"What about his lawyer?" Barry asked.
"Why would you kill her?" "Maybe I hate lawyers. Maybe it'll scare the kid so bad h"'ll go into a coma like his brother. I don't know." "And maybe killing innocent people in Memphis is not such a good idea. The kid'll just get another lawyer." "We'll kill the next one too. Think about it, Paul, this could do wonders for the legal profession," Barry said with a loud laugh. Then he leaned forward as if a terribly private thought hit him. His chin was inches from the salt shaker. "Think about it, Paul. If we knock off the kid's lawyer, then no lawyer in his right mind would represent him. Get it?" "You're losin' it, Barry. You're crackin' up." "Yeah, I know. But it's a great thought, ain't it? Smoke her, and the kid won't talk to his own mother. What's her name, Rollie or Ralphie?" "Reggie. Reggie Love." "What the hell kinda name is that for a broad?" "Don't ask me." Barry drained his glass and snapped again for the waiter. "What's she sayin' on the phone?" he asked, in low again, just above the shaker.
"Don't know. We couldn't go in last night." The Blade was suddenly angry. "You what!" The wicked eyes were fierce and glowing.
"Our man is doing it tonight if all goes well." "What kinda place has she got?" "Small office in a tall building downtown. It should be easy." Scherff pressed the earphone closer to his head. Two of his pals did likewise. The only sound in the room was a slight clicking noise from the recorder.
"Are these guys any good?" "Nance is pretty smooth and cool under pressure. His partner, Cal Sisson, is a loose cannon. Afraid of his shadow." "I want the phones fixed tonight." "It'll be done." Barry lit an unfiltered Camel and blew smoke at the ceiling. "Are they protecting the lawyer?" He asked this as his eyes narrowed. Gronke looked away.
"I don't think so." "Where does she live? What kinda place?" "She's got a cute little apartment behind her mother's house," "She live alone?" "I think so." "She'd be easy, wouldn't she? Break in, take her out, steal a few things. Just another house burglary gone sour. What do you think?" Gronke shook his head and studied a young blonde at the bar.
"What do you think?" Barry repeated.
"Yeah, it'd be easy." "Then let's do it. Are you listening to me, Paul?" Paul was listening, but avoiding the evil eyes. "I'm not in the mood to kill anyone," he said, still staring at the blonde.
"That's fine. I'll get Pirini to do it."
SEVERAL YEARS EARLIER, A DETAINEE, AS THEY RE CALLED IN the Juvenile Detention Center, a twelve-year-old, died in the room next to Mark's from an epileptic seizure. A ton of bad press and a nasty lawsuit followed, and though Doreen had not been on duty when it happened, she had nonetheless been shaken by it. An investigation followed. Two people were terminated. And a new set of regulations came down.
Doreen's shift ended at five, and the last thing she did was check on Mark. She'd stopped by on the hour throughout the afternoon, and watched with growing concern as his condition worsened. He was withdrawing before her very eyes, saying less with each visit, just lying there in bed staring at the ceiling. At five, she brought a county paramedic with her. Mark was given a quick physical, and pronounced alive and well. Vital signs were strong. When she left, she rubbed his temples like a sweet little grandmother and promised to return bright and early tomorrow, Friday. And she sent more pizza.
Mark told her he thought he could make it until then. He'd try to survive the night. Evidently she left instructions, because the next floor supervisor, a shor^ plump little woman named Telda, immediately knocked on his door and introduced herself. For the next four hours, Telda knocked repeatedly and entered the room, staring wildly at his eyes as if he were crazy and something was about to snap.
Mark watched television, no cable, until the news started at ten, then brushed his teeth and turned off the lights. The bed was quite comfortable, and he thought of his mother trying to sleep on that rickety cot the nurses had rolled into Ricky's room.
