Chapter 11


Dianne was curled along the end of Ricky's bed, napping. After a morning of mumbling and thrashing and getting everyone's hopes aroused, he had drifted away again after lunch and had returned to the now-familiar position of knees pulled to his chest, IV in the arm, thumb in the mouth. Greenway assured her repeatedly that he was not in pain. But after squeezing and kissing him for four hours, she was convinced her son was hurting. She was exhausted.

Mark sat on the foldaway bed with his back against the wall under the window, and stared at his brother and his mother in the bed. He, too, was exhausted, but sleep was not possible. Events were whirling around his overworked brain, and he tried to keep thinking. What was the next move? Could Reggie be trusted? He'd seen all those lawyer shows and movies on TV, and it seemed as if half the lawyers could be trusted and the other half were snakes. When should he tell Dianne and Dr. Greenway? If he told them everything, would it help Ricky? He thought about this for a long time. He sat on the bed listening to the quiet voices in the hallway as the nurses went about their work, and debated with himself about how much to tell.

The digital clock next to the bed gave the time as two thirty-two. It was impossible to believe that all this crap had happened in less than twenty-four hours. He scratched his knees and made the decision to tell Greenway everything that Ricky could have seen and heard. He stared at the blond hair sticking out from under the sheet, and he felt better. He would come clean, stop the lying, and do all he could to help Ricky. The things Romey told him in the car were not heard by anyone else, and, for the moment, and subject to advice from his lawyer, he would hold them private for a while.

But not for long. These burdens were getting heavy. This was not a game of hide-and-seek played by trailer park kids in the woods and ravines around Tucker Wheel Estates. This was not a sly little escape from his bedroom for a moonlit walk through the neighborhood. Romey stuck a real gun in his mouth. These were real FBI agents with real badges, just like the true crime stories on television. He had hired a real lawyer who'd stuck a real tape recorder to his stomach so she could outfox the FBI. The man who killed the senator was a professional killer who'd murdered many others, according to Romey, and was a member of the Mafia, and thosepeople would think nothing of rubbing out an eleven-year-old kid.

This was just too much for him to handle alone. He should be at school right now, fifth period, doing math which he hated but suddenly missed. He'd have a long talk with Reggie. She'd arrange a meeting with the FBI, and he'd tell them every stinking detail Ro-mey had unloaded on him. Then they would protect him. Maybe they would send in bodyguards until the killer went to jail, or maybe they would arrest him immediately and all would be safe. Maybe.

Then he remembered a movie about a guy who squealed on the Mafia and thought the FBI would protect him, but suddenly he was on the run with bullets flying over his head and bombs going off. The FBI wouldn't return his phone calls because the guy didn't say something right in the courtroom. At least twenty times during the movie someone said, "The mob never forgets." In the final scene, this guy's car was blown to bits just as he turned the key, and he landed a half a mile away with no legs. As he took his final breath, a dark figure stood over him and said, "The mob never forgets." It wasn't much of a movie, but its message was suddenly clear to Mark.

He needed a Sprite. His mother's purse was on the floor under the bed, and he slowly unzipped it. There were three bottles of pills. There were two packs of cigarettes and for a split second he -was tempted. He found the quarters and left the room.

A nurse whispered to an old man in the waiting area. Mark opened his Sprite and walked to the elevators. Greenway had asked him to stay in the room as much as possible, but he was tired of the room and tired of Greenway, and there seemed little chance of Ricky waking anytime soon. He entered the elevator and pushed the button to the basement. He would check out the cafeteria, and see what the lawyers were doing.

A man entered just before the doors closed, and seemed to look at him a bit too long. "Are you Mark Sway?" he asked.

This was getting old. Starting with Romey, he'd met enough strangers in the past twenty-four hours to last for months.

He was certain he'd never seen this guy before. "Who are you?" he asked cautiously.

