A BREAKFAST OF CINNAMON ROLLS AND CHOCO-late milk, they left the house and headed for the hospital. It was seven-thirty, much too early for Reggie but Dianne was waiting. Ricky was doing much better.
"What do you think'll happen today?" Mark asked.
For some reason this struck Reggie as being funny. "You poor child," she said when she finished chuckling. "You've been through a lot this week." "Yeah. I hate school, but it'd be nice to go back. I had this wild dream last night." "What happened?" "Nothing. I dreamed everything was normal again, and I made it through a whole day with nothing happening to me. It was wonderful." "Well, Mark, I'm afraid I have some bad news." "I knew it. What is it?" "Glint called a few minutes ago. You've made the front page again. It's a picture of both of us, evidently taken by one of those clowns at the hospital yesterday when we got off the elevator." "Great." "There's a reporter at the Memphis Press by the name of Slick Moeller. Everyone calls him the Mole. Mole Moeller. He covers the crime beat, sort of a legend around town. He's hot on this case." "He wrote the story yesterday." "That's right. He has a lot of contacts within the police department. It sounds as if the cops believe Mr. Clifford told you everything before he killed himself, and now you're refusing to cooperate." "Pretty accurate, wouldn't you say?" She glanced at the rearview mirror. "Yeah. It's spooky." "How does he know this stuff?" "The cops talk to him, off the record of course, and he digs and digs until he puts the pieces together. And if the pieces don't fit perfectly, then Slick just sort of fills in the gaps. According to Glint, the story is based on unnamed sources within the Memphis Police Department, and there's a great deal of suspicion about how much you know. The theory is that since you've hired me, you must be hiding something." "Let's stop and get a newspaper." "We'll get one at the hospital. We'll be there in a minute." "Do you think those reporters'!! be waiting again?" "Probably. I told Clint to find a back entrance somewhere, and to meet us in the parking lot." "I'm really sick of this. Just sick of it. All my buddies are in school today, having a good time, being normal, fighting with girls during recess, playing jokes on the teachers, you know, the usual stuff. And look at me. Running around town with my lawyer, reading about my adventures in the newspapers, looking at my face on the front page, hiding from reporters, dodging killers with switchblades. It's like something out of a movie. A bad movie. I'm just sick of it. I don't know if I can take anymore. It's just too much." She watched him between glances at the street and traffic. His jaws were tight. He stared straight ahead, but saw nothing.
"I'm sorry, Mark." "Yeah, me too. So much for pleasant dreams, huh." "This could be a very long day." "What else is new? They were watching the house last night, did you know that?" "I beg your pardon." "Yeah, somebody was watching the house. I was on the porch at two-thirty this morning, and I saw a guy walking along the sidewalk. He was real casual, you know, just smoking a cigarette and looking at the house." "Could be a neighbor." "Right. At two-thirty in the morning." "Maybe someone was out for a walk." "Then why did he walk by the house three times in fifteen minutes?" She glanced at him again and hit her brakes to avoid a car in front of them.
"Do you trust me, Mark?" she asked.
He looked at her as if surprised by the question. "Of course I trust you, Reggie." She smiled and patted his arm. "Then stick with me."
ONE ADVANTAGE OF AN ARCHITECTURAL HORROR LIKE ST. Peter's was the existence of lots of doors and exits few people knew about it. With additions stuck here, and wings added over there as an afterthought, there had been created over the course of time little nooks and alleys seldom used and rarely discovered by lost security guards.
When they arrived, Clint had been hustling around the hospital for thirty minutes with no success. He'd managed to become lost himself three different times. He was sweating and apologizing as they met at the parking lot.
"Just follow me," Mark said, and they darted across the street and entered through the emergency gate. They wove through heavy rush-hour hall traffic and found an ancient escalator going down.
"I hope you know where you're going," Reggie said, obviously in doubt and half-jogging in an effort to keep up with him. Clint was sweating even harder. "No problem," Mark said, and opened a door leading to the kitchen.
"We're in the kitchen, Mark," Reggie said, looking around.
"Just be cool. Act like you're supposed to be here." He punched a button by a service elevator and the door opened instantly. He punched another button on the inside panel, and they lurched upward, headed for floor number ten. "There are eighteen floors in the main section, but this elevator stops at number ten. It will not stop at nine. Figure it out." He watched the numbers above the door and explained this like a bored tour guide.