The pizza was from Domino's, not some leathery slab of cheese someone threw in a microwave, but a real pizza Doreen had probably paid for. The bed was warm, the pizza was real, and the door was locked. He felt safe, not only from the other inmates and the gangs and violence certain to be close by, but especially from the man with the switchblade who knew his name and had the picture. The man who'd burned the trailer. He'd thought about this guy every moment of every hour since he dashed from the elevator early yesterday morning. He'd thought about him on Momma Love's porch last night, and sitting in the courtroom that afternoon listening to Hardy and McThune. He'd worried about him hanging around the hospital where Dianne was unaware.
SITTING IN A PARKED CAR ON THIRD STREET IN DOWNTOWN Memphis at midnight was not Cal Sisson's idea of safe fun, but the doors were locked and there was a gun under the seat. His felony convictions forbade him from owning or possessing a firearm, but this was Jack Nance's car. It was parked behind a delivery van near Madison, a couple of blocks from the Sterick Building. There was nothing suspicious about the car. Traffic was light Two uniformed cops on foot strolled along the sidewalk and stopped fewer than five feet from Cal. They stared at him. He glanced in the mirror, and saw another pair. Four cops! One of them sat on the trunk, and the car shook. Had the parking meter run out on him? No, he'd paid for an hour and been here less than ten minutes. Nance said it was a thirty-minute job.
Two more cops joined the two on the sidewalk, and Cal started sweating. The gun worried him, but a good lawyer could convince his probation officer that the gun was not his. He was merely driving for Nance.
An unmarked police car parked behind him, and two cops in plain clothes joined the others. Eight cops!
One in jeans and a sweatshirt bent at the waist and stuck his badge to Cal's window. There was a radio on the seat next to his leg, and thirty seconds ago he should have punched the blue button and warned Nance. But now it was too late. The cops had materialized from nowhere.
He slowly rolled down his window. The cop leaned forward and their faces were inches apart. "Evening, Cal. I'm Lieutenant Byrd, Memphis PD." The fact that he called him Cal made him shudder. He tried to remain calm. "What can I do for you, Officer?" "Where's Jack?" Cal's heart stopped and sweat popped through his skin. "Jack who?" Jack who. Byrd glanced over his shoulder and smiled at his partner. The uniformed cops had surrounded the car. "Jack Nance. Your good friend. Where is he?" "1 haven't seen him." "Well, what a coincidence. I haven't seen him either. At least not for the past fifteen minutes. In fact, the last time I saw Jack was at the corner of Union and Second, less than a half an hour ago, and he was getting out of this car here. And you drove away, and, surprise, here you are." Cal was breathing, but it was difficult. "I don't know what you're talking about." Byrd unlocked the door and opened it. "Get out, Cal," he demanded, and Cal complied. Byrd slammed the door and shoved him against it. Four of the cops surrounded him. The other three were looking in the direction of the Sterick Building. Byrd was in his face.
"Listen to me, Cal. Accomplice to breaking and entering carries seven years. You have three prior convictions, so you'll be charged as a habitual offender, and guess how much time you're looking at." His teeth were chattering and his body was shaking. He shook his head no, as if he didn't understand and wanted Byrd to tell him.
"Thirty years, no parole." He closed his eyes and slumped. His breathing was heavy.
"Now," Byrd continued, very cool, very cruel. "We're not worried about Jack Nance. When he finishes with Ms. Love's phones, we've got some boys waiting for him outside the building. He'll be arrested, booked, and in due course sent away. But we don't figure he'll talk much. You follow?" Cal nodded quickly.
"But, Cal, we figure you might want to cut a deal. Help us a little, know what I mean?" He was still nodding, only faster.
"We figure you'll tell us what we need to know, and in return, we'll let you walk." [ Cal stared at him desperately. His mouth was open, his chest pounding away.
Byrd pointed to the sidewalk on the other side of Madison. "You see that sidewalk, Cal?" Cal took a long, hopeful look at the empty sidewalk. "Yeah," he said eagerly.
