Chapter 15

JTOLTRIGG YELLED ONLY ONCE, THEN STORMED FROM THE office making threats and slamming the door. Mc-Thune and Trumann were frustrated, but also embarrassed at his antics. As they left, McThune rolled his eyes at Glint as if he wanted to apologize for this pompous loudmouth. Glint relished the moment, and -when the dust settled he walked to Reggie's office.

Mark had pulled a chair to the window, and sat watching it rain on the street and sidewalk below. Reggie was on the phone with the hospital administrator discussing security on the ninth floor. She covered the phone, and Glint whispered that they were gone. He left to get more cocoa for Mark, who never moved.

Within minutes, Glint took a call from George Ord, and he buzzed Reggie on the intercom. She'd never met the U. S. attorney from Memphis, but was not surprised that he was now on the phone. She allowed him to hold for one full minute, then picked up the phone. "Hello." "Ms. Love, this is-" "It's Reggie, okay. Just Reggie. And you're George, right?" She called everyone by their first name, even stuffy judges in their proper little courtrooms.

"Right, Reggie. This is George Ord. Roy Fol-trigg is in my office, and-" "What a coincidence. He just left mine." "Yeah, and that's why I'm calling. He didn't get a chance to talk to you and your client." "Give him my apologies. My client has nothing to say to him." She was talking and looking at the back of Mark's head. If he were listening, she couldn't tell. He was frozen in the chair at the window.

"Reggie, I think it would be wise if you at least meet with Mr. Foltrigg again." "I have no desire to meet with Roy, nor does my client." She could picture Ord speaking gravely into the phone with Foltrigg pacing around the office waving his arms.

"Well, this will not be the end of it, you know?" "Is that a threat, George?" "It's more of a promise." "Fine. You tell Roy and his boys that if anyone attempts to contact my client or his family I'll have their asses. Okay, George?" "I'll relay the message."

IT WAS REALLY SORT OF FUNNY-IT WAS NOT, AFTER ALL, his case-but Ord could not laugh. He returned the receiver to its place, smiled to himself, and said, "She says she ain't talking, the kid ain't talking, and if you or anyone else contacts the kid or his family she'll, uh, have your asses, as she put it." Foltrigg bit his lip and nodded at every word as if this were fine because he could play hardball with the best of ^hem. He had regained his composure and was already implementing Plan B. He paced around the office as ff in deep thought. McThune and Trumann stood bv the door like sentries. Bored sentries.

"I want the kid followed, okay," Foltrigg finally snappec at McThune. "We're leaving for New Orleans, and I want you guys to tail him twenty-four hours a day. I ^ant to know what he does, and, more importantly, me needs to be protected from Muldanno and his henchmen." McThune did not take orders from any U. S. attorney, and at this moment he was sick of Roy Foltrigg. And the idea of using three or four overworked agents to follow an eleven-year-old kid was quite stupid. But, it was not worth the fight. Foltrigg had a hot line to Director Voyles in Washington, and Director Voyles wanted the body and he wanted a conviction almost as bad as Foltrigg did.

"Okay," he said. "We'll get it done." "Paul Gronke's already here somewhere," Foltrigg said as though he'd just heard fresh gossip. They knew the flight number and his 'time of arrival eleven hours ago. They had, however, managed to lose his trail once he left the Memphis airport. They had discussed it with Ord and Foltrigg and a dozen other FBI agents for two hours this morning. At this very moment, no less than eight agents were trying to find Gronke in Memphis.

"We'll find him," McThune said. "And we'll watch the kid. Why don't you get your ass back to New Orleans." "I'll get the van ready," Trumann said officially as if the van were in fact Air Force One.

Foltrigg stopped pacing in front of Ord's desk.

"We're leaving, George. Sorry for the intrusion. I'll probably be back in a couple of days." What wonderful news, Ord thought. He stood, and they shook hands. "Anytime," he said. "If we can help, just call." "I'll meet with Judge Lamond first thing in the morning. I'll let you know." Ord offered his hand again for one final shake. Foltrigg took it and headed for the door. "Watch out for these thugs," he advised McThune. "I don't think he's dumb enough to touch the kid, but who knows." McThune opened the door and waved him through. Ord followed.

