Chapter 19

L HE IDEA WAS TRUMANN'S, AND IT WAS A WONDERFUL idea, one that would work and thus would be snared immediately by Foltrigg and claimed as his own. Life with Reverend Roy was a series of stolen ideas and credits when things worked. And when things went to hell, Trumann and his office took the blame, along with Foltrigg's underlings, and the press, and the jurors, and the corrupt defense bar, everybody but the great man himself.

But Trumann had quietly massaged and manipulated the egos of prima donnas before, and he could certainly handle this idiot.

It was late, and as he picked at the lettuce in his shrimp remoulade in the dark corner of a crowded oyster bar, the idea hit him. He called Foltrigg's private office number, no answer. He dialed the number in the library, and Wally Boxx answered. It was nine-thirty, and Wally explained he and his boss were still buried deep in the law books, just a couple of workaholics slaving over the details and enjoying it. All in a day's work. Trumann said he'd be there in ten minutes.

He left the noisy cafe and walked hurriedly through the crowds on Canal Street. September was just another hot, sticky summer month in "New Orleans. After two blocks he removed his jacket and walked faster. Two more blocks, and his shirt was wet and clinging to his back and chest.

He darted through the crowds of tourists lumbering along Canal with their cameras and gaudy tee shirts, and wondered for the thousandth time why these people came to this city to spend hard-earned money on cheap entertainment and overpriced food. The average tourist on Canal Street wore black socks and white sneakers, was forty pounds overweight, and Trumann figured these people would return home and brag to their less fortunate friends about the delightful cuisine they had uniquely discovered and gorged themselves on in New Orleans. He bumped into a hefty woman with a small black box stuck in her face. She was actually standing near the curb and filming the front of a cheap souvenir store with suggestive street signs displayed for sale in the window. What sort of person would watch a video of a tacky souvenir shop in the French Quarter? Americans no longer experience vacations. They simply Sony them so they can ignore them for the rest of the year.

Trumann was in for a transfer. He was sick of tourists, traffic, humidity, crime, and he was sick of Roy Foltrigg. He turned by Rubinstein Brothers and headed for Poydras.

FOLTRIGG WAS NOT AFRAID OF HARD WORK. IT CAME NATural to him. He'd realized in law school that he was not a genius, and that to succeed he'd need to put in more hours. He studied his ass off, and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. But he'd been elected president of the student body, and there was a certificate declaring this achievement framed in oak somewhere on one of his walls. His career as a political animal started at the moment when his law school classmates chose him as their president, a position most did not know existed and couldn't have cared less about. Job offers had been scarce for young Roy, and at the last minute he jumped at the chance to be an assistant city prosecutor in New Orleans. Fifteen thousand bucks a year in 1975. In two years he handled more cases than all the other city prosecutors combined. He worked. He put in long hours in a dead end job because he was going places. He was a star but no one noticed.

He began dabbling in local Republican politics, a lonely hobby, and learned to play the game. He met people with money and clout, and landed a job with a law firm. He put in incredible hours and became a partner. He married a woman he didn't love because she had the right credentials and a wife brought respectability. Roy was on the move. There was a game plan.

He was still married to her but they slept in different rooms. The kids were now twelve and ten. A pretty family portrait.

He preferred the office to his home, which suited his wife just fine because she didn't like him but did enjoy, his salary.

Roy's conference table was once again covered with law books and legal pads. Wally had shed his tie and jacket. Empty coffee cups littered the room. They were both tired.

The law was quite simple: Every citizen owes to society the duty of giving testimony to aid in the enforcement of the law. And, a witness is not excused from testifying because of his fear of reprisal threatening his and/or his family's lives. It was black letter law, as they say, carved in stone over the years by hundreds of judges and justices. No exceptions. No exemptions. No loopholes for scared little boys. Roy and Wally had read dozens of cases. Many were copied and highlighted and thrown about on the table. The kid would have to talk. If the Juvenile Court approach in Memphis fell through, Foltrigg planned to issue a subpoena for Mark Sway to appear before the grand jury in New Orleans. It would scare the little punk to death, and loosen his tongue.

Trumann walked through the door and said, "You guys are working late." Wally Boxx pushed away from the table and stretched his arms mightily above his head. "Yeah, a lot of stuff to cover," he said, exhausted, waving his hand proudly at the piles of books and notes.

"Have a seat," Foltrigg said, pointing at a chair. "We're finishing up." He stretched too, then cracked his knuckles. He loved his reputation as a workaholic, a man of importance unafraid of painful hours, a family man whose calling went beyond wife and kids. The job meant everything. His client was the United States of America.