"Well, it's all yours. Tell me what I want to hear, and you -walk. Okay? I'm offering you thirty years of freedom, Cal. Don't be stupid." "Okay." "When does Gronke return from New Orleans?" "In the morning, around ten." "Where's he staying?" "Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza." "Room number?" "It's 782." "Where are Bono and Pirini?" "I don't know." "Please, Cal, we're not idiots. Where are they?"-"They're in 783 and 784." "Who else from New Orleans is here?" "That's it. That's all I know." "Can we expect more people from New Orleans?" "I swear I don't know." "Do they have any plans to hit the boy, his family, or his lawyer?" "It's been discussed, but no definite plans. I wouldn't be a part of it, you know." "I know, Cal. Any plans to bug more phones?" "No. I don't think so. Just the lawyer." "What about the lawyer's house?" "No, not to my knowledge." "No other bugs or wires or phone taps?" "Not to my knowledge." "No plans to kill anybody?" "No." "If you're lying, I'll come get you, Cal, and it's thirty years." "I swear it." Suddenly, Byrd slapped him on left side of his face, then grabbed his collar and squeezed it together. Cal's mouth was open and his eyes showed absolute terror. "Who burned the trailer?" Byrd snarled at him as he pushed him harder against the car.
"Bono and Pirini," he said without the slightest hesitation.
"Were you in on it, Cal?" "No. I swear." "Any more fires planned?" "Not to my knowledge." "Then what the hell are they doing here, Cal?" "They're just waiting, listening, you know, just in case they're needed for something else. Depends on what the kid does." Byrd squeezed tighter. He showed him his teeth and twisted the collar. "One lie, Cal, and I'm all over your ass, okay?" "I'm not lying, I swear," Cal said in a shrill voice.
Byrd turned him loose and nodded at the sidewalk. "Go, and sin no more." The wall of cops opened, and Cal walked through them and into the street. He hit the sidewalk at full stride, and was last seen jogging into the darkness.
tVlDAY MORNING. REGGIE SIPPED STRONG, BLACK COFFEE in the darkness of predawn, and waited for another unpredictable day as counsel for Mark Sway. It was a cool, clear morning, the first of many in September, and the first hint that the hot, sticky days of the Memphis summer were coming to an end. She sat in a wicker rocker on the small balcony stuck to the rear of her apartment, and tried to unscramble the past five hours of her life.
The cops had called her at one-thirty, said there was an emergency at her office, and asked her to come down. She'd called Glint, and together they had gone to her office, where a half dozen cops were waiting. They had allowed Jack Nance to finish his dirty work and leave the building before they nailed him. They showed Reggie and Glint the three phones and the tiny transmitters glued into the receivers, and they said Nance did pretty good work.
As she watched, they carefully removed the transmitters and kept them for evidence. They explained how Nance entered, and more than once they commented on her lack of security. She said she "wasn't that concerned about security. There were no real assets in the office.
She'd checked her files, and everything appeared to be in order. The Mark Sway file was in her briefcase at home, and she kept it there when she slept. Glint examined his desk and said there was a chance Nance went through his files. But dint's desk was not well organized to begin with, so he couldn't be certain.
The police had known Nance was coming, they had explained, but they wouldn't say how they knew. He was allowed easy access into the building-unlocked doors, absent security guards, etc. -and they had a dozen men watching him. He was in custody now, and so far had said nothing. One cop had taken her aside, and in hushed confidence explained about Nance's connection to Gronke, and to Bono and Pirini. They had been unable to find the latter two; their hotel rooms had been abandoned. Gronke was in New Orleans, and they had him under surveillance.
Nance would serve a couple of years, maybe more. For an instant, she'd wanted the death penalty.
The cops had gradually left. Around three, she and Clint were left alone with the empty offices and the startling knowledge that a professional had entered and laid his traps. A man hired by killers had been there, gathering information so there could be more killings if necessary. The place made her nervous, and she and Clint had left shortly after the cops and found a coffee shop in midtown.
