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Chapter 31

It was 0430 by the time Ken crawled into bed; nevertheless he set his alarm for 0700. Much to his surprise, even though he hit the sack at 0430, he woke before the alarm went off. The excitement about his idea to help Peggy solve her problem overwhelmed his need for sleep.

As soon as he arrived at work, he wrote a note to Charlotte Adams explaining he had some urgent personal business.

After placing the note on Charlotte’s desk, he went upstairs to the top floor. He walked along the hall until he found the door he was seeking, the one marked, Mr. Homer T. Tarrance. Ken knocked. When no one answered, he sat down on the floor to wait.

Just before 0830, Mr. Tarrance’s secretary, Miss Walsh, arrived. Ken smiled his biggest smile as he asked when she thought Mr. Tarrance would appear.

“He’s usually here before this. In fact, he usually beats me to work,” she replied. “If you want to see him today, he better get here soon though, because he has a very full morning.”

Mr. Tarrance came into the office a few minutes later. Fortunately, he remembered meeting Ken at the little league field. He greeted Ken and invited him into his private office. The gorgeous office featured huge windows overlooking the entire quadrangle of the campus.

“How nice of you to visit me, Ken. Do you want coffee?”

Ken nodded yes. Instead of asking his secretary, Mr. Tarrance got up himself and poured two cups of steaming coffee into china cups.

He took a sip. “Now, what can I do for you young man?”

“Mr. Tarrance, a friend of mine has a serious problem at her place of employment. She’s been talking to me about it. I simply don’t know what to tell her. Perhaps you’ll be kind enough to listen to this tape and let me know what you think she ought to do?”

Without waiting for Mr. Tarrance to answer, Ken put the tape recorder on his desk and started it.

“Ralph you’re hurting my arm” came Peggy’s voice. Ken watched Mr. Tarrance’s expressions. First astonishment, then anger washed over him. He spun his chair around so Ken would not be able to see his face.

The tape was barely a minute into the clash with Ralph and Peggy when Mr. Tarrance asked, “Please stop the tape, Ken.” As soon as Ken complied, Mr. Tarrance asked, “This Ralph on the tape is my son isn’t it, Ken?”

“I’m sorry to tell you sir, but the answer to your question is yes.”

He gave a deep sigh. He looked at Ken shaking his head with deep resignation.

“Ken I’m extremely grateful to you for bringing this to me. Please turn it back on. I need to hear the rest of it.”

Ken restarted the tape. Once again Mr. Tarrance swung his chair around so Ken couldn’t see his expression. His upset was obvious.

After the tape finished he asked, “Who’s Peggy.”

“Her name is Peggy Waldren. She’s a widow and works as a teller at the bank.”

She’s the young woman going for her MBA,” mused Mr. Tarrance. “The bank is even paying her tuition. She’s a fine woman and a very conscientious employee. Henry Johnson is exceptionally high on her. God, how could Ralph be so stupid? He must be totally smitten.”

“Well, she is incredibly attractive.”

Ken added, “Unfortunately, there’s more to the story.”

“More? Oh God” …… He took a deep breath…… “OK, continue.”

Ken shared with Mr. Tarrance the altercation in the parking lot. He even related how Peggy jammed her knee into the family jewels and punched Ralph in the eye.

“Good for her, I hope she really nailed him.” A bitter smile washed over Mr. Tarrance’s face.

Ken explained, “Naturally, Peggy is extremely upset. She doesn’t want to get into a sexual harassment suit; but she’s absolutely petrified to go into work this morning. Especially because Ralph is her immediate boss.”

“Ralph is her supervisor! Good God! Well of course she’s upset.” After a moment’s reflection he asked, “Ken, are you positive she doesn’t want to get involved in a sexual harassment situation?”

“No she truly doesn’t. She likes her job, she likes Mr. Johnson, and she knows in a small town the Bank’s reputation is especially important.”

Tarrance picked up the phone. “Miss Walsh, I want you to cancel all my meetings for this morning. Reschedule them for later on this week or next week, I don’t care when. I’ve a serious problem to deal with right now. Thank you.”

After he hung up Mr. Tarrance asked, “Do you happen to know what time Mrs. Waldren is supposed to report for work today?”

“At 1000 hours, Sir.”

Tarrance looked at his watch. It was not quite 0900. He picked up the phone asking Miss Walsh to get Henry Johnson on the phone. Next Ken heard a one sided conversation.

“Henry, Homer Tarrance here. I need to talk to my son Ralph on some personal business. Can you send him to my office right away? Great, thank you very much.” He terminated the call.

With a serious face he vowed, “Ken, I promise you I’ll handle this situation immediately. Can you contact Mrs. Waldren?

“Yes, I promised to be in touch with her before her shift started at the bank.”

“When you reach her, I want you to assure her Ralph will not be at the bank today.”

“Now, you run along and make your phone call. Ah, I assume I can borrow this tape and the recorder?” inquired Mr. Tarrance.

“Yes sir, we have a duplicate copy.”

“I thought you might have taken that precaution. Good thinking. You know, Ken, you and Mrs. Waldren are handling this matter in a very positive way. I’m impressed with your decision making.”

Homer Tarrance stood up indicating the interview was over.

As they walked to the door, Mr. Tarrance said, “Ken you’ve acted with great sensitivity, as has Mrs. Waldren. I’d like to take you both to lunch today to express my gratitude. I also need to explain some things to you. If I come by the bank at noon, can you both be there?”

“I’m sure we can.”

Ken drove immediately to Peggy’s house. He figured Ned would already be in school. Anyway, I’m coming out from ‘under cover’ on Sunday.

Peggy had been watching out of the window. She opened the door for him before he reached the top step of the porch.

Ken threw his arms around her exclaiming, “It worked! My idea worked! Everything’s going to be great!”

They sat on Peggy’s couch together as he shared with her everything that happened during the interview with Homer Tarrance.

Ken declared, “I’m going to follow you to work. I want to escort you into the bank to be sure Ralph’s actually absent.”

After Ken left his office, Homer Tarrance made a phone call to the manager of one of his companies. A few minutes later, Ralph limped into his father’s office. He was bending over at the waist in a strange manner and wearing sunglasses.

“Please remove your sunglasses. I want to see your eyes during this conversation.” With great reluctance, Ralph removed the glasses, revealing a shiner one could spot from a mile away.

“What happened to you, Ralph? You walk as if someone smashed you in the family jewels. And that shiner. It’s a dandy!”

Ralph sat down heavily, “If I told you what happened you would never believe me, so let it go, OK? Now what is this urgent personal business, which has pulled me away from my duties at the bank? I am a busy man you know. I have important responsibilities.”

Homer replied, “Ralph, when I hear you talk in that obnoxious tone what comes to mind is the term, ‘stuffed shirt’. How many times have I told you people are not objects to be used? Every person, no matter what their status in life, has a right to the respect and dignity of others. You’ve never believed that. Now, because of your misguided thinking, you’ve really dug yourself into a hole.”

“I did not come here for another lecture, Father,” snapped Ralph. He stood up and prepared to leave.

“Sit down,” his father admonished. “Now shut up and listen to this tape.”

At the sound of “Ralph you are hurting my arm” Ralph blanched. “How can this be?” he shouted. “I caught up with that bitch! I destroyed the tape in the grocery parking lot!”

“What you destroyed,” Homer glowered, “was a brand new tape. The one you thought you destroyed had already been hidden from your violence and rage. Fortunately for you ‘that bitch’ has elected to save your ass and the Bank’s ass from a sexual harassment lawsuit. Do you have any idea how much she could collect from this tape if she elects to file a lawsuit?”

For once in his life Ralph crumbled. It was obvious……. The legal repercussions of his sexual harassment had never entered his head.

“Here’s how we’re going to deal with this, Ralph,” Homer announced. “You’re going to write a letter of resignation from the Bank right now.

“The letter will say, for personal reasons, I am resigning from the Bank, effective immediately. At the present moment, Henry Johnson isn’t aware of the potential disaster you’ve caused. It’ll be far less of a scandal if he doesn’t ever find out. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep him from discovering what you’ve done.”

“After you finish the letter, Miss Walsh will deliver it to Henry Johnson. You’re never going to return to the bank for any reason whatsoever. Is that perfectly clear?”

Ralph said nothing; he simply glared at his father.

Homer decided to really let him have it. “As you know, I’m the majority shareholder in the Hamilton Salvage Company. Tomorrow morning, at 5:30 A. M. you are going to report to Hal Swensen, who is the superintendent of all of the garbage trucks.

You will wear old clothes because you’ll look very silly picking up household trash in one of your fancy suits. You’ll stay on the trash truck until you can convince me you have learned to respect your fellow citizens.”

“You want me to become a garbage man!” shouted Ralph, “I absolutely refuse.”

“I rather expected you would. You’re more than welcome to refuse. In fact, I hope you do. I want you to understand however, if you fail to take the garbage man position; there will be some very serious consequences for you.”

As Homer continued Ralph’s face changed from the red of anger into the pallor of fear. “Right now my estate is the $30 million range. As I’m sure you know, the bulk of my estate will go to the University upon my passing. However, at this moment, you are in for a 10% share. By my calculations, that equals something around $3,000,000. If you refuse to take the garbage man position, I’ll change my will. You’ll be out every one of those $3,000,000 dollars.”

Ralph’s jaw dropped down to his shoes. He quickly discovered his father hadn’t finished yet.

“There’s one more important item to be covered. Today I’m having lunch with Peggy Waldren and her young man. I plan to hand her my card. I’m going to tell her if she is ever, in any way, accosted by you, she is to call me.

If she calls, I promise I’ll change my will. What it means Ralph is this: You keep your distance from Peggy Waldren or her simple phone call to me will cost you $3,000,000. Am I being perfectly clear?”

Ralph’s head dropped into his hands…. . Finally, he nodded.

Homer continued, “As of now, there are only 4 people who know of your transgressions. You, me, Peggy Waldren and her young man. If you type your own letter of resignation, we can keep the number to four. I can call Miss Welch in to type the letter; but it’ll widen the circle. It’s your call, Ralph.”

After a long pause, Ralph snarled, “Let me sit at your computer for a minute. I’ll type your damn letter.”

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