"Slick Moeller, with the Memphis Press, you know, the newspaper. You're Mark Sway, aren't you?" "How'd you know?" "I'm a reporter. I'm supposed to know these things. How's your brother?" "He's doing great. Why do you want to know?" "Working on a story about the suicide and all, and your name keeps coming up. Cops say you know more than you're telling." "When's it gonna be in the paper?" "I don't know. Tomorrow maybe." Mark felt weak again, and stopped looking at him. "I'm not answering any questions." "That's fine." The elevator door suddenly opened and a swarm of people entered. Mark could no longer see the reporter. Seconds later it stopped on the fifth floor, and Mark darted out between two doctors... He hit the stairs and walked quickly to the sixth floor.

He'd lost the reporter. He sat on the steps in the empty stairwell, and began to cry.

FOLTRIGG, MCTHUNE, AND TRUMANN ARRIVED IN THE small but tasteful reception area of Reggie Love, Attor-ney-at-Law, at exactly 3 P. M., the appointed hour. They were met by Glint, who asked them to be seated, then offered coffee or tea, all of which they stiffly declined. Foltrigg informed Glint right properly that he was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Louisiana, New Orleans, and that he was now present in this office and did not expect to wait. It was a mistake.

He waited for forty-five minutes. While the agents flipped through magazines on the sofa, Foltrigg paced the floor, glanced at his watch, fumed, scowled at Glint, even barked at him twice and each time was informed Reggie was on the phone with an important matter. As if Foltrigg was there for an unimportant matter. He wanted to leave so badly. But he couldn't. For one of the rare times in his life he had to absorb a subtle ass-kicking without a fight.

Finally, Glint asked them to follow him to a small conference room lined with shelves of heavy law books. Glint instructed them to be seated, and explained that Reggie would be right with them.

"She's forty-five minutes late," Foltrigg protested.

"That's quite early for Reggie, sir," Glint said with a smile as he closed the door. Foltrigg sat at one end of the table with an agent close to each side. They waited.

"Look, Roy," Trumann said with hesitation, "you need to be careful with this gal. She might be taping this." "What makes you think so?" "Well, uh, you just never-" "These Memphis lawyers do a lot of taping," Mc-Thune added helpfully. "I don't know about New Orleans, but it's pretty bad up here." "She has to tell us up front if she's taping, doesn't she?" Foltrigg asked, obviously without a clue.

"Don't bet on it," said Trumann. "Just be careful, okay." The door opened and Reggie entered, forty-eight minutes late. "Keep your seats," she said as Glint closed the door behind her. She offered a hand to Foltrigg, who was half-standing. "Reggie Love, you must be Roy Foltrigg." "I am. Nice to meet you." "Please be seated." She smiled at McThune and Trumann, and for a brief second all three of them thought about the tape. "Sorry I'm late," she said as she sat alone at her end of the conference table. They were eight feet away, huddled together like wet ducks.

"No problem," Foltrigg said loudly as if it was very much a problem.

She pulled a large tape recorder from a hidden drawer in the table and set it in front of her. "Mind if I tape this little conference?" she asked as she plugged in the microphone. The little conference would be taped whether they liked it or not. "I'll be happy to provide you with a copy of the tape." "Fine with me," Foltrigg said, pretending he had a choice.

McThune and Trumann stared at the tape recorder. How nice of her to ask! She smiled at the two of them as they smiled at her, then all three smiled at the recorder. She was as subtle as a rock through a window. The damnable micro-cassette could not be far away.

She pushed a button. "Now, what's up?" "Where's your client?" Foltrigg asked. He leaned forward and it was clear he would do all the talking.

"At the hospital. The doctor wants him to stay in the room near his brother." "When can we talk to him?" "You're assuming that you will in fact talk to him." She looked at Foltrigg with very confident eyes.

Her hair was gray and cut like a boy's. The face was quite colorful. The eyebrows were dark. The lips were soft red and meticulously painted. The skin was smooth and free of heavy makeup. It was a pretty face, with bangs, and eyes that glowed with a calm steadiness. Fol-trigg looked at her, and thought of all the misery and suffering she'd seen. She covered it well.

McThune opened a file and flipped through it. In the past two hours they had assembled a two-inch-thick dossier on Reggie Love, aka Regina L. Cardoni. They had copied the divorce papers and commitment proceedings from the clerk's office in the county courthouse. The mortgage papers and land records on her mother's home were in the folder. Two Memphis agents were attempting to obtain her law school transcripts.