"Muldanno's heard something," Foltrigg continued, "and they're just snooping around here." He was in the outer office where Wally Boxx and Thomas Fink waited. "But keep an eye on them, okay, George? These guys are really dangerous. And follow the kid, too, and watch his lawyer. And thanks a million. I'll call you tomorrow. Where's the van, Wally?"

AFTER AN HOUR OF WATCHING THE SIDEWALKS, SIPPING HOT cocoa, and listening to his lawyer practice law, Mark was ready for a move. Reggie had called Dianne and explained that Mark was in her office killing time and helping with the paperwork. Ricky was much better, sleeping again. He'd consumed half a gallon of ice cream while Greenway asked him a hundred questions. At eleven, Mark parked himself at Glint's desk and inspected the dictating equipment. Reggie had a client, a woman who desperately wanted a divorce, and they needed to plot strategy for an hour. Glint typed away on long paper and grabbed the phone every five minutes.

"How'd you become a secretary?" Mark asked, very bored with this candid view of the practice of law.

Glint turned and smiled at him. "It was an accident." "Did you want to be a secretary when you were a kid?" "No. I wanted to build swimming pools." "What happened?" "I don't know. I got messed up on drugs, almost flunked out of high school, then went to college, then went to law school." "You have to go to law school to be a secretary in a law office?" "No. I flunked out of law school, and Reggie gave me a job. It's fun, most of the time." "Where'd you meet Reggie?" "It's a long story. We were friends in law school. We've been friends for a long time. She'll probably tell you about it when you meet Momma Love." "Momma who?" "Momma Love. She hasn't told you about Momma Love?" "No." "Momma Love is Reggie's mother. They live together, and she loves to cook for the kids Reggie represents. She fixes inside-out ravioli and spinach lasagna and all sorts of delicious Italian food. Everyone loves it." After two days of doughnuts and green Jell-O, the mention of thick, cheesy dishes cooked at someone's home was terribly inviting. "When do you think I might meet Momma Love?" "I don't know. Reggie takes most ot her clients home, especially the younger ones." "Does she have any kids?" "Two, but they're grown and live away." "Where does Momma Love live?" "In midtown, not far from here. It's an old house she's owned for years. In fact, it's the house Reggie grew up in." The phone rang. Glint took the message and returned to his typewriter. Mark watched intently.

"How'd you learn to type so fast?" The typing stopped, and he slowly turned and looked at Mark. He smiled, and said, "In high school. I had this teacher who was like a drill sergeant. We hated her, but she made us learn. Can you type?" "A little. I've had three years of computer at school." Glint pointed to his Apple next to the typewriter. "We've got all sorts of computers around here." Mark glanced at it, but was not impressed. Everybody had computers. "So how'd you get to be a secretary?" "It wasn't planned. When Reggie finished law school, she didn't want to work for anybody, so she opened this office. It was about four years ago. She needed a secretary, and I volunteered. Have you seen a male secretary before?" "No. Didn't know men could be secretaries. How's the money?" Glint chuckled at this. "It's okay. If Reggie has a good month, then I have a good month. We're sort of like partners." "Does she make a lot of money?" "Not really. She doesn't want a lot of money. A few years ago she was married to a doctor, and they had a big house and lots of money. Everything went to hell, and she blames the money for most of it. She'll probably tell you about it. She's very honest about her life." "She's a lawyer and she doesn't want money?" "Unusual, isn't it?" "I'll say. I mean, I've seen a lot of lawyer shows on television, and all they do is talk about-money. Sex and money." The phone rang. It was a judge, and Glint got real nice and chatted with him for five minutes. He hung up and returned to his typing. As he reached full speed, Mark asked, "Who's that woman in there?" Glint stopped, stared at the keys, and slowly turned around. His chair squeaked. He forced a quick smile. "In there with Reggie?" "Yeah." "Norma Thrash." "What's her problem?" "She's got a bunch of them, really. She's in the middle of a nasty divorce. Husband's a real jerk." Mark was curious about how much Glint knew. "Does he beat her up?" "I don't think so," he answered slowly.