Trumann had heard this eighteen-hour-a-day crap for seven years now. It was Foltrigg's favorite subjecttalking about himself and the hours at the office and the body that needed no sleep. Lawyers wear their loss of sleep like a badge of honor. Real macho machines grinding it out around the clock.

"I've got an idea," Trumann said, sitting across the table. "You told me earlier about the hearing in Memphis tomorrow. In Juvenile Court." "We're filing a petition," Roy corrected him. "I don't know when the hearing will take place. But we'll ask for a quick one." "Yeah, well, what about this? Just before I left the office this afternoon, I talked to K. O. Lewis, Voyles's number-one deputy." "I know K. O.," Foltrigg interrupted. Trumann knew this was coming. In fact, he paused just a split second so Foltrigg could interrupt and set him straight about how close he was to K. O., not Mr. Lewis, but simply K. O.

"Right. Well, he's in St. Louis attending a conference, and he asked about the Boyette case and Jerome Clifford and the kid. I told him what we knew. He said feel free to call if he could do anything. Said Mr. Voyles wants daily reports." "I know all this." "Right. Well, I was just thinking. St. Louis is an hour's flight from Memphis, right. What if Mr. Lewis presented himself to the Juvenile Court judge in Memphis first thing in the morning when the petition is filed, and what if Mr. Lewis has a little chat with the judge and leans on him? We're talking about the number-two man in the FBI. He tells the judge what we think this kid knows." Foltrigg began nodding his approval, and when Wally saw this he began nodding too, only faster.

Trumann continued. "And there's something else. We know Gronke is in Memphis, and it's safe to assume he's not there to visit Elvis's grave. Right? He's been sent there by Muldanno. So I was thinking, what if we assume the kid is in danger, and Mr. Lewis explains to the Juvenile Court judge that it's in the best interests of the kid for us to take him into custody? You know, for his own protection?" "I like this," Foltrigg said softly. Wally liked it too.

"The kid'll crack under the pressure. First, he's taken into custody by order of the Juvenile Court, same as any other case, and that'll scare the hell out of him. Might also wake up his lawyer. Hopefully the judge orders the kid to talk. At that point, the kid'll crack, I believe. If not, he's in contempt, maybe. Don't you think?" "Yeah, he's in contempt, but we can't predict what the judge will do at that point." "Right. So Mr. Lewis tells the judge about Gronke and his connections with the mob, and that we believe he's in Memphis to harm the kid. Either way, we get the kid in custody, away from his lawyer. The bitch." Foltrigg was wired now. He scribbled something on a legal pad. Wally stood and began pacing thoughtfully around the library, deep in thought as if things were conspiring to force him to make a significant decision.

Trumann could call her a bitch here in the privacy of an office in New Orleans. But he remembered the tape. And he would be happy to remain in New Orleans, far away from her. Let McThune deal with Reggie in Memphis.

"Can you get K. O. on the phone?" Foltrigg asked.

"I think so." Trumann pulled a scrap of paper from a pocket and began punching numbers on the phone.

Foltrigg met Wally in the corner, away from the agent. "It's a great idea," Wally said. I'm sure the Juvenile Court judge is just some local yokel who'll listen to K. O. and do whatever he wants, don't you think?" Trumann had Mr. Lewis on the phone. Foltrigg watched him while listening to Wally. "Maybe, but regardless, we get the kid in court quickly and I think he'll fold. If not, he's in custody, under our control and away from his lawyer. I like it." They whispered for a while as Trumann talked to K. O. Lewis. Trumann nodded at them, gave the okay sign with a big smile, and hung up. "He'll do it," he said proudly. "He'll catch an early morning flight to Memphis and meet with Fink. Then they'll get with George Ord and descend on the judge." Trumann was walking toward them, very proud of himself. "Think about it. The U. S. attorney on one side, K. O. Lewis on the other, and Fink in the middle, first thing in the morning when the judge gets to the office. They'll have the kid talking in no time." Foltrigg flashed a wicked smile. He loved those moments when the power of the federal government shifted into high gear and landed hard on small, unsuspecting people. Just like that, with one phone call, the second in command of the FBI had entered the picture. "It just might work," he said to his boys. "It just might work."

IN ONE CORNER OF THE SMALL DEN ABOVE THE GARAGE, Reggie flipped through a thick book under a lamp. It was midnight, but she couldn't sleep, so she curled under a quilt and sipped tea while reading a book Glint had found titled Reluctant Witnesses. As far as law books go, it was quite tmii.?]UL me iaw w[ts yunc ^icai. o,wiy witness has a duty to come forth and assist those authorities investigating a crime. A witness cannot refuse to testify on the grounds that he or she feels threatened. The vast majority of the cases cited in the book dealt with organized crime. Seems the Mafia has historically frowned on its people schmoozing with the cops, and has often threatened wives and children. The Supreme Court has said more than once that wives and children be damned. A witness must talk.

