It took the network only a few days between my statement being sent in and the hearing. Even with the statement Michelle made it clear that I was going to have to tell my whole story all over again at the hearing. She brought me into the office again so that she could coach me on what I was going to say and how I was gonna say it. I gotta hand it to her and Matt: they spent plenty of time with me over the next two days. It seemed a little like overkill, but, then, this was the first sexual harassment hearing I went to, and so I let Michelle – who told me she’d never lost a sexual harassment case – guide me.
Although there wasn’t going to be any cross-examination by the lawyers, Michelle explained that the people listening to the “case” (that’s the word she used) could – and probably would – ask questions. So they practiced with me on that, too. The last thing anybody wanted was for me to be embarrassed or tongue-tied when it came to telling my story.
I was nervous as heck the next few days. I did what we jocks do when we get worried and worked out and mostly swam like a fiend for hours. Since September is the hottest month in Southern California (and San Marino gets super hot), the pool was a blessed relief in more ways than one.
The night before the hearing felt way worse than the night before the draft or my first game as a pro. Like an idiot, I tried to go to bed early. That just meant that I tossed and turned, and, finally, got up and headed to the batting cage. (That’s what we’re calling it now. No one thinks of it as a tennis court anymore.) I turned the pitching machine up to its highest speed and took my aggression out on a bunch of baseballs. I missed a lot (I’m not used to hitting 90 mph pitching anymore), but I made some satisfying contact. I even knocked a couple out over the fence, where we’re not supposed to hit baseballs, but it was late and it wasn’t like anyone would be walking by.
I was collecting the baseballs so I could have another go at the machine when my phone rang.
“Bubba,” Keaton’s voice said, “I’ve got good news for you.”
“What? I sure as fuck could use some.”
“We found your witness.”
“Wait…what?” I didn’t even know that Keaton was looking for a witness. I knew that Matt did put the investigations department (turns out that’s what it’s called) on trying to find someone who’d also been harassed by my accuser, but they didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t succeed in finding anyone.
“We found a dude who got harassed by the bitch who’s fucking with you. And he’s ready to go to your hearing tomorrow and tell his story.”
Ok, that part – surprise witness on the day of the trial – sounded like it was straight off the TV, but, well, I am on TV, aren’t I?
“Dude, you gotta go back to the beginning,” I said, as I started walking back to the pool house. I figured the baseballs could wait until the next day. Assuming I still had a job.
“It’s what you said Jacob said. Out of the mouth of babes and all that shit.”
“You mean the idea that she might have done this before?”
“Yep. So I called a PI buddy of mine from Fairbanks, and he recommended someone here who was good at finding evidence, not always the kosher way, but that’s good enough for me. So I called him, and the two of us have been searching for someone who worked at the network, had gayass looks, and who that bitch might have approached.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. So I stammered something lame like “I…I…”
“Shut up and listen bubba,” Keaton continued. “He had a job under her, and she told him in no uncertain terms that she could get him work as an actor, if he fucked her. One thing I gotta hand to her is that she’s direct.”
“Don’t I know it,” I said. “So what happened? Why didn’t he report her when he had the chance?”
“Not another case of male pride like yours,” Keaton said. “He took her up on the offer, especially after she threatened to fire him if he said no.”
“Dang…Jacob was right.” I don’t know that I’d of known things like that when I was 13. “So where is he?”
“Right here,” Keaton said. “You didn’t think I’d let him out of my sight, did you?”
I wasn’t sure how the dude felt about being Keaton’s prisoner for the night, and it wasn’t fully registering with me that Keaton had come up with the solution to all my problems, assuming they believed this new witness at the hearing the next day.
“Do you want me to come over?,” I asked. It was about 10:30 by this point, and I still had to get the boys to school at 6:55 in the morning.
“Fuck yeah,” said Keaton. “You gotta hear his story. And you’re the one who knows all about what the lawyers told you to say.”
I realized I had to call Matt and let him know what was happening, too, so I told Keaton I’d be over ASAP. I called Matt from the shitbox, since I didn’t want to waste any time. He was still up and could hardly believe what I was telling him. He said he wanted to see this dude, although it’s quite a drive from West LA where he lives to East Pasadena where Keaton lives. He said he’d be over as quickly as he could.
“Just don’t get a speeding ticket,” I joked.
“This could be worth it.”
I didn’t have time to think what to expect when I got to Keaton’s. So I just rang the bell.
Keaton opened the door and let me in. I noticed Travis sitting in one of the living room chairs and then checked out this dude who very possibly could save my neck the next day.
He certainly was good-looking. Good-looking like a straight guy can tell, which is pretty dang good-looking. As far as I could tell, he was kinda the same type as me, although he had dark hair and was a little shorter and more like 165# to my 185#. I’m sure he got called ‘pretty boy’ plenty…and my gut reaction was that he liked it as much as I do.
“I’m Hunter Block,” I said, extending my hand.
“Bryce Green,” he said, shaking my had. The dude had a decent grip and light blue eyes that were hard not to notice when we made eye contact. He had black hair in a shaggy cut, but there was something about him that didn’t say ‘actor’ – so maybe he didn’t stay in the business.
“I hope you don’t mind,” I said, “but I called the lawyer’s associate who’s been working with me on the case. I figured out he should hear your story before you tell it to the…well, I reckon he’s the judge.”
“Gavin Blanchard,” said Bryce. “ executive VP for Human Resources and a bunch of other shit. I worked at the network. I certainly know who he is. No clue whether he’s gonna remember me, though.”
