Jason Robards was in his office, gently snoozing, when Robert Redford, his assistant managing editor, came in to see him.
"Have you got a minute?" Redford said.
"What is it?" Robards asked in his gravelly voice.
"I've got good news and bad news," Redford told him.
"The good news is that one of our reporters won the Pulitzer Prize."
"That's great," said Robards. "Put it on the front page. What's the bad news?"
"The bad news is the story she won it for isn't true."
"On second thought you'd better put it in the food section."
"I don't know what happened," Redford said. "She swore every fact was true."
"Why didn't you check it out with me first?" Robards said.
"We did. You were the one who okayed the story. Don't you remember? We came to your house late at night, and you came out on the lawn in your bathrobe and read it under the street lamp."
"Oh, my God. It's coming back to me now. Isn't that the girl who graduated magna cum laude from Vassar?"
Redford said, "Would you believe magna cum nothing from the University of Toledo?"
"I need a drink," Robards said. "Who else knows about this?"
"Just myself and Dustin Hoffman," Redford said.
"Well, that gives us time anyway."
"I'm not so sure. Dustin now works for ABC and they're going to lead with it tonight on the evening news."
"Okay, we blew it," said Robards. "But I don't want a cover-up. I want us to play this story straight down the line. Put your best reporters on it, dig up all the facts, talk to everyone you can, get statements from everybody from the Pulitzer Committee to the mayor of Washington, D.C."
"I gotcha, boss. If there's a smoking gun, we'll find it," Redford said.
"Do you still see 'Deep Throat'?" Robards asked.
"All the time. He works in the garage where I park my car."
"Well, see what he knows about the Pulitzer gang. Find out where the money's coming from for the prize. Talk to all the wives of the editors, and find out where they were the night the story was printed. One of them has to break."
"I just thought of something. I used to date a girl who worked in the city room. Maybe she knows how the article got in the paper."
"Good idea. Take her to dinner and whatever."
The secretary came in. "President Nixon's on the phone."
Robards picked it up. He listened for 30 seconds and hung up.
Redford said, "What did he say?"
"Nothing. He just gave me a Bronx raspberry."
"At least you know who your friends are when you make a blooper," Redford said.
"People forget so soon," Robards said. "Okay, let's get back to business. I won't accept any facts on how we blew it unless it's confirmed by two sources."
"Don't worry, boss. We won't rest until we get to the bottom of this. I have a friend at the FBI who owes me a favor. He might be willing to open his files for us."
"Good," Robards said. "If anyone asks you what you're doing, tell him you're working on a story about how many husbands Gov. Carey's wife really had."
"I'll get on it right away," Redford said. "What are you going to do now?"
"Me?" said Robards. "I'm going to call my agent and see if I can get out of this lousy movie."