At some point in the very near future, Mark would be forced to talk. Foltrigg could issue a subpoena and compel his attendance before a grand jury in New Orleans. She, of course, would be able to attend. If Mark refused to testify before the grand jury, a quick hearing would be held before the trial judge, who would undoubtedly order him to answer Foltrigg's questions. If he refused, the wrath of the court would be severe. No judge tolerates being disobeyed, but federal judges can be especially nasty when their orders fall on deaf ears.

There are places to put eleven-year-old kids who find themselves in disfavor with the system. At the moment, she had no less than twenty clients scattered about in various training schools in Tennessee. The oldest was sixteen. All were secured behind fences with guards pacing about. They were called reform schools not long ago. Now they're training schools.

When ordered to talk, Mark would undoubtedly look to her. And this was why she couldn't sleep. To advise him to disclose the location of the senator's body would be to jeopardize his safety. His mother and brother would be at risk. These were not people who could become instantly mobile. Ricky might be hospitalized for weeks. Any type of witness protection program would be postponed until he was healthy again. Dianne would be a sitting duck if Muldanno were so inclined.

It would be proper and ethical and moral to advise him to cooperate, and that would be the easy way out. But what if he got hurt? He would point a finger at her. What if something happened to Ricky or Dianne? She, the lawyer, would be blamed.

Children make lousy clients. The lawyer becomes much more than a lawyer. With adults, you simply lay the pros and cons of each option on the table. You advise this way and that. You predict a little, but not much. Then you tell the adult it's time for a decision and you leave the room for a bit. When you return, you are handed a decision and you run with it. Not so with kids. They don't understand lawyerly advice. They want a hug and someone to make decisions. They're scared and looking for friends.

She'd held many small hands in courtrooms. She'd wiped many tears.

She imagined this scene: A huge, empty federal courtroom in New Orleans with the doors locked and two marshals guarding it; Mark on the witness stand; Foltrigg in all his glory strutting around on his home turf, prancing back and forth for the benefit of his little assistants and perhaps an FBI agent or two; the judge in a black robe. He was handling it delicately, and he probably disliked Foltrigg immensely because he was forced to see him all the time. He, the judge, asks Mark if he in fact refused to answer certain questions before the grand jury that very morning in a room just a short distance down the hall. Mark, looking upward at his honor, answers yes. What was the first question? the judge asks Foltrigg, who's on his feet with a legal pad, strutting and prancing as if the room were filled with cameras. I asked him, Your Honor, if Jerome Clifford, prior to the suicide, said anything about the body of Senator Boyd Boyette. And he refused to answer, Your Honor. Then I asked him if Jerome Clifford in fact told him where the body is buried. And he refused to answer this question as well, Your Honor. And the judge leans down even closer to Mark. There is no smile. Mark stares at his lawyer. Why didn't you answer these questions? the judge asks. Because I don't want to, Mark answers, and it's almost funny. But there are no smiles. Well, the judge says, I am ordering you to answer these questions before the grand jury, do you understand me, Mark? I'm ordering you to return to the grand jury room right now and answer all of Mr. Fol-trigg's questions, do you understand this? Mark says nothing and doesn't move a muscle. He stares at his trusted lawyer, thirty feet away. What if I don't answer the questions? he finally asks, and this irritates the judge. You have no choice, young man. You must answer because I'm ordering it. And if I don't? Mark asks, terrified. Well, then I'll find you in contempt and I'll probably incarcerate you until you do as I say. For a very long time, the judge growls.

Axle rubbed against the chair and startled her. The courtroom scene was gone. She closed the book and walked to the window. The best advice to Mark would be simply to lie. Tell a big one. At the critical moment, just explain how the late Jerome Clifford said nothing about Boyd Boyette. He was crazy and drunk and stoned, and said nothing, really. Who in the world could ever know the difference? Mark was a cool liar.

HE AWOKE IN A STRANGE BED BETWEEN A SOFT MATTRESS and a heavy layer of blankets. A dim lamp from the hallway cast a narrow light through the slit in the doorway. His battered Nikes were in a chair by the door, but the rest of his clothing was still on. He slid the blankets to his knees and the bed squeaked. He stared at the ceiling and vaguely remembered being escorted to this room by Reggie and Momma Love. Then he remembered the swing on the porch and being very tired.

Slowly, he swung his feet from the bed and sat on the edge of it. He remembered being led and pushed up the stairs. Things were clearing up. He sat in the chair and laced his sneakers. The floor was wooden and creaked softly as he walked to the door and opened it. The hinges popped. The hallway was still. Three other doors opened into it, and they were all closed. He eased to the stairway, and tiptoed down, in no hurry.

