A story by Downing Street, twisted and re-posted with his permission
Everyone knows by now that Downing Street is Homer's favorite writer. His way of telling how uptight women gradually are transformed into tarty sluts is without peer. But is it "conceivable" that he is telling the "full" story? The "expanded" consequences of these changes "bear" further examination.
"This is the best deal you have any reason to expect, Cromwell," the woman said coldly; "I suggest you take it."
Cromwell looked back at the slender blonde in the masculine black suit, barely noticing the sheaf of papers in her hand. He felt utterly defeated. Even his own lawyer thought he was scum. "Penelope, can't we fight this?"
If anything, the lawyer's voice became even colder. "First of all, my name is 'Ms. Parnell, ' not 'Penelope.' Second, your former employee has a case against you on which the court will convict. Especially with one of the best legal firms in the city behind her. Take the plea bargain. And try to remember this the next time you feel like assaulting your secretary." She tossed the papers in front of him and sat down behind her polished desk.
Cromwell sat there, feeling numb. He stared past her for a moment, out the second-story window. The trees lining the street were brilliant in the early autumn sunshine, indifferent to the morass his life had fallen into.
"Penelope," he tried again, "I mean Ms. Parnell. It, it wasn't like that. I didn't mean anything. Hell, I was drunk, it was a party, everybody was fooling around, having a good time. I just got a little carried away. She led me on."
"She has videotape," the blonde lawyer snapped back, "and multiple witnesses. Her case is airtight."
"But, but those witnesses are all her friends. Of course they'll corroborate her story; the judge will see that."
"The judge will also hear testimony from each witness that you made persistent and inappropriate advances to all of them too, won't he." Her blue eyes flashed.
Cromwell hung his head. How could this be happening? Two weeks ago he had gotten a little loose at a company party, nothing that hadn't happened a dozen times before. Now that little minx of a secretary, barely 20 years old, was dragging him through the mud and making his life hell. He shook his head. The damndest thing was that the girl had the most awesome legs. Irrelevant, but still true.
At last he said, "I need some time to think about this."
Ms. Parnell said, "Don't take too long about it. The trial gets underway day after tomorrow. The deal drops the criminal charges if you settle for the full amount in the civil suit. That option won't be available once the case is in session. I'd like to get this off my desk."
For a moment Cromwell rebelled. He was being shuffled aside like so much paperwork! "You're supposed to be MY lawyer!" he charged.
The blue-eyed blonde was unmoved. "Not my idea, Cromwell. I'm only on this case at all because Mr. Ferguson doesn't want to touch it. I can see why. I have other cases to deal with, real people with real problems; I haven't got time to waste on a middle-aged cad who treats his employees as playmates for his sexual gratification."
For a long moment they glared at each other. Her hair was tied up in a businesslike bun on the back of her head, hiding its true length. Her high cheeks, flushed with anger, were surprisingly pretty. She was young, not even a junior partner yet. She had been assigned to his case when Ferguson, his friend and confidant for years, had suddenly become "too busy" for him.
Cromwell rose and snatched the papers off her desk. "I'll look at these," he said, knowing he was conceding defeat.
Ms. Parnell did not get up. "Be in my office with the papers signed at 9:30 tomorrow. I need time to talk to the judge."
He let himself out.
Fifteen minutes later Cromwell was seated in his favorite chair at his regular club, nursing his wounds with a strong drink. It wasn't his fault, he told himself for the one thousandth time. It was all a set-up.
Things hadn't been going well at home. His wife was incredibly sexy, but had lost interest in sex; maybe she'd never really had any. He loved her, but, rebuffed each night and morning, he went to work each morning horny and frustrated, which combined with his driven personality to make him short-tempered and sullen. More and more he found himself noticing all the attractive young women in the office.
Then one day Tawny had waltzed into his office, pert, cheerful and gorgeous. She announced, as if she had just won a school prize, that Human Resources had made her his new secretary. Cromwell had been stung. She was perfect. She was beautiful. She came to work each morning in yet another foxy miniskirt, apparently unaware of Cromwell's weakness for legs on high heels, unlike his wife who WAS aware and refused to wear them. She seemed so innocent...