“Do you think he’ll be fair?,” I asked.
“He’s gonna enjoy the drama, that’s for sure,” said Bryce. “But, yeah, I think he’ll hear both sides fairly…and then make his decision based on the bottom line more than anything. And, if your friend here is right in what he’s told me, the bottom line is in your favor. You’ve got a way bigger following than I ever had when I was on TV, at least to judge from your Instagram followers.”
“We have an awesome woman who takes care of that,” I said. “I’m afraid #baseballboy’s Instagram is all her doing.”
“I could have done with some of that,” he said. “But never mind. That part of my life is finished. I may have the looks, but I didn’t really have the acting chops to make it in this town. And maybe I wasn’t cutthroat enough, either.”
“You did sleep with someone to get ahead,” Keaton said, with a smirk.
“Yeah…and look how it turned out.”
“What do you mean?,” I asked. Was there worse than his just not having made it as an actor.
“Bubba, let him start from the beginning or we’re gonna be here all night.”
“Shouldn’t we wait for Matt?,” I asked.
“Where’s he coming from?”
“West LA,” I answered. “So it may be a while.”
“Hey,” said Travis, saying something for the first time, “you can drive the 110 in 4 minutes, remember? I did it.”
“Yeah, man,” I said, “I’d like to think that my lawyer is a little more careful than that.”
“Whoa,” said Bryce, “4 minutes?”
“Yep. From the beginning to Hill Street. But it was 3 AM and there was no traffic.”
“You’re lucky you weren’t killed.”
“Trust me, I know,” said Travis.
“While we’re waiting,” I said, “y’all can explain how you found Bryce.”
“I told you, bubba. PI friend in Fairbanks has connections down here. So he hooked me up with an investigator who’s dang good at finding people. And, yeah, at hacking HR databases. I told you his methods weren’t exactly kosher, but that doesn’t fuckin matter in this case. What we did was play a medium-shot and figure that there probably was a pretty boy on one of the network’s shows who got his job because he fucked that bitch. She probably harassed plenty of other pretty boys” I could tell Bryce wasn’t amused by the pretty boy thing, although you’d think he’d be used to it “but we didn’t exactly have forever to look. So me, Joey – the PI – and hoss here watched hours and hours of the network’s crappyass programming looking for someone who reminded us of you. There were a couple candidates, so we hacked into the HR database to see if any of them had worked for that cunt before they got on TV. Bryce here was the only one who fit the profile. Then Joey had to find him, although we were lucky that he was still in Southern California, and only as far away as Eagle Rock.”
“They didn’t force you to do anything, did they?,” I asked. Don’t forget this is the same Keaton who punched out the dude who hit and ran Travis’ car.
“Naah,” said Bryce. “I’m cool with helping you guys out. I’m freelancing right now. The money’s shit, but the hours are flexible. And I wouldn’t mind the chance at getting back at you-know-who. She didn’t exactly ruin my life, but she did fuck it up. I gave up my job at the network to become an actor, and it’s not like it was possible to go back after that debacle.” He gave a little laugh. “I should be fair, though. Our show ran two seasons before they killed it, and I made a lot of money making it. But I felt like a whore the whole time, and felt like everyone knew whose whore I was.”
“Takes a special kind of man to be a whore,” said Keaton. “And neither of y’all strike me as the type.”
“What was the show?”
“It was kind of a Melrose Place ripoff after they revived and cancelled that on another network, with a little Friends mixed in. We were basically six people in their early 20s living in Seattle, so they called it Seattle Six. Pretty original, right?”
“I used to watch that,” said Travis. We all looked at him. “Hey, don’t judge me. The chicks were hot.”
“They were,” said Bryce. “I was the good-looking innocent guy. Kinda type casting, right? I guess it was trash TV, but it was a real acting gig, and you-know-who had me convinced I had a career as an actor. I should have done what you did and said no,” he added in my direction. “Even if it would have meant getting fired.”
“Shit, man,” said Travis. “This woman sounds like she’s positively evil.”
“And then some,” I said. “Look at what she’s doing to me.”
There was a knock at the door at that point. I had no idea how he made the trip so fast, but it was Matt, in a tshirt, shorts and flip-flops with a backwards ball cap. It took me half a second to recognize him out of his lawyer clothes.
I introduced Matt around. Instead of looking pissed that I’d probably almost dragged him out of bed, he looked super interested.
“I called Michelle from the car,” he explained. “She’s going to wait up to hear what this is all about.” He turned to Bryce. “I’m ready when you are. It’s ok if I record what you have to say, right?”
“I can take it down, if you want,” said Keaton even before Matt had a digital recorder out of his pocket. “I know shorthand.”
Of course I wanted to ask Keaton how he learned shorthand, but I wanted to hear Bryce’s story more. Keaton went and got a stack of blank paper out of the printer and a couple pencils from his desk while the rest of us got situated to listen to Bryce.
“Anyone thirsty?,” Keaton then asked, coming back from the desk. “You should have something,” he said to Bryce. “You’ll be less nervous if you have a beer bottle to play with.”
“You may be right,” he said.
“Bubba and his famous abs only get one beer a day.”
“Which I haven’t had yet,” I said.
“Glad I don’t have to worry about taking my shirt off on TV anymore,” said Bryce. “There’s an up side to everything.”
Keaton went to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of Pilsner Urquell for each of us.
“To getting bubba off the hook,” he said, proposing a toast.
We all drank and looked expectantly at Bryce.