Chapter 12

W ALLY BOXX CALLED THE OFFICE IN NEW ORLEANS AT least four times every hour. Foltrigg had forty-seven assistant U. S. attorneys fighting all sorts of crime and protecting the interests of the government, and Wally was in charge of relaying orders from the boss in Memphis. In addition to Thomas Fink, three other attorneys were working on the Muldanno case, and Wally felt the need to call them every fifteen minutes with instructions, and the latest on Clifford. By noon, the entire office knew of Mark Sway and his little brother. The place buzzed with gossip and speculation. How much did the kid know? Would he lead them to the body? Initially, these questions were pondered in hushed whispers by the three Muldanno prosecutors, but by midafternoon the secretaries in the coffee room were exchanging wild theories about the suicide note and what was told to the kid before Clifford ate his bullet. All other work virtually stopped as Foltrigg's office waited for Wally's next call.

Foltrigg had been burned by leaks before. He'd fired people he suspected of talking too much. He'd rcquircu poiygrapm 101 ail lawycib, paiaicgais, tors, and secretaries who worked for him. He kept sensitive information under lock and key for fear of leakage by his own people. He lectured and threatened.

But Roy Foltrigg was not the sort of person to inspire intense loyalty. He was not appreciated by many of the assistants. He played the political game. He used cases for his own raw ambition. He hogged the spotlight and took credit for all the good -work, and blamed his subordinates for all the bad. He sought marginal indictments against elected officials for a few cheap headlines. He investigated his enemies and dragged their names through the press. He was a political whore whose only talent with the law was in the courtroom, where he preached to juries and quoted scripture. He was a Reagan appointee with one year left, and most of the assistant attorneys were counting the days. They encouraged him to run for office. Any office.

The reporters in New Orleans began calling at 8 A. M. They wanted an official comment about Clifford from Foltrigg's office. They did not get one. Then Willis Upchurch performed at two o'clock, with Mul-danno glowering at his side, and more reporters came snooping around the office. There were hundreds of phone calls to Memphis and back.

People talked.

THEY STOOD BEFORE THE DIRTY WINDOW AT THE END OF the hall on the ninth floor, and watched the rush-hour traffic of downtown. Dianne nervously lit a Virginia Slim, and blew a heavy cloud of smoke. "Who is this lawyer?" "Her name is Reggie Love." "How'd you find her?" He pointed to the Sterick Building four blocks away. "I went to her office in that building right there, and I talked to her." "Why, Mark?" "These cops scare me, Mom. The police and FBI are crawling all over this place. And reporters. I had one catch me in the elevator this afternoon. I think we need some legal advice." "Lawyers don't work for free, Mark. You know we can't afford a lawyer." "I've already paid her," he said like a tycoon.

"What? How can you pay a lawyer?" "She wanted a small retainer, and she got one. I gave her a dollar from that five that went for doughnuts this morning." "She's working for a dollar? She must be a great lawyer." "She's pretty good. I've been impressed so far." Dianne shook her head in amazement. During her nasty divorce, Mark, then age nine, had constantly criticized her lawyer. He watched hours of reruns of "Perry Mason" and never missed "L. A. Law." It had been years since she'd won an argument with him.

"What has she done so far?" Dianne asked, as if she were emerging from a dark cave and seeing sunlight for the first time in a month.

"At rioon, she met with some FBI agents, and ripped them up pretty good. And later, she met with them again in her office. I haven't talked with her since then." "What time is she coming here?" "Around six. She wants to meet you and talk to Dr. Greenway. You'll really like her, Mom." "But why do we need her, Mark? I don't understand why she's entered the picture. You've done nothing wrong. You and Ricky saw the car, you tried to help the man, but he shot himself anyway. And you guys saw it. Why do you need a lawyer?" "Well, I did lie to the cops at first, and that scares me. And I was afraid we might get in trouble because we didn't stop the man from shooting himself. It's all pretty scary, Mom." She watched him intently as he explained this, and he avoided her eyes. There was a long pause. "Have you told me everything?" She asked this very slowly, as if she knew.

At first he'd lied to her at the trailer while they waited for the ambulance, with Hardy lingering nearby, all ears. Then last night, in Ricky's room, under cross-examination by Greenway, he had told the first version of the truth. He remembered how sad she had been when she heard this revised story, and later how she'd said, "You never lie to me, Mark." They'd been through so much together, and here he was dancing around the truth, dodging questions, telling Reggie more than he'd told his mother. It made him sick.