Foltrigg loved the trash. Whatever the case and whoever the opponent, Foltrigg always wanted the dirt. McThune read the sordid legal history of the divorce with its allegations of adultery and alcohol and dope and unfitness and, ultimately, the attempted suicide. He read it carefully, though, without being seen. He did not, under any circumstances, want to make this woman angry.

"We need to talk to your client, Ms. Love." "It's Reggie. Okay, Roy?" "Whatever. We think he knows something, plain and simple." "Such as?" "Well, we're convinced little Mark was in the car with Jerome Clifford prior to his death. We think he spent more than a few seconds with him. Clifford was obviously planning to kill himself, and we have reason to believe he wanted to tell someone where his client, Mr. Muldanno, had disposed of the body of Senator Boyette." "What makes you think he wanted to tell?" "It's a long story, but he had contacted an assistant in my office on two occasions and hinted that he might be willing to cut some deal and get out. He was scared. And he was drinking a lot. Very erratic behavior. He was sliding off the deep end, and wanted to talk." "Why do you think he talked to my client?" "There's just a chance, okay. And we must look under every stone. Surely you understand." "I sense a bit of desperation." "A lot of desperation, Reggie. I'm leveling with you. We know who killed the senator, but, frankly, I'm not ready for trial without a corpse." He paused and smiled warmly at her. Despite his many obnoxious flaws, Roy had spent hours before juries and he knew how and when to act sincere.

And she'd spent many hours in therapy, and she could spot a fake. "I'm not telling you that you cannot talk to Mark Sway. You cannot talk to him today, but maybe tomorrow. Maybe the next day. Things are moving fast. Mr. Clifford's body is still warm. Let's slow down a bit, and take it one step at a. time. Okay?" "Okay." "Now, convince me Mark Sway was in the car with Jerome Clifford prior to the shooting." No problem. Foltrigg looked at a notepad, and reeled off the many places where fingerprints were matched. Rear taillights, trunk, front passenger door handle and lock switch, dash, gun, bottle of Jack Daniel's. There was a tentative match on the hose, but it was not definite. They were working on it. Foltrigg was the prosecutor now, building a case with indisputable evidence......

Reggie took pages of notes. She knew Mark had been in the car, but she had no idea he'd left such a wide trail.

"The whiskey bottle?" she asked.

Foltrigg flipped a page for the details. "Yes, three definite prints. No question about it." Mark had told her, about the gun, but not about the bottle. "Seems a bit strange, doesn't it?" x "It's all strange at this point. The police officers who talked to him do not recall smelling alcohol, so I don't think he drank any of it. I'm sure he could explain it, you know, if only we could talk to him." "I'll ask him." "So he didn't tell you about the bottle?" "No." "Did he explain the gun?" "I cannot divulge what my client has explained to me." Foltrigg waited desperately for a hint, and this really angered him. Trumann likewise waited breathlessly. McThune stopped reading the report of a court-appointed psychiatrist.

"So he hasn't told you everything?" Foltrigg asked.

"He's told me a lot. It's possible he missed some of the details." "These details could be crucial." "I'll determine what's crucial and what's not. What else do you have?" "Hand her the note," Foltrigg instructed Trumann, who produced it from a file and handed it to her. She read it slowly, then read it again. Mark had not mentioned the note.

"Obviously two different pens," Foltrigg explained. "We found the blue one in the car, a cheap Bic, out of ink. Just speculating, it looks as though Clifford tried to add something after Mark left the car. The word 'where' seems to indicate the boy was gone. It's obvious they talked, exchanged names, and that the kid was in the car long enough to touch everything." "No prints on this?" she asked, waving the note.

"None. We've checked it thoroughly. The kid did not touch it." She calmly placed it next to her legal pad and folded her hands together. "Well, Roy, I think the big question is, How did you guys match his fingerprints? How did you obtain one of his to match with the ones in the car?" She asked this with the same confident sneer Trumann and McThune had seen when she produced the tape less than four hours ago.