"What happens on ten?" Glint asked between breaths.
"Just wait." The door opened on ten, and they stepped into a huge closet with rows of shelves filled with towels and bedsheets. Mark was off, darting between the aisles. He opened a heavy metal door and they were suddenly in the hallway with patient rooms right and left. He pointed to his left, kept walking, and stopped before an emergency exit door with red and yellow alarm warnings all over it. He grabbed the bar handle across the front of it, and Reggie and Glint stopped cold.
He pushed the door open, and nothing happened. "Alarms don't work," he said nonchalantly, and bounded down the steps to the ninth floor. He opened another door, and suddenly they were in a quiet hallway with thick industrial carpet and no traffic. He pointed again, and they were off, past patient rooms, around a bend, and by the nurses' station, where they glanced down another hall and saw the loiterers by the elevators.
"Good morning, Mark," Karen the beautiful called out as they hurried by. But she said this without a smile.
"Hi, Karen," he answered without slowing.
Dianne was sitting in a folding chair in the hall with a Memphis cop kneeling before her. She was crying, and had been for some time. The two security guards were standing together twenty feet away. Mark saw the cop and the tears and ran for his mother. She grabbed him and they hugged.
"What's the matter, Mom?" he asked, and she cried harder.
"Mark, your trailer burned last night," the cop said. "Just a few hours ago." Mark glared at him in disbelief, then squeezed his mother around the neck. She was wiping tears and trying to compose herself.
"How bad?" Mark asked.
"Real bad," the cop said sadly as he stood and held his cap with both hands. "Everything's gone." "What started the fire?" Reggie asked.
"Don't know right now. The fire inspector will be on the scene this morning. Could be electrical." "I need to talk to the fire inspector, okay," Reggie insisted, and the cop looked her over.
"And who are you?" he asked.
"Reggie Love, attorney for the family." "Ah, yes. I saw the paper this morning." She handed him a card. "Please ask the fire inspector to call me." "Sure, lady." The cop carefully placed the hat on his head and looked down again at Dianne. He was sad again. "Ms. Sway, I'm very sorry about this." "Thank you," she said, wiping her face. He nodded at Reggie and Glint, backed away, and left in a hurry. A nurse appeared and stood by just in case.
Dianne suddenly had an audience. She stood and stopped crying, even managed a smile at Reggie.
"This is Glint Van Hooser. He works for me," Reggie said.
Dianne smiled at Glint. "I'm very sorry," he said.
"Thank you," Dianne said softly. A few seconds of awkward silence followed as she finished wiping her face. Her arm was around Mark, who was still dazed.
"Did he behave?" Dianne asked.
"He was wonderful. He ate enough for a small army." "That's good. Thanks for having him over." "How's Ricky?" Reggie asked.
"He had a good night. Dr. Greenway stopped by this morning, and Ricky was awake and talking. Looks much better." "Does he know about the fire?" Mark asked.
"No. And we're not telling him, okay?" "Okay, Mom. Could we go inside and talk, just me and you?" Dianne smiled at Reggie and Glint, and led Mark into the room. The door was closed, and the tiny Sway family was all alone with all its worldly possessions.
THE HONORABLE HARRY ROOSEVELT HAD PRESIDED OVER the Shelby County Juvenile Court for twenty-two years now, and despite the dismal and depressing nature of the court's business he had conducted its affairs with a great deal of dignity. He was the first black Juvenile Court judge in Tennessee, and when he'd been appointed by the governor in the early seventies, his future was brilliant and there were glowing predictions of higher courts for him to conquer.
The higher courts were still there, and Harry Roosevelt was still here, in the deteriorating building known simply as Juvenile Court. There were much nicer courthouses in Memphis. On Main Street the Federal Building, always the newest in town, housed the elegant and stately courtrooms. The federal boys always had the best-rich carpet, thick leather chairs, heavy oak tables, plenty of lights, dependable air-conditioning, lots of well-paid clerks and assistants. A few blocks away, the Jmelby County Courthouse was a beehive of judicial activity as thousands of lawyers roamed its tiled and marbled corridors and worked their way through well-preserved and well-scrubbed courtrooms. It was an older building, but a beautiful one with paintings on the walls and a few statues scattered about. Harry could have had a courtroom over there, but he said no. And not far away was the Shelby County Justice Center with a maze of fancy new modern courtrooms with bright fluorescent lights and sound systems and padded seats. Harry could have had one of those too, but he turned it down.
