CHARLIE TAKES THE FIFTH
Peter Venkman, Hollywood agent and power broker, turned off the cel phone and reclined in the hot tub. He looked at the woman who entered the room. "Care to join us, Janet?"
"I'll pass, Peter." Janet rolled her eyes. Cath and Bunny, who WERE in the hottub with him, giggled. "I just got another email from New York...a picture this time..."
"It better not be a picture of his fungus collection again or something. I wish he'd break into Ray's otaku porn files for me like I keep asking..."
Janet rolled her eyes again, and clicked a few buttons on the lap top, setting it close enough to Venkman for him to see it, but not close enough to have much chance of it falling in the tub.
Venkman smirked. The image of two ten year olds, both much taller than normal for their age, were on the screen. Both wore outfits favoring purple and red. The boy, with angular features, piercing green eyes, and bright red hair, was holding two fingers behind the head of the girl, who had long blonde hair and blue eyes. She was looking the boy's way with a look of resigned amusement. He was grinning with mock innocence.
"He picks up a lot of bad habits from his Uncle Peter..." Venkman grinned.
"Which ones are those again?" Bunny asked him.
"Johnathan Christopher and Eden Marie Spengler. Egon and Janine's twins." Venkman answered. "I'm gonna have to get on Ray for some fresh pictures of Eric...and Winston still owes me a vid of Charlene's grade school play..."
A slightly more clothed fourth woman entered the room. "Peter...they just said on UBN that he'll be in front of the committee in about ten minutes."
"Damn..." Venkman muttered. "Thanks, Shirley..." He got out of the hot tub. "You girls gonna come along? Or just stay there and wait for me?"
"It's all politics, anyway, and that's boring." Bunny said. Then she gasped. "Sorry, Petey, I forgot..."
"I guess I'll just stay with her..." Cath purred mischievously. "We can occupy each other's time somehow..."
The fact that Venkman left without a snarky comment about taping it only further illustrated how upset he really was.
After he exited the room, the four women all looked at each other. "I think he sees all his friends all married with kids and it depresses him some..." Janet speculated.
"Even that nerdy one with the weird hair. That was his twins he was just looking at..." Bunny mused.
"Hey..." Shirley rebuked her. "I had a major crush on that guy in junior high..."
"So did half the science club at my school" Cath giggled.
"Y'know...I haven't told any of you this, but I once heard him muttering a name in his sleep..." Bunny paused, looking a little unsure. "And it wasn't one of yours, either...he was muttering to somebody named 'Dana'..."
"Bummer." Shirley exclaimed. "I wonder if that's his secret lost love or something."
Janet snorted contemptuously. "Men like Peter Venkman don't have 'secret lost loves'. It was probably some bimbo he didn't bag. For all his charms, Peter is only interested in one thing from a woman..."
"Yeah..." Bunny couldn't help but agree. "But it's a fun ride while it lasts..."
Shirley flicked some of the tub water toward Bunny. "I think Janet's right, though...maybe he'll never change, but seeing his friends with all those kids..."
"And now this..." Janet added.
Dad...Venkman mused to himself, as he checked out Ellen MacNeill on UBN
"Oversight committee investigating the alleged abuses of the Enron corporation..." she was saying.
I was so proud of him...Venkman continued to himself. I thought he'd finally gone legit. His relationship with his father had been complex for years. As a child, he despised his father for being out on the road constantly..it had turned him against Christmas for decades...hurt inside as he watched his mother cry...and then it had gotten worse. Margaret Venkman died suddenly, and Peter was dragged all over the country for years, never staying in one place too long as to avoid the law or Charlie Venkman's disgruntled marks.
Peter had to admit to himself that some of the...skills that Charlie had taught him had served him well in life. I could never do what I do now if I hadn't learned the art of the hustle from him...I just never used it so....callously. So obviously our to enrich myself or....just because I could.
But I probably would've ended up just like him, except for my friends. The severe science student who taught Venkman about the value of hard work and education. The goofy occult scholar who showed him that "trust" wasn't just a crutch for the weak. And later...the man who taught him the power of faith. The woman who, by being the one woman he could never intimately know, became the only real friend of that gender he'd ever had--the closest thing to a sister he ever knew.
And the other woman, the woman he lost by being too much Charlie Venkman's son...
Charlie was on the screen now, raising his right hand. He was wearing the nicest suit Peter had ever seen him in, though if it wasn't the same cheap toupee he'd worn for years, Peter thought that it looked awful bad for someone with Charlies' current wealth to have paid much for.
"Do you, Charles Conrad Venkman, promise to disclose to this panel the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, under threat of perjury?"
"I do, Mister Chairman." Charlie answered.
"Mister Venkman, please state your current occupation..."
"Sales subdirector for the Eastern Region."
"For the Enron Corporation, is that correct?"
Peter shook his head, as the Committee Chairman described an elaborate money laundering scheme involving dummy companies named "Hob' and 'Gozer'. Offshore accounts in trusts listed as belonging to 'The New Jersey Parallelogram Reclamation Fund' and 'The Sons of Quetzalcoatl'"
"Mister Venkman...is it true that you organized these entities?"
"I assert my Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination"
"And did you launder money through Hob and Gozer at the behest of CEO Lay or Mister Skilling?"
"I must once again assert my Fifth Amendment rights, Mister Chairman..."
It had seemed so much like a dream come true. In the early Nineties, Charlie had called to tell him that an old school chum had gotten him a sales job at a Texas energy processing company. A six-figure salary and executive perks. And he didn't have to cheat and hustle people anymore.
I guess I should've known...
That company was Enron. The company that was now being investigated for every illegal and immoral business practice imaginable.
But who would've guessed he was really moving from small time hustling...to big time hustling???
Peter Venkman shook his head sadly once more as Charlie lied to Congress, and went to the bathroom to wash his face. It was going to be a long night...