Jerry said, “This is going to be fun.”
Arthur said, “I have to admit, after the last article, I’m ready to take my pound of flesh.”
Jerry looked at Arthur and squinted. He said, “I may not be a literary scholar, but it didn’t work out so well for the Shylock.”
“Two points for knowing The Merchant of Venice. Do they know I’m paying you by the hour?”
The door was held open for Crystal and her husband. The team of three lawyers introduced themselves. A stenographer took her seat, too.
Arthur didn’t pay attention to the underling’s names, but Ms. Paula Kingston scared him a bit. A long serious nose, thin lips, and eyes that Arthur imagined could calculate a person’s net worth by their shoes.
His shoes needed a polish, but he knew it wouldn’t matter.
“Gentlemen, before we begin this deposition. Let me take this opportunity to suggest a number that will save us all a lot of time.”
“We are open to hearing your offer,” Jerry said.
Ms. Kingston tore a piece of paper off of her yellow pad, scrawled a number, folded it and slid the paper across the table.
Jerry looked at the number first and then showed Arthur.
Arthur said, “A quarter of million seems a little steep.” He took the piece of paper and wrote a counter offer.
Ms. Kingston opened it and said, “I don’t think ten thousand dollars is going to suffice.”
“It’s negative ten thousand dollars.”
She didn’t understand.
Arthur continued, “Of course, in addition to a check for ten thousand dollars, I’ll also need you to pay my attorney’s incredibly reasonable fees.”
“Mr. Byrne, you do not understand the magnitude of trouble you’re in. I don’t appreciate this…joke…it isn’t funny.”
Arthur said, “In that case, I’m going to need to insist on fifty thousand…plus fees.”
Jerry had a smile that would have cost him a fortune in the poker rooms of Atlantic City. Ms. Kingston noticed and her expression changed. She didn’t say anything for a while. Arthur kept his poker face on, but he could tell she was starting to realize she might be drawing dead.
Crystal was dumb, but she had done the math. Her face had lost all of its color. Her husband just looked angry.
Ms. Kingston gave a glance towards Crystal and said, “What have you got?”
Jerry opened his briefcase and removed a digital recorder. He also pulled out a transcript. “In the interest of expediency, I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the important bit.” Jerry flipped to the third page, spun the document around, and slid it to Ms. Kingston.
She read the highlighted part, then the whole thing. Crystal looked like she was going to pass out.
Her husband said, “What is this all about?”
Arthur said, “In Crystal’s defense, she did this because she loves you.”
The husband looked suspicious.
“Listen, sure we hooked up three years ago, over and over again…I digress. The point is, it was before you two met and she loves you now.”
The husband said, “We’ve been dating for four years.” Now, he was mad.
Arthur looked at Crystal and said, “Oh, well, in that case, she was cheating on your repeatedly, occasionally wearing a little French Maid outfit that is burned into my memory.”
Jerry removed a photo taken at a Halloween party from his brief case.
Crystal said, “Oh, I forgot about that.”
Arthur said, “She got great legs, spectacular ass, and her…well, I don’t need to tell you.”
The husband stormed out.
Ms. Kingston said, “Since this trip down memory lane is costing my client by the minute, I’d like to take a moment to consider your original offer.”
Jerry said, “You rejected that offer.”
“You’re not seriously asking for fifty thousand plus expenses?”
“Actually, we have a third, perhaps more palatable offer,” Jerry said as he pulled an envelope out and handed it to Ms. Kingston.
Looking at Arthur with a scowl, Crystal said, “You really fucked me.”
“You always did have a problem with ambiguity. Yes, I did, repeatedly, but you’re not mad because of the past, or what I just said, you’re pissed because I didn’t take you home two weeks ago. That guy you married is a chump, and you know it. Take the offer, start over, and maybe you can be happy.”
Jerry stood. Arthur took the cue and they went to the hallway to allow Ms. Kingston to consider their new offer.
They stood by the water cooler and Arthur said, “You think they’ll take the deal?”
“I can’t imagine they would try to counter.”
Five minutes later Ms. Kingston came out and said, “Well played, Jerry. You’ve got a deal.” She shook his hand and then Arthur’s and said, “You were a little hard on my client. It was probably good for her.”
Arthur gave her a grin. Ms. Kingston didn’t seem so scary when she took off her game face.