And so with three hours' sleep and a nerve-racking day about to begin, she sipped her coffee and watched the eastern sky turn orange. She thought about Mark, and how he'd arrived in her office on Wednesday, barely two days ago, wet from the rain and scared to death, and told her about being threatened by a man with a switchblade. This man was big and ugly, and waved the knife and produced a photo of the Sway family. She had listened with horror as this small, shivering child described the switchblade. It was a frightening event to hear about, but it had happened to someone else. She was not directly involved. The knife was not pointed at her.
But that was Wednesday, and this was Friday, and the same bunch of thugs had now violated her, and things were a helluva lot more dangerous. Her little client was safely tucked away in a nice jail with security guards at his beck and call, and here she was sitting alone in the darkness, thinking about Bono and Pirini and who knew who else might be out there.
Though it couldn't be seen from Momma Love's house, an unmarked car was parked in the street not far away. Two FBI agents were on guard, just in case. Reggie had agreed to this.
She pictured a hotel room, clouds of cigarette smoke hanging along the ceiling, empty beer bottles littering the floor, curtains drawn, and a small group of badly dressed hoodlums hovering over a small table listening to a tape recorder. She was on the tape recorder, talking to clients, to Dr. Levin, to Momma Love, just chatting away as if everything were private. The hoods were bored for the most part, but occasionally one would chuckle and grunt.
Mark didn't use her office phones, and the strategy of bugging them was ridiculous. These people obviously believed Mark knew about Boyette, and that he and his lawyer were stupid enough to discuss this knowledge over the phone.
The phone in the kitchen rang, and Reggie jumped. She checked her watch-six-twenty. It had to be more trouble, because no one called at this hour. She walked inside and ca-ught it after the fourth ring. "Hello." It was Harry Roosevelt. "Good morning, Reggie. Sorry to wake you." "I was awake." "Have you seen the paper?" She swallowed hard. "No. What is it?" "It's a front-page spread with two big pictures of Mark, one as he's leaving the hospital, under arrest as it says, and the other as he's leaving court yesterday, cops on both sides. Slick Moeller wrote it, and he knows all about the hearing. He's got his facts straight, for a change. He says Mark refused to answer my questions about his knowledge of Boyette and such, and that I found him in contempt and sent him to jail. Makes me sound like Hitler." "But how does he know this?" "Cites unnamed sources." She was counting the people in the courtroom during the hearing. "Was it Fink?" "I doubt it. Fink would have nothing to gain by leaking this, and the risks are too great. It has to be someone who's not too bright." "That's why I said Fink." "Good point, but I doubt it was a lawyer. I plan to issue a subpoena for Mr. Moeller to appear in my court at noon today. I'll demand he give me his source, or I'll throw him in jail for contempt." "Wonderful idea." "It shouldn't take long. We'll have Mark's little hearing afterward. Okay?" "Sure, Harry. Listen, there's something you should know. It's been a long night." "I'm listening," he said. Reggie gave him the quick version of the bugging of her office, with particular emphasis on Bono and Pirini and the fact they had not been found.
"Good Lord," he said. "These people are crazy." "And dangerous." "Are you scared?" "Of course I'm scared. I've been violated, Harry, and it's frightening to know they've been watching.".
There was a long pause on the other end. "Reggie, I'm not going to release Mark under any circumstances, not today anyway. Let's see what happens over the weekend. He's much safer where he is." "I agree." "Have you talked to his mother?" "Yesterday. She was lukewarm on the idea of witness protection. It might take some time. Poor thing is nothing but ragged nerves." "Work on her. Can she be present in court today? I'd like to see her." "I'll try." "See you at noon." She poured another cup of coffee and returned to the balcony. Axle slept under the rocker. The first light of dawn crept through the trees. She held the warm mug with both hands and tucked her bare feet under the heavy bathrobe. She sniffed the aroma and thought about how much she despised the press. So now the world \vould know about the hearing. So much for confidentiality. Her little client was suddenly more vulnerable. It was obvious now, the fact that he knew something he shouldn't know. If not, why wouldn't he simply have talked when the judge instructed him to?