He remained here, in the Juvenile Court Building, a converted high school blocks away from downtown with little parking and few janitors and more cases per judge than any other docket in the world. His court was the unwanted stepchild of the judicial system. Most lawyers shunned it. Most law students dreamed of plush offices in tall buildings and wealthy clients with thick wallets. Never did they dream of slugging their way through the roach-infested corridors of Juvenile Court.
Harry had turned down four appointments, all to courts where the heating systems worked in the winter. He had been considered for these appointments because he was smart and black, and he turned them down because he was poor and black. They paid him sixty thousand a year, lowest of any court in town, so he could feed his wife and four teenagers and live in a nice home. But he'd known hunger as a child, and those memories were vivid. He would always think of himself as a poor black kid.
And that's exactly the reason the once-promising Harry Roosevelt remained a simple Juvenile Court judge. To him, it was the most important job in the world. By statute, he had exclusive jurisdiction over delinquent, unruly, dependent, and neglected children. He determined paternity of children born out of wedlock and enforced his own orders for their support and education, and in a county where half the babies were born to single mothers, this accounted for most of his docket. He terminated parental rights and placed abused children in new homes. Harry carried heavy burdens.
He weighed somewhere between three and four hundred pounds, and wore the same outfit every dayblack suit, white cotton shirt, and a bow tie which he tied himself and did so poorly. No one knew if Harry owned one black suit or fifty. He always looked the same. He was an imposing figure on the bench, glaring down over his reading glasses at deadbeat fathers who refused to support their children. Deadbeat fathers, black and white alike, lived in fear of Judge Roosevelt. He would track them down and throw them in jail. He found their employers and tapped their paychecks. If you messed with Harry's subjects, or Harry's Kids, as they were known, you could find yourself handcuffed and standing pitifully before him with a bailiff on each side.
Harry Roosevelt was a legend in Memphis. The county fathers had seen fit to give him two more judges to help with the caseload, but he maintained a brutal work schedule. He usually arrived before seven and made his own coffee. He started court promptly at nine and God help the lawyer who was late for court. He'd thrown several of them in jail over the years.
At eight - thirty, his secretary hauled in a box of mail and informed Harry that there was a group of men waiting outside who desperately needed to speak with him.
"What else is new?" he asked, eating the last bite of an apple danish.
"You might want to meet with these gentlemen." "Oh really. Who are they?" "One is George Ord, our distinguished U. S. attorney." "I taught George in law school." "Right. That's what he said, twice. There's also an assistant U. S. attorney from New Orleans, a Mr. Thomas Fink. And a Mr. K. O. Lewis, Deputy Director of the FJ3I. And a couple of FBI agents." Harry looked up from a file and thought about this. "A rather distinguished group. What do they want?" "They wouldn't say." "Well, show them in." She left, and seconds later Ord, Fink, Lewis, and McThune filed into the crowded and cluttered office and introduced themselves to his honor. Harry and the secretary moved files from the chairs and everyone looked for a seat. They exchanged brief pleasantries, and after a few minutes of this Harry looked at his watch and said, "Gentlemen, I am scheduled to hear seventeen cases today. What can I do for you?" Ord cleared his throat first. "Well, Judge, I'm sure you've seen the papers the last two mornings, especially the front-page stories about a boy by the name of Mark Sway." "Very intriguing." "Mr. Fink here is prosecuting the man accused of killing Senator Boyette, and the case is scheduled for trial in New Orleans in a few weeks." "I'm aware of this. I've read the stories." "We are almost certain that Mark Sway knows more than he is telling. He's lied to the Memphis police on several occasions. We think he talked at length with Jerome Clifford before the suicide. We know without a doubt he was in the car. We've tried to talk to the kid, but he has been very uncooperative. Now he's hired a lawyer and she's stonewalling." "Reggie Love is a regular in my court. A very competent attorney. Sometimes a bit overprotective of her clients, but there's nothing wrong with that." "Yes sir. We're very suspicious of the boy, and we feel quite strongly that he is withholding valuable information." "Such as?" "Such as the location of the senator's body." "How can you assume this?" "There's a lot to the story, Your Honor. And it would take a while to explain it." Harry played with his bow tie and gave Ord one of his patented scowls. He was thinking. "So you want me to bring the kid in and ask him questions." "Sort of. Mr. Fink has brought with him a petition alleging the child to be a delinquent." This did not sit well with Harry. His shiny forehead was suddenly wrinkled. "A rather serious allegation. What type of offense has the child committed?" "Obstruction of justice." "You got any law?" Fink had a file open, and he was on his feet handing a thin brief across the desk. Harry took it, and began reading slowly. The room was silent. K. O. Lewis had yet to say anything, and this bothered him because he was, after all, the number-two man at the FBI. And this judge seemed not to care.