"Very simple. We lifted one off a soft drink can at the hospital last night." "Did you ask either Mark Sway or his mother before doing so?" "No." "So you invaded the privacy of an eleven-year-old child." "No. We are trying to obtain evidence." "Evidence? Evidence for what? Not for a crime, I dare say. The crime has been committed and the body has been disposed of. You just can't find it. What other crime do we have here? Suicide? Watching a suicide?" "Did he watch the suicide?" "I can't tell you what he did or saw because he has confided in me as his lawyer. Our talks are privileged, you know that, Roy. What else have you taken from this child?" "Nothing." She snorted as if she didn't believe this. "What else do you have?" "This is not enough?" "I want it all." Foltrigg flipped pages back and forth and did a slow burn. "You've seen the puffy left eye and the knot on his forehead. The police said there was a trace of blood on his lip when they found him at the scene. Clifford's autopsy revealed a spot of blood on the back of his right hand, and it's not his type." "Let me guess. It's Mark's." "Probably so. Same blood type." "How do you know his blood type?" Foltrigg dropped the legal pad and rubbed his face. The most effective defense lawyers are those who keep the fighting away from the issues. They bitch and throw rocks over the tiny subplots of a case and hope the prosecution and the jury are diverted away from the obvious guilt of their clients. If there's something to hide, then scream at the other guy for violating technicalities. Right now they should be nailing down the facts of what, if anything, Clifford said to Mark. It should be so simple. But now the kid had a lawyer, and here they were trying to explain how they obtained certain crucial information. There was nothing wrong with lifting prints from a can without asking. Good police work. But from the mouth of a defense lawyer, it's suddenly a vicious invasion of privacy. Next she 'would threaten a lawsuit. And now, the blood.

She was good. He found it difficult to believe she'd been practicing only four years.

"From his brother's hospital admission records." "And how did you obtain the hospital records?", "We have ways." Trumann braced for a reprimand. McThune hid behind the file. They had been burned by this temper. She'd made them stutter and stammer and sweat blood, and now it was time for old Roy to take a few punches. It was almost funny.

But she kept her cool. She slowly extended a skinny finger with white nail polish and pointed it at Roy. "If you get near my client again and attempt to obtain anything from him without my permission, I'll sue you and the FBI. I'll file an ethics complaint with the state bar in Louisiana and Tennessee, and I'll haul your ass into Juvenile Court here and ask the judge to lock you up." The words were spoken in an even voice, no emotion, but so matter-of-factly that everyone in the room, including Roy Foltrigg, knew that she would do exactly as she promised.

He smiled and nodded. "Fine. Sorry if we've gotten a bit out of line. But we're anxious, and we must talk to your client." "Have you told me everything you know about Mark?" Foltrigg and Trumann checked their notes. "Yes, I think so." "What's that?" she insisted, pointing to the file McThune was lost in. He was reading about her suicide attempt, by pills, and it was alleged in the pleadings, sworn under oath, that she'd been in a coma for four days before pulling out. Evidently, her ex-husband, Dr. Cardoni, a real piece of scum according to the pleadings, was a nasty sort with all the money and lawyers, and as soon as Regina/Reggie here took the pills he ran to court with a pile ot motions to get the kids. Looking at the dates stamped on the papers, it was obvious the good doctor was filing requests and asking for hearings while she was lost in a coma and fighting for her life.

McThune didn't panic. He looked at her innocently and said, "Just some of our internal stuff." It was not a lie, because he was afraid to lie to her. She had the tape, and had sworn them to truthfulness.

"About my client?" "Oh no." She studied her legal pad. "Let's meet again tomorrow," she said. It was not a suggestion, but a directive.

"We're really in a hurry, Reggie," Foltrigg pleaded.

"Well I'm not. And I guess I'm calling the shots, aren't I?" "I guess you are." "I need time to digest this and talk with my client." This was not what they wanted, but it was painfully clear this was all they would get. Foltrigg dramatically screwed the top onto his pen and slid his notes into his briefcase. Trumann and McThune followed his lead and for a minute the table shook as they shuffled paper and files and restuffed everything.

"What time tomorrow?" Foltrigg asked, slamming his briefcase and pushing away from the table.

"Ten. In this office." "Will Mark Sway be here?" "I don't know." They stood and filed out of the room.