"Mom, it all happened so fast yesterday. It was all a blur in my mind last night, but I've been thinking about it today. Thinking hard. I've gone through each step, minute by minute, and I'm remembering things now." "Such as?" "Well, you know how this has affected Ricky. I think it shocked me sort of like that. Not as bad, but I'm remembering things now that I should have remembered last night when I talked to L]r. Lrreenway. Does this make sense?" Actually, it did make sense. Dianne was suddenly concerned. Two boys see the same event. One goes into shock. It's reasonable to believe the other would be, affected. She hadn't thought of this. She leaned down next to him. "Mark, are you all right?" He knew he had her. "I think so," he said with a frown, as if a migraine were upon him.

"What have you remembered?" she asked cautiously.

He took a deep breath. "Well, I remember-" Greenway cleared his throat and appeared from nowhere. Mark whirled around. "I need to be going," Greenway said, almost as an apology. "I'll check back in a couple of hours." Dianne nodded but said nothing.

Mark decided to get it over with. "Look, Doctor, I was just telling Mom that I'm remembering things now for the first time." "About the suicide?" "Yes sir. All day long I've been seeing flashes and recalling details. I think some of it might be important." Greenway looked at Dianne. "Let's go back to the room and talk," he said.

They walked to the room, closed the door behind them, and listened as Mark tried to fill in the gaps. It was a relief to unload this baggage, though he did most of the talking in the direction of the floor. It was an act, this painful pulling of scenes from a shocked and badly scarred mind, and he carried it off with finesse. He paused quite often, long pauses in which he searched for words to describe -what was already firmly etched in the doctor's expression never changed. He glanced at his mother from time to time, and she didn't appear to be disappointed. She maintained a look of motherly concern.

But when he got to the part about Clifford grabbing him, he could see them fidget. He kept his troubled eyes on the floor. Dianne sighed -when he talked about the gun. Greenway shook his head when he told of the gunshot through the window. At times, he thought they were about to yell at him for lying last night, but he plowed ahead, obviously disturbed and deep in thought.

He carefully replayed every single event that Ricky could have seen and heard. The only details he kept to himself were Clifford's confessions. He vividly recalled the crazy stuff: la-la land and floating off to see the wizard.

When he finished, Dianne was sitting on the foldaway bed rubbing her head, talking about Valium. Greenway sat in a chair, hanging on every word. "Is this all of it, Mark?" "I don't know. It's all I can remember right now," he mumbled, as if he had a toothache.

"You were actually in the car?" Dianne said without opening her eyes.

He pointed to his slightly swollen left eye. "You see this. This is where he slapped me when I tried to get out of the car. I was dizzy for a long time. Maybe I was unconscious, I don't know." "You told me you were in a fight at school." "I don't remember telling you that, Mom, and if I did, well, maybe I was in shock or something." Dammit. Trapped by another lie.

Greenway stroked his beard. "Ricky saw you get grabbed, thrown in the car, the gunshot. Wow." "Yeah. It's coming back to me, real clear. I'm sorry I didn't remember it sooner, but my mind just went blank. Sort of like Ricky here." Another long pause.

"Frankly, Mark, I find it hard to believe you couldn't remember some of this last night," Greenway said.

"Gimme a break, would you? Look at Ricky here. He saw what happened to me, and it drove him to the ozone. Did we talk last night?" "Come on, Mark," Dianne said.

"Of course we talked," Greenway said with at least four new wrinkles across his forehead.

"Yeah, I guess we did. Don't remember much of it though." Greenway frowned at Dianne and their eyes locked. Mark walked into the bathroom and drank water out of a paper cup.

"It's okay," Dianne said. "Have you told the police this?" "No. I just remembered it. Remember?" Dianne nodded slowly and managed a very slight grin at Mark. Her eyes were narrow, and his suddenly found the floor. She believed all of his story about the suicide, but this sudden surge of clear memory did not fool her. She would deal with him later.

Greenway had his doubts too, but he was more concerned with treating his patient than reprimanding Mark. He gently stroked his beard and studied the wall. There was a long pause.

"I'm hungry," Mark finally said.