"Do they have kids and all?" "Two. I really can't say much about it. It's confidential, you know?" "Yeah, I know. But you probably know everything, don't you? I mean, after all, you type it up." "I know most of what goes on. Sure. But Reggie doesn't tell me everything. For example, I have no idea what you've told her. I assume it's pretty serious, but she'll keep it to herself. I've read the newspaper. I've seen the FBI and Mr. Foltrigg, but I don't know the details." This was exactly what Mark wanted to hear. "Do you know Robert Hackstraw? They call him Hack." "He's a lawyer, isn't he?" "Yeah. He represented my mother in her divorce a couple of years ago. A real moron." "You weren't impressed with her lawyer?" "I hated Hack. He treated us like dirt. We'd go to his office and wait for two hours. Then he'd talk to us for ten minutes', and tell us he was in a big hurry, had to get to court because he was so important. I tried to convince Mom to get another lawyer, but she was too stressed out." "Did it go to trial?" "Yeah. My ex-father thought he should get one kid, didn't really care which one but he preferred Ricky 'cause he knew I hated him, so he hired a lawyer, and for two days my mother and my father trashed each other in court. They tried to prove each other was unfit. Hack was a complete fool in the courtroom, but my ex-father's lawyer was even worse. The judge hated both lawyers, and said he wasn't about to separate me and Ricky. I asked him if I could testify. He thought about it during lunch on the second day, and decided he wanted to hear what I had to say. I had asked Hack the same question, and he said something smart, like I was too young and dumb to testify." "But you testified." "Yeah, for three hours." "How'd it go?" "I was pretty good, really. I just told about the beatings, the bruises, the stitches. I told him how much I hated my father. The judge almost cried." "And it worked?" "Yeah. My father wanted some visitation rights, and I spent a lot of time explaining to the judge that I had no desire to ever see the man again once the trial was over. And, that Ricky was terrified of him. So the judge not only cut off all visitation, but also told my father to stay away from us." "Have you seen him since?" "No. But I will one day. When I grow up, we'll catch him somewhere, me and Ricky, and we'll beat the living hell out of him. Bruise for bruise. Stitch for stitch. We talk about it all the time." Glint was~no longer bored with this little conversation. He listened to every word. The kid was so casual about his plans for beating his father. "You might go to jail." "He didn't go to jail when he beat us. He didn't go to jail when he stripped my mother naked and threw her in the street with blood all over her. That's when I hit him with the baseball bat." "You what?" "He was drinking one night at home, and we could tell he was about to get out of hand. We could always tell. Then he left to buy more beer. I ran down the street and borrowed an aluminum tee ball bat from Michael Moss. I hid it under my bed, and I remember praying for a good car wreck so he wouldn't come home. But he did. Mom was in their bedroom, hoping he would just pass out, which he did all the time. Ricky and I stayed in our room, waiting for the explosion." The phone rang again, and Glint quickly took the message and returned to the story.

"About an hour later there was all this yelling and cussing. The trailer was shaking. We locked the door. Ricky was under the bed, crying. Then Mom started yelling for me. I was seven years old, and Mom wanted me to rescue her. He was just beating the hell out of her, throwing her around, kicking her, ripping her shirt off, calling her a whore and a slut. I didn't even know what those words meant. I walked to the kitchen. I guess I was too scared to move. He saw me and threw a beer can at me. She tried to run outside, but he caught her and tore her pants off. God, he was hitting her so hard. Then he ripped off her underwear. Her lip -was busted and there was blood everywhere. He threw her outside, completely naked, and dragged her into the street where, of course, the neighbors were watching. Then he laughed at her, and left her lying there. It was horrible." Glint leaned forward and hung on every word. Mark was speaking in a monotone, showing absolutely no emotion.

"When he came back to the trailer, the door was of course open, and I was waiting. I had pulled a kitchen chair beside the door, and I damned near took his head off with the baseball bat. A perfect shot to his nose. I was crying and scared to death, but I'll always remember the sound of the bat crunching his face. He fell on the sofa, and I hit him once in the stomach. I was trying to land a good one in the crotch, because I figured that would hurt the most. Know -what I mean? I was swinging like crazy. I hit him once more on the ear, and that was all she wrote." "What happened?" Glint snapped.