This game was growing more dangerous by the hour. And she, Reggie Love, Attorney and Counselor-at-Law, was supposed to have all the answers and dispense perfect advice. Mark would look at her with those scared blue eyes, and ask what to do next. How the hell was she supposed to know?
They were after her too.
DOREEN WOKE MARK EARLY. SHE'D FIXED BLUEBERRY MUFfins for him, and she nibbled on one and watched him with great concern. Mark sat in a chair, holding a muffin but not eating it, just staring blankly at the floor. He slowly raised the muffin to his mouth, took a tiny bite, then lowered it to his lap. Doreen watched every move.
"Are you okay, sweetheart?" she asked him.
Mark nodded slowly. "Oh, I'm fine," he said in a hollow, hoarse voice.
Doreen patted his knee, then his shoulder. Her eyes were narrow and she was very troubled. "Well, I'll be around all day," she said as she stood and walked to the door. "And I'll be checking on you." Mark ignored her, and took another small bite of his muffin. The door slammed and clicked, and suddenly he crammed the rest of it in his mouth and reached for another.
He turned on the television, but with no cable he was forced to watch Bryant Gumbel. No cartoons. No old movies. Just Willard in a hat eating corn on the cob and sweet potato sticks.
Doreen returned twenty minutes later. The keys jangled outside, the lock popped, and the door opened. "Mark, come with me," she said. "You have a visitor." He was suddenly still again, detached, lost in another world. He moved slowly. "Who?" he said in that voice.
"Your lawyer." He" stood and followed her into the hallway. "Are you sure you're okay?" she asked, squatting in front of him. He nodded slowly, and they walked to the stairs.
Reggie was waiting in a small conference room one floor below. She and Doreen exchanged pleasantries, old acquaintances, and the door was locked. They sat on opposite sides of a small round table.
"Are we buddies?" she asked with a smile.
"Yeah. I'm sorry about yesterday." "You don't need to apologize, Mark. Believe me, I understand. Did you sleep well?" "Yeah. Much better than at the hospital." "Doreen says she's worried about you." "I'm fine. I'm much better off than Doreen." "Good." Reggie pulled a newspaper from her briefcase and placed the front page on the table. He read it very slowly.
"You've made the front page three days in a row," she said, trying to coax a smile.
"It's getting old. I thought the hearing was private." "Supposed to be. Judge Roosevelt called me early this morning. He's very upset about the story. He plans to bring in the reporter and grill him about it." "It's too late for that, Reggie. The story is right here in print. Everybody sees it. It's pretty obvious I'm the kid who knows too much." "Right." She waited as he read it again and studied the pictures of himself.
"Have you talked to your mother?" she asked.
"Yes ma'am. Yesterday afternoon around five. She sounded tired." "She is. I saw her before you called, and she's hanging in there. Ricky had a bad day.", "Yeah. Thanks to those stupid cops. Let's sue them." "Maybe later. We need to talk about something. After you left the courtroom yesterday, Judge Roosevelt talked to the lawyers and the FBI. He wants you, your mother, and Ricky placed in the Federal Witness Protection Program. He thinks it's the best way to protect you, and I tend to agree." "What is it?" "The FBI moves you to a new location, a very secret one, far away from here, and you have new names, new schools, new everything. Your mother has a new job, one that pays a lot more than six dollars an hour. After a few years there, they might move you again, just to be safe. They'll place Ricky in a much better hospital until he's better. Government pays for everything, of course." "Do I get a new bike?" "Sure." "Just kidding. I saw this once in a movie. A Mafia movie. This informant ratted on the Mafia, and the FBI helped him vanish. He had plastic surgery. They found him a new wife, you know, the works. Sent him off to Brazil or someplace." "What happened?" "It took them about a year to find him. They killed his wife too." choice. It's the safest thing to do." "Of course, I have to tell them everything before they do all these wonderful things for us." "That's part of the deal." "The Mafia never forgets, Reggie." "You've watched too many movies, Mark." "Maybe so. But has the FBI ever lost a witness in this program?" The answer was yes, but she couldn't cite a specific example. "I don't know, but we'll meet with them and you can ask all the questions you want." "What if I don't want to meet with them? What if I want to stay in my little cell here until I'm twenty years old and Judge Roosevelt finally dies? Then can I get out?" "Fine. What about your mother and Ricky? What happens to them when he's released from the hospital and they have no place to go?" "They can move in with me. Doreen'll take care of us." Damn, he was quick for an eleven-year-old. She paused for a moment and smiled at him. He glared at her.