REGGIE ARRIVED AN HOUR LATE WITH APOLOGIES. GREENway had left for the day. Mark stumbled through the introductions. She smiled warmly at Dianne as they shook hands, then sat beside her on the bed. She asked her a dozen questions about Ricky. She was an immediate friend of the family, anxious and properly concerned about everything. What about her job? School? Money? Clothes?

Dianne was tired and vulnerable, and it was nice to talk to a woman. She opened up, and they went on for a while about Greenway saying this and that, about everything unrelated to Mark and his story and the FBI, the only reason for Reggie's being there.

Reggie had a sack of deli sandwiches and chips, and Mark spread them on a crowded table by Ricky's bed. He left the room to get drinks. They hardly noticed.

He bought two Dr Peppers in the waiting area and returned to the room without being stopped by cops, reporters, or Mafia gunmen. The women were deep into a conversation about McThune and Trumann trying to interrogate Mark. Reggie was telling the story in such a manner that Dianne had no choice but to mistrust the FBI. They were both shocked. Dianne was alive and animated for the first time in many hours.

JACK NANCE AND ASSOCIATES WAS A QUIET FIRM THAT ADvertised itself as security specialists, but was in fact nothing more than a couple of private investigators. Its ad in the Yellow Pages was one of the smallest in town. It did not want the run-of-the-mill divorce cases in which one spouse was sleeping around and the other wanted photos. It did not own a polygraph. It did not snatch children. It did not track down thieving employees.

Jack Nance himself was an ex-con with an impressive record who'd managed to avoid trouble for ten years. His associate was Cal Sisson, also a convicted felon who'd run a terrific scam with a bogus roofing company. Together they scratched out a nice living doing dirty work for rich people. They had once broken both hands of the teenaged boyfriend of a rich client's daughter after the kid slapped her. They had once deprogrammed a couple of Moonies, the children of another rich client. They were not afraid of violence. More than once, they had beaten a business rival who'd taken money from a client. They had once burned the downtown love nest of a client's wife and her lover.

There was a market for their brand of investigative work, and they were known in small circles as two very nasty and efficient men who would take your cash, do your dirty work, and leave no trail. They achieved amazing results. Every client came by referral.

Jack Nance was in his cluttered office after dark when someone knocked on the door. The secretary had left for the day. Cal Sisson was stalking a crack dealer who'd hooked the son of a client. Nance was around forty, not a big man, but compact and extremely agile. He walked through the secretary's office and opened the front door. The face was a strange one.

"Looking for Jack Nance," the man said.

"That's me." The man stretched out his hand, and they shook. "My name's Paul Gronke. Can I come in?" Nance opened the door wider and motioned for Gronke to enter. They stood in front of the secretary's desk. Gronke looked around the cramped and messy room.

"It's late," Nance said. "What do you want?" "I need some fast work." "Who referred you?" "I've heard of you. Word gets around." "Give me a name." "Okay. J. L. Grainger. I think you helped him on a business deal. He also mentioned a Mr. Schwartz who was also quite pleased with your work." Nance thought about this for a second as he studied Gronke. He was a burly man with a thick chest, late thirties, badly dressed but didn't know it. Because of his clipped drawl, Nance immediately knew he was from New Orleans. "I get a two-thousand-dollar retainer up front, nonrefundable, all in cash, before I lift a finger." Gronke pulled a roll of bills from his left front pocket and peeled off twenty big ones. Nance relaxed. It was his fastest retainer in ten years. "Sit down," he said, taking the money and waving at a sofa. "I'm listening." Gronke took a folded newspaper clipping from his jacket and handed it to Nance. "Did you see this in today's paper?" Nance looked at it. "Yeah. I read it. How are you involved?" "I'm from New Orleans. In fact, Mr. Muldanno is an old pal, and he's very disturbed to see his name suddenly show up here in the Memphis paper. It says he has Mafia ties and all. Can't believe a word in the newspapers. The press is going to ruin this country." "Was Clifford his lawyer?" "Yeah. But now he has a new one. That's not important, though. Lemme tell you what's worrying him. He has a good source telling him these two boys know something." "Where are the boys?" "One's in the hospital, a coma or something. He freaked out when Clifford shot himself. His brother was actually in the car with Clifford prior to the shooting, and we're afraid this kid might know something. He's already hired a lawyer, and is refusing to talk to the FBI. Looks real suspicious." "Where do I fit in?" "We need someone with Memphis connections. We need to see the kid. We need to know where he is at all times.".