"He got up, slapped me in the face, knocked me down, cussed me, then started kicking me. I remember being so scared I couldn't fight. His face was a bloody mess. He smelled awful. He was growling and slapping and tearing my clothes off. I started kicking like crazy when he pulled at my underwear, but he got them off and threw me outside. Not a bit of clothing. I guess he wanted me in the street with my mother, but about that time she made it to the door and fell on me." He told it all so calmly, as if he'd done it a hundred times and the script was memorized. No emotion, just the facts in short clipped sentences. He would look at the desk, then stare at the door without missing a word.

"What happened?" Clint asked, almost out of breath.

"One of the neighbors had called the cops. I mean, you can hear everything in the next trailer, so our neighbors had suffered through this with us. And that was not the first fight, not by a long shot. I remember seeing blue lights in the street, and he disappeared somewhere inside the trailer. Me and Mom got up real quick and ran inside and got dressed. Some of the neighbors saw me naked,xthpugh. We tried to wash the blood off before the cops came in. My father had settled down quite a bit, and was suddenly real friendly with the cops. Me and Mom waited in the kitchen. His nose was the size of a football, and the cops were more concerned with his face than -with me and Mom. He called one of the cops Frankie as if they were buddies. There were two cops, and they got everybody separated. Frankie took him to the bedroom to cool him off. The other cop sat with Mom at the kitchen table. This is what they always did. I went to our room, and got Ricky. out from under the bed. Mom told me later that he got real chummy with the cops, said it was just a family fight, nothing serious, and that most of it was my fault because I, for no reason, had attacked him with a baseball bat. The cops referred to it as just another domestic disturbance, same thing they always said. No charges were filed. They took him to the hospital, where he spent the night. Had to wear this ugly white mask for a while." "What'd he do to you?" "He didn't drink for a long time after that. He apologized to us, promised it would never happen again. Sometimes he was okay when he wasn't drinking. But then he got worse. More beatings and all. Mom finally filed for divorce." "And he tried to get custody-" "Yeah. He lied in court, and he was doing a pretty good job of it. He didn't know I was going to testify, so he denied a bunch of it and said Mom was lying about the rest. He was real cocky and cool in court, and our dumbass lawyer couldn't do anything with him. But, when I testified and told about the baseball bat and getting my clothes ripped off, that's when the judge had tears in his eyes. He got real mad at my ex-father, accused him of lying. Said he ought to throw his sorry ass in jail for lying. I told him I thought that's exactly what he should do." He paused for a second.

The sentences were a bit slower, and Mark was losing steam. Glint was still mesmerized.

"Of course, Hack took full credit for another brilliant courtroom victory. Then he threatened to sue Mom if she didn't pay him. She had a bunch of bills, and he was calling twice a week wanting the rest of his fee, so she had to file for bankruptcy. Then she lost her job." "So you've been through a divorce, and then a bankruptcy?" "Yeah. The bankruptcy lawyer was a real bozo too." "But you like Reggie?" "Yeah. Reggie's cool." "That's good to hear." The phone rang, and Glint picked it up. A lawyer from Juvenile Court wanted some information on a client, and the conversation dragged on. Mark left to find the hot cocoa. He passed the conference room with pretty books covering the walls. He found the tiny kitchen next to the rest room.

There was a Sprite in the refrigerator, and he unscrewed the top. Glint was amazed by his story, he could tell. He had left out many, of the details, but it was all true. He was proud of it, in a way, proud of defending his mother, and the story always amazed people.

Then the tough little kid with the baseball bat remembered the knife attack in the elevator, and the folded photograph of the poor, fatherless jfamily. He thought of his mother at the hospital, all alone and unprotected. He was suddenly scared again.

He tried to open a package of saltines, but his hands shook and the plastic wouldn't open. The shaking got worse and he couldn't stop it. He slumped to the floor and spilled the Sprite.