He sipped his Scotch, staring at the floor.
"Quite a jolly mess, isn't it?" said the man beside him.
Cromwell looked up. "Excuse me?"
The man put down the newspaper that had hidden him so effectively. He was thin and bespectacled. "This mire you've gotten yourself into, Mr. Cromwell. This awful legal proceeding."
"Excuse me," Cromwell said again, "Do I know you? I don't think I remember--"
The man interrupted him smoothly. "Just look at your situation. You're facing both a private suit and a criminal prosecution. Your adversary is a twenty-year-old secretary the judge will love. I understand you've drawn Judge Martha Harris; a competent jurist, but something of a crusader on harassment issues. The case against you is formidable, even though there is no convincing evidence of impropriety on your part, aside from inebriation. If you decide to fight it, the best you can hope for is a conditional discharge and a criminal record. Or you can accept the sleazy deal they're offering and pay a six-figure sum for having too much to drink at a party."
"What --," blustered Cromwell, "Who are you? How do you know all --"
"Have you considered the, ah, social implications of your predicament?" the man asked, ignoring Cromwell's questions. "How much respect will you retain at work once your whole staff sees you convicted as a lecher? What will be your chances at that vice-presidency you have worked toward for so long? You will probably have great difficulty even finding a new secretary. Not to mention the effect on business when word of this gets out to your customers. Most important of all: how long do you think you can hide this little adventure from your wife?"
"You leave my wife out of this!" Cromwell stormed, fighting to keep his voice down. Then, after a moment: "She will ... understand."
The thin man regarded Cromwell patiently through his dark-framed glasses. "Certainly she will ... understand. She will understand that you have handed her powerful new ammunition with which to belittle and intimidate you any time she wants something. She will understand how to exact a steep and continuing price for her forgiveness; she will understand how to use this incident to get her own way for years to come. She'll never have to fuck you again."
Cromwell felt his face flush with anger. He started to say something, but the other man raised a hand, cutting him off. "Please, Mr. Cromwell, be honest with yourself. Your wife is a self-centered, manipulative bitch. She married you for money and prestige. I suspect you were so bedazzled by her looks that you didn't see her true nature. I can't say I blame you: fabulous tits and fucked like a banshee before you married her, didn't she?" He spoke in the same tones a man might use while discussing England's chances in the World Cup.
Cromwell leaned toward him, his face a thundercloud. "Now look here, whoever you are, I --"
"Mr. Cromwell," the man interrupted, "when was the last time your wife allowed you to make love?"
Cromwell said nothing for a long moment. He looked away. Finally, in a low voice, he asked: "How do you know all this?"
"We do our homework," the man replied. "Thorough background research is the key to ensuring our clients are satisfied."
The man reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a plain white business card. He handed it to Cromwell. "I represent a company that specializes in situations like yours," he explained. "I believe we can help you."
Cromwell said: "I already have a lawyer."
"Ah yes, MS Parnell," the man responded, buzzing the title ironically as if they were discussing golf. He folded his hands like a steeple. "Your lawyer is part of your problem. She is an ambitious, if sexy little sourpuss who only wants to put this whole matter behind her. You need a more permanent solution."
Cromwell studied the man sitting next to him. He was tall and proper. Dressed in a conservative grey suit and tasteful silk tie, he could have been an investment banker or a professor of economics. He spoke with a crisp, slightly British accent.
"Permanent solution? What are you talking about?" Cromwell asked, intrigued in spite of himself.
"I mean, quite simply, that we can make this whole ugly situation go away," the man said evenly. "Disappear. Vanish. Cease to be a vexation to your spirit."
"You can win my court case?"
"We can do better than that. We can have all the charges withdrawn, with an apology. We can make the parties involved regret that they ever displeased you and sincerely want to make you happy. We can do away with all these petty annoyances that are preventing you from enjoying life as it ought to be enjoyed. In short, Mr. Cromwell, we can FIX things."
.... There is more of this story ...