Harry flipped a page and glanced at his watch. "I'm listening," he said in Fink's direction.
"It's our position, Your Honor, that through his misrepresentations Mark Sway has obstructed the investigation into this matter." "Which matter? The murder or the suicide?" Excellent point, and as soon as he heard the question Fink knew Harry Roosevelt would not be a pushover. They were investigating a murder, not a suicide. There was no law against suicide, nor was there a law against witnessing one. "Well, Your Honor, the suicide has some very direct links to the murder of Boyette, we think, and it's important for the kid to cooperate." "What if the kid knows nothing?" "We can't be certain until we ask him. Right now he's impeding the investigation, and, as you well know, every citizen has a duty to assist law enforcement officials." "I'm well aware of that. It just seems a bit severe to allege the kid is a delinquent without any proof." "The proof will come, Your Honor, if we can get the kid on the witness stand, under oath, in a closed hearing and ask some questions. That's all we're trying to do." Harry tossed the brief into a pile of papers and removed his reading glasses. He chewed on a stem.
Ord leaned forward and spoke solemnly. "Look, Judge, if we can take the kid into custody, then have an expedited hearing, we think this matter will be resolved. If he states under oath that he knows nothing about Boyd Boyette, then the petition is dismissed, the kid goes home, and the matter is over. It's routine. No proof, no finding of delinquency, no harm. But if he knows something relevant to the location of the body, then we have a right to know and we think the kid will tell us during the hearing." "There are two ways to make him talk, Your Honor," Fink added. "We can file this petition in your court and have a hearing, or we can subpoena the kid to face the grand jury in New Orleans. Staying here seems to be the quickest and best route, especially for the kid." "I do not want this kid subpoenaed before a grand jury," Harry said sternly. "Is that understood?" They all nodded quickly, and they all knew full well that a federal grand jury could subpoena Mark Sway anytime it chose, regardless of the feelings of a local judge. This was typical of Harry. Immediately throwing his protective blanket around any child within reach of his jurisdiction.
"I'd much rather deal with it in my court," he said, almost to himself.
"We agree, Your Honor," Fink said. They all agreed.
Harry picked up his daily calendar. As usual, it was filled with more misery than he could possibly handle in one day. He studied it. "These allegations of obstruction are rather shaky, in my opinion. But I can't prevent you from filing the petition. I suggest we hear this matter at the earliest possible time. If the kid in fact knows nothing, and I suspect this to be the case, then I want it over and done with. Quickly." This suited everyone.
"Let's do it during lunch today. Where is the kid now?" "At the hospital," Ord said. "His brother will be tnere lor an unspecified period of time. The mother is confined to the room. Mark just sort of roams about. Last night he stayed with his lawyer." "That sounds like Reggie," Harry said with affection. "I see no need to take him into custody." Custody was very important to Fink and Foltrigg. They wanted the kid picked up, hauled away in a police car, placed in a cell of some sort, and in general frightened to the point of talking.
"Your Honor, if I may," K. O. finally said. "We think custody is urgent." "Oh you do? I'm listening." McThune handed Judge Roosevelt a glossy eight by ten. Lewis handled the narration. "The man in the picture is Paul Gronke. He's a thug from New Orleans, and a close associate of Barry Muldanno. He's been in Memