Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Most Gallant Lie

This past week, I got together with some old journalism buddies, and of course, we told stories. Well, I still write a better story than I tell. So I'm going to relate one of mine.

Back when I was a reporter, I had a "beat" which is what we call an area of reporting that involves expertise, sources, etc., in a specific area. I worked closely with the CEO of a large cooperation, and he had pretty much an open door policy with me. I liked and respected him tremendously. He did his job extremely well.

Well, we got a letter at the paper from a soldier overseas. It rambled, and it didn't always make good sense, but the bottom line was, he accused this CEO of having an affair with his wife. He admitted she had filed for a divorce, but he said she was still married to him, and she worked for the CEO. Which she did, as head of one of the departments.

So, while we were skeptical--the longtime single CEO had a reputation for NOT fooling around, and the letter was a bit wacky--I was sent to confront him. Chee, I was uncomfortable. But it was my job, and I did it. And he responded. He always had. He was quiet for a moment.

Then, with a little smile, he asked, "Have you seen her?"

Oh, yes, I had. Petite, with a kind of church lady plainness and prettiness, and glasses. Rather earnest. He was in his late 50's, and she wasn't much younger. They were of an age, anyway. If you gave me a list of 100 women who might be having affairs--this was back in the 70's when just separating didn't necessarily mean you were free--she wouldn't even have made the 51st possibility.

I nodded. He sighed. He said the accusations were preposterous, and if he were having an affair with a staff member, weren't there a number of women more likely? Much more attractive?

Thinking over some of his professional women staff members in my mind, I could think of two or three who were extremely attractive, outgoing, and really smart cookies. I agreed. He shook his head dismissively. He said the idea of him and the department head just didn't made good sense. Well, gee, that was pretty much what I had thought.

I went back to my bosses, told them what he'd said, and we simply went on to other things. We wrote nothing. We didn't think much about it.

And within the year, the CEO and the department head quietly were maried. When I saw them together, it was obvious that he adored her.

But talking to me, he'd thrown her under the bus. To my younger self, it didn't seem very nice. Now, I think it was the most gallant fight for a lady I've ever known personally. If I had pursued the story, he would have been caught out. And he knew me well enough to know I would have quoted him quite accurately. He took a chance. And it worked.

And he did it, mostly, I still believe, for love.


Barbara said...

Just curious ... ever hear the end result of that? I've always said, if they don't mind running around with ya, they won't mind running around on ya.

His perfectly described a guilty man. Perfectly, and to a tee. And you knew that, too, didn't you?

charlotte g said...

Oh, yes, I know it now, but I really didn't back then till they married...I've related the salient points I remember from a lot of years ago. And yeah, I knew them for a number of years afterward. It was a good marriage, so far as I ever heard. And I think I may have screwed up and deleted your comment, not meaning to. This is embarrassing. Thanks for the comment, anyway.

Barbara said...

:) You didn't delete it...Good to know some things do work out for the best.

Forgive me for not identifying myself earlier...