This all started when I was standing around one day minding my own business and a shadowy figure sidled up to me and said, "I think you might be the rumour I'm looking for."
I said, "I can be any rumour you like."
He said, "What are you like at dirty politics?"
I smiled, and said, "Is there any other kind?"
He came closer. He was wearing a balaclava. "This has to be credible," he said.
I said, "You're asking a bit much."
"I didn't mean it had to have any connection with the truth," he said. "I just mean it has to sound as though it might."
I said, "Anything is believable."
"That's deep," he said.
I said, "Here's another one. John Key used to say it sometimes. 'Perception is reality.'"
He lowered his voice, and said, "Keep JK out of it, mate."
I said, "There were rumours about him, too. When he stepped down. And rumours about his son."
He stepped closer. He had bad breath, and there was a sauce stain on his shirt. He said, "None of them were true!"
I said, "So?"
"Anyway," he said. "The point is that I want you to do a number on Clarke Gayford."
Seven months later, here I am in the office of Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
The media are closing in on Bush. Interesting. But it's too much to hope that he'll make a statement and have it all out in the open.
For a while the only people who were paying me any attention were trolls. It didn't take long before it reached the media. That was to be expected. But I had people directing the traffic, giving it a nudge now and then, and the thing just kept spreading. It made people feel important that they knew. They were part of an exclusive club, they were in the loop.
But it's gone far enough. The public will never know.
Oh. My. God.
It feels strange to be so public.
Clarke Gayford has no comment, and Jacinda Ardern says she's too busy to comment, but everyone else is commenting, especially the media commentators.
Mike Hosking has said that all rumours are crap, and that no one should listen to them. It's in a column devoted to talking about rumours. He recalls the one about him going to Fiji for a secret tryst with a real estate salesman. It was all nonsense of course but the bit about Fiji was inspired. People instantly thought of Denarau, the Sheraton, tropical fish, buffet meals…Rumour is all in the detail.
Or is it? The entire nation now knows everything about the Clarke Gayford rumour – except the rumour itself. Clarke Gayford's lawyer Linda Clark has issued a statement saying that to repeat it is defamatory.
That's okay. It kind of makes it better. Like a wonderful secret, something too pure and beautiful for this world, it's the rumour that dare not speak its name.
No one can deny it, because no one can say what it is. It will last forever.
I was standing around minding my own business when the shadowy figure walked past.
"Hi there," I called out.
He looked over. He gave a tug on his balaclava, and said, "How did you recognise me?"
I waited for him to say thanks.
"Can't stop," he said. "I'm on the look-out for another rumour. No one cares about your one anymore."