"What's his name?" "Mark Sway. He's at the hospital, we think, with his mother. Last night they stayed in the room with the younger brother, a kid named Ricky Sway. Ninth floor at St. Peter's. Room 943 We want you to find the kid, determine his location as of now, and then watch him." "Easy enough." "Maybe not. There are cops and probably FBI agents watching too. The kid's attracting a crowd." "I get a hundred bucks an hour, cash." "I know that."

SHE CALLED HERSELF AMBER, WHICH ALONG WITH ALEXIS happened to be the two most popular acquired names among strippers and whores in the French Quarter. She answered the phone, then carried it a few feet to the tiny bathroom where Barry Muldanno was brushing his teeth. "It's Gronke," she said, handing it to him. He took it, turned off the water, and admired her naked body as she crawled under the sheets. He stepped into the doorway. "Yeah," he said into the phone.

A minute later, he placed the phone on the table next to the bed, and quickly dried himself off. He dressed in a hurry. Amber was somewhere under the covers.

"What time are you going to work?" he asked, tying his tie.

"Ten. What time is it?" Her head appeared between the pillows.

"Almost nine. I gotta run an errand. I'll be back." "Why? You got what you wanted." "I might want some more. I pay the rent here, sweetheart." "Some rent. Why don't you move me outta this dump? Get me a nice place?" He tugged his sleeves from under his jacket, and admired himself in the mirror. Perfect, just perfect. He smiled at Amber. "I like it here." "It's a dump. If you treated me right, you'd get me a nice place." "Yeah, yeah. See you later, sweetheart." He slammed the door. Strippers. Get them a job, then an apartment, buy some clothes, feed them nice dinners, and then they get culture and start making demands. They were an expensive habit, but one he could not break.

He bounced down the steps in his alligator loafers, and opened the door onto Dumaine. He looked right and left, certain that someone was watching, and took off around the corner onto Bourbon. He moved in shadows, crossing and recrossing the street, then turned corners and retraced some of his steps. He zigzagged for eight blocks, then disappeared into Randy's Oysters on Decatur. If they stuck to him, they were supermen.

Randy's was a sanctuary. It was an old-fashioned New Orleans eatery, long and narrow, dark and crowded, off-limits for tourists, owned and operated by the family. He ran up the cramped staircase to the second floor, where reserved seating was required and only a select few could get reservations. He nodded to a waiter, grinned at a beefy thug, and entered a private room with four tables. Three were empty, and at the fourth a solitary fjgure sat in virtual darkness reading by the light of a real candle. Barry approached, stopped, and waited to be invited. The man saw him and waved at a chair. Barry obediently took a seat.

Johnny Sulari was the brother of Barry's mother, and the undisputed head of the family. He owned Randy's, along with a hundred other assorted ventures. As usual, he was working tonight, reading financial statements by candlelight and waiting for dinner. This was Tuesday, just another night at the office. On Friday, Johnny would be here with an Amber or an Alexis or a Sabrina, and on Saturday he would be here with his wife.

He did not appreciate the interruption. "What is it?" he asked.

Barry leaned forward, well aware that he was not wanted here at this moment. "Just talked to Gronke in Memphis. Kid's hired a lawyer, and is refusing to talk to the FBI." "I can't believe you're so stupid, Barry, you know that?" "We've had this conversation, okay?" "I know. And we'll have it again. You're a dumbass, and I just "want you to know that I think you're a real dumbass." "Okay. I'm a dumbass. But we need to make a move." "What?" "We need to send Bono and someone else, maybe Pirini, maybe the Bull, I don't care, but we need a couple of men in Memphis. And we need them now." "You want to hit the kid?" "Maybe. We'll see. We need to find out what he knows, okay? If he knows too much, then maybe we'll take him out." "I'm embarrassed we're related by blood, Barry. You're a complete fool, you know that?" "Okay. But we need to move fast." Johnny picked up a stack of papers and began reading. "Send Bono and Pirini, but no more stupid moves. Okay? You're a idiot, Barry, an imbecile, and I don't want anything done up there until I say so. Understand?" "Yes sir." "Leave now." Johnny waved his hand, and Barry jumped to his feet.