A light from the kitchen caught his attention, and he walked faster. The clock on the wall gave the time as two-twenty. He now remembered that Reggie didn't live there; she was above the garage. Momma Love was probably sound asleep upstairs, so he stopped the creeping along and crossed the foyer, unlocked the front door, and found his spot in the swing. The air was cool and the front lawn was pitch black.

For a moment, he was frustrated with himself for falling asleep and being put to bed in this house. He belonged at the hospital with his mother, sleeping on the same crippling bed, waiting for Ricky to snap out of it so they could leave and go home. He assumed Reggie had called Dianne, so his mother probably wasn't worried. In fact, she was probably pleased that he was there at that moment, eating good food and sleeping well. Mothers are like that.

He'd missed two days of school, according to his calculations. Today would be Thursday. Yesterday, he'd been attacked by the man with the knife in the elevator. The man with the family portrait. And the day before that, Tuesday, he had hired Reggie. That, too, seemed like a month ago. And the day before that, Monday, he had awakened like any normal kid and gone off to school with-no idea all this was about to happen. There must be a million kids in Memphis, and he would never understand how and why he was selected to meet Jerome Clifford just seconds before he put the gun in his mouth.

Smoking. That was the answer. Hazardous to your health. You could say that again. He was being punished by God for smoking and harming his body. Damn! What if he'd been caught with a beer.

A silhouette of a man appeared on the sidewalk, and stopped for a second in front of Momma Love's house. The orange glow of a cigarette flared in front of his face, then he walked very slowly out of sight. A little late for an evening stroll, Mark thought.

A minute passed, and he was back. Same man. Same slow walk. Same hesitation between the trees as he looked at the house. Mark held his breath. He was sitting in darkness and he knew he could not be seen. But this man was more than a nosy neighbor.

AT EXACTLY 4 A. M., A PLAIN WHITE FORD VAN WITH THE license plates temporarily removed eased into Tucker Wheel Estates and turned onto East Street. The trailers were dark and quiet. The streets were deserted. The little village was peacefully asleep and would be for two more hours until dawn.

The van stopped in front of Number 17. The lights and engine were turned off. No one noticed it. After a minute, a man in a uniform opened the driver's door and stood in the street. The uniform resembled that of a Memphis cop-navy trousers, navy shirt, wide black belt with black holster, some type of gun on the hip, black boots, but no cap or hat. A decent imitation, especially at four in the morning when no one was watching. He held a rectangular cardboard container about the size of two shoe boxes. He glanced around, then carefully watched and listened to the trailer next door to Number 17. Not a sound. Not even the bark of a dog. He smiled to himself, and walked casually to the door of Number 17.

If he detected movement in a nearby trailer, he would simply knock slightly on the door and go through the routine of being a frustrated messenger looking for Ms. Sway. But it wasn't necessary. Not a peep from the neighbors. So he quickly set the box against the door, got in the van, and drove away. He had come and gone without a trace, leaving behind his little warning.

EXACTLY THIRTY MINUTES LATER, THE BOX EXPLODED. IT was a quiet explosion, carefully controlled. The ground didn't shake and the porch didn't shatter. The door was blown open, and the flames were directed at the interior of the trailer. Lots of red and yellow flames and black smoke rolling through the rooms. The matchbox construction of the walls and floors was nothing more than kindling for the fire.

By the time Rufus Bibbs next door could punch 911, the Sway trailer was engulfed and beyond help. Rufus hung up the phone, and ran to find his garden hose. His wife and kids were running wild, trying to dress and get out of the trailer. Screams and shouts echoed on the street as the neighbors ran to the fire in an amazing array of pajamas and robes. Dozens of them watched the fire as garden hoses came from all directions and water was applied to the trailers next door. The fire grew and the crowd grew, and windows popped in the Bibbs trailer. The domino effect. More screams as more windows popped. Then sirens and red lights.

The crowd moved back as the firemen laid lines and pumped water. The other trailers were saved, but the Sway home was nothing but rubble. The roof and most of the floor were gone. The rear wall stood with a solitary window still intact.

More people arrived as the firemen sprayed the ruins. Walter Deeble, a loudmouth from South Street, started babbling about how cheap these damned trailers were with aluminum wiring and all. Hell, we all live in firetraps, he said with the pitch of a street preacher, and what we ought to do is sue that sonofabitch Tucker and force him to provide safe housing. He just might see his lawyer about it. Personally, he had eight smoke and heat detectors in his trailer because of the cheap aluminum wiring and all, and he just might talk to his lawyer.

By the Bibbs trailer, a small crowd gathered and thanked God the fire didn't spread.

Those poor Sways. What else could happen to them?