Harold Waterman missed the reading of the awards. No doubt the prize would have gone to that old hack, Peter Numan and his doorstopper book The New-New Testament: An Interview with Jesus. He clamed it was non-fiction, written over the course of a year with a man who was speaking in tongues but everybody knew, unofficially, he'd spent nine months in a sanatorium and banged out the book in six weeks afterward.
Instead he was shut in an airless room with three men in cheap black suits, reduced to drinking water. He looked up at Mr. Adams. "When does the after-party start?"
His eyes flickered to Harold's face and away again. "Does it matter?" He returned to his paperback edition of Gloaming. "You won't be attending anyway."
"Why not? I have an executive pass for being a judge of the Bibliolatry Prize."
"How exactly did you become a judge then?" The second of the suits stepped forward, balancing a pair of spectacles on his nose as he scanned a list of names. "Only I can't find you in the Who's Who in Publishing."
"I'm an author." Harold puffed his chest. "I wrote The Godly Child."
"Which sold the sum total of fourteen copies, including the ten disbursed to the author."
"It was still nominated for the award."
"In biro, at the bottom of each voting sheet."
"It received votes."
"A vote, Mr. Waterman. It received a vote. Your vote, in fact. Is that correct?"
"Maybe." Harold shifted in his seat. "I voted for the only book I thought had merit. I wouldn't have bothered voting at all but I ended up on the panel and thought it deserved to win. I was going to remove it only I wrote it in pen. Anyway, it was only for a laugh. So can I go now?"
"No Mr. Waterman. You see, here at Digital Dearth we take a dim view of vote rigging."
Harold smiled. "Perhaps you should invest in brighter ideas."