHOLAS: You pay minute attention to her quirks and idiosyncrasies.
SOPHIE: (Dignified.) I’m a reporter. It’s my job to observe things. (Beat.) Anyway, I’ve got a proposal for you. I’ve got a tip that could make sure Mayor Hall stays in office until the dawn of time.
NICHOLAS: Until the dawn of time?
SOPHIE: Er, yes, because . . . she’ll be Mayor for so long that time will start over. Yes.
NICHOLAS: . . . right. Anyway, go on.
SOPHIE: (Rallies.) If I reveal this tip could cost me my job. But lately the Examiner has been . . . moving in a direction I don’t like. So if, for instance, there were a speechwriter position waiting for me at the mayor’s office, I’d consider making that trade.
NICHOLAS: Supposing your tip actually turns out to be useless?
SOPHIE: I don’t want a position I haven’t earned, Nick. Make sure Mayor Hall is on board with it, then get back to me.
NICHOLAS: All right. But I’m not promising anything.
SOPHIE: You won’t need to. I’ll see you later, Nick Hayes.
(She departs. After a moment, NICHOLAS picks up his phone.)
NICHOLAS: Mayor Hall? I just got a kind of weird proposal . . . .
[SCENE II. The Jaded Old Crone. SOPHIE and NICHOLAS are meeting.]
NICHOLAS: You’re in luck. Turns out she needs a new speechwriter. If this tip of yours is any good.
SOPHIE: It will be. There’s going to be a meeting tonight. (She slides a slip of paper across the table.) You and the Mayor show up with a camera, you’ll be heroes.
NICHOLAS: You going to lose your job over this?
SOPHIE: I already put in my two weeks’ notice.
NICHOLAS: Well, someone’s feeling confident.
SOPHIE: This is going to change Portland for the better, Nick. It’s giving me this weird warm glow. Is that what helping people feels like?
NICHOLAS: Sure, I guess so.
SOPHIE: Maybe I should do it more often.
NICHOLAS: Anyway, I’ve got a meeting with the mayor. I’ll let her know about this meeting and then we’ll get back to you if it turns out your tip is worthwhile.
SOPHIE: You won’t be skeptical after tonight.
NICHOLAS: Well, no, because I’ll have seen the meeting you’re talking about.
SOPHIE: . . . right, yeah. So long, Nick.
NICHOLAS: Catch you later.
[SCENE III. A secluded park, after hours. NICHOLAS and the MAYOR are present. NICHOLAS has brought a flip camera. They are talking to each other quietly.]
MAYOR: Did she tell you what to look for?
NICHOLAS: Just that there would be a meeting. I don’t–oh, I think I hear something.
(They creep towards the source of the noise, which appears to be a copse of trees. As they approach, they find a few members of the CITY COUNCIL, nursing a wounded owl back to health. NICHOLAS begins recording.)
(The CITY COUNCILMEN look up.)
FIRST COUNCILMAN: Mayor Hall! Good to see you.
MAYOR: And you, Councilman. What’s going on here?
SECOND COUNCILMAN: George here discovered this little guy when he was out walking the other day. He’s nocturnal so we come by at night to take care of him.
FIRST COUNCILMAN: What brings you out here?
MAYOR: Oh, Nicholas and I were just out to stretch our legs. Burning the midnight oil tonight and I thought some fresh air would do us some good. Have a good evening.
FIRST COUNCILMAN: Of course.
(The MAYOR and NICHOLAS stride off.)
NICHOLAS: What just happened?
MAYOR: I’m not entirely certain.
[SCENE IV. NICHOLAS’s office. He is typing something or other when SOPHIE walks in.]
SOPHIE: So, how did it go?
(NICHOLAS wordlessly makes a ‘come here’ gesture and pulls up a video on his laptop, of the city council helping the injured owl.)
SOPHIE: . . . so, do they eat, torture, or sacrifice the owl at any point?
NICHOLAS: (Annoyed.) No, Sophie. They’re caring for it. And the mayor is not happy with me for having wasted her time.
SOPHIE: But they were–
NICHOLAS: I think you’d better leave.
SOPHIE: Maybe I will! (Departs, slamming the door to the office as she does.)
(THE DEVIL appears behind NICHOLAS.)
THE DEVIL: What do you figure the odds are she’ll be able to get her job back at the Examiner?
NICHOLAS: She’s the only good writer they have, so probably pretty good.
THE DEVIL: Shame, really. At least they’ll probably give her a pay cut and get her to work more hours.
NICHOLAS: Wait, hang on, this was all your doing, wasn’t it?
THE DEVIL: What? Don’t be silly.
NICHOLAS: I’m like your catspaw or something!
THE DEVIL: I think a catspaw has to be an unwitting pawn. You knew I was getting you this job going in. But no, I did not make Sophie Swanson send you information about a couple of city councilmen nursing a wounded owl back to health.
NICHOLAS: Then what did you do?
THE DEVIL: Well, I may have allowed her to believe that the city councilmen were actually members of one of my cults and were performing horrible rites in my name, but I had no idea she’d go to the mayor’s office.
NICHOLAS: No idea?
THE DEVIL: Well, down at the main office, we had a little betting pool going on what she’d do, and I did not place money on ‘go to the mayor’s office.’ (Beat.) My money was on ‘write a scathing editorial.’
NICHOLAS: So, why Sophie? I mean, of all the people in this town–
THE DEVIL: Well, she’s really not very nice. Did you know she put a curse on someone? (Waves a hand dismissively.) Bygones, of course. But no, I really just don’t like her. I’ve decided to break her spirit.
THE DEVIL: I let people destroy themselves, mostly. It’s easier. And more fun. Anyway, I should let you get back to your work. (He looks over NICHOLAS’s shoulder.) You spelled that wrong. And that apostrophe shouldn’t be there. (Vanishes.)
(NICHOLAS sighs heavily and gets back to work. Fin.)