"Listen, Mark, do you trust me?" "Yes, Reggie. I do trust you. You're the only person in the world I trust right now. So please help me." "There's no easy way out, okay." "I know that." "Your safety is my only concern. The safety of you and your family. Judge Roosevelt feels the same way. Now, it'll take a few days to work out the details of the witness program. The judge instructed the FBI yesteraay to start woiKuig on u. iiiiu". iudu,i. y, [um " think it's the best thing to do." "Did you discuss it with my mother?" "Yes. She wants to talk about it some more. I think she liked the idea." "But how do you know it'll work, Reggie? Is it totally safe?" "Nothing is totally safe, Mark. There are no guarantees." "Wonderful. Maybe they'll find us, maybe they won't. That'll make life exciting, won't it." "Do you have a better idea?" "Sure. It's very simple. We collect the insurance money from the trailer. We find another one, and we move into it. I keep my mouth shut and we live happily ever after. I don't really care if they ever find this body, Reggie. I just don't care." "I'm sorry, Mark, but that can't happen." "Why not?" "Because you happen to be very unlucky. You have some important information, and you'll be in trouble until you give it up." "And then I could be dead." "I don't think so, Mark." He crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes. There was a slight bruise high on his left cheek, and it was turning brown. This was Friday. He'd been slapped by Clifford on Monday, and though it seemed like weeks ago the bruise reminded her that things were happening much too fast. The poor kid still bore the wounds of the attack.
"Where would we go?" he asked softly, his eyes still closed.
"Far away. Mr. Lewis with the FBI mentioned a cnuaren s psycmauii, uuspn-cu m. i. v/i. ucu"^+^~ ^"r posed to be one of the best. They'll place Ricky in it with the best of everything." "Can't they follow us?" "The FBI can handle it." He stared at her. "Why do you suddenly trust the FBI?" "Because there's no one else to trust." "How long will all this take?" "There are two problems. The first is the paperwork and details. Mr. Lewis said it could be done within a week. The second is Ricky. It might be a few days before Dr. Greenway will allow him to be moved." "So I'm in jail for another week?" "Looks like it. I'm sorry." "Don't be sorry, Reggie. I can handle this place. In fact, I could stay here for a long time if they'd leave me alone." "They're not going to leave you alone." "I need to talk to my mother." "She might be at the hearing today. Judge Roosevelt wants her there. I suspect he'll have a meeting, off the record, with the FBI people and discuss the witness protection program." "If I'm gonna stay in jail, why have the hearing?" "In contempt matters, the judge is required to bring you back into court periodically to allow you to purge yourself of contempt, in other words, to do what he wants you to do." "The law stinks, Reggie. It's silly, isn't it?" "Oftentimes, yes." "I had a wild thought last night as I was trying to go to sleep. I thought-what if the body is not where Clifford said it is. What it Uliltora was just crazy ana talking out of his head? Have you thought about that, Reggie?" "Yes. Many times." "What if all this is a big joke?" "We can't take that chance, Mark." He rubbed his eyes and slid his chair back. He began walking around the small room, suddenly very nervous. "So we just pack up and leave our lives behind, right? That's easy for you to say, Reggie. You're not the one who'll have the nightmares. You'll go on like nothing ever happened. You and Glint. Momma Love. Nice little law office. Lots of clients. But not us. We'll live in fear for the rest of our lives." "I don't think so." "But you don't know, Reggie. It's easy to sit here and say everything'!! be fine. Your neck's not on the line." "You have no choice, Mark." "Yes I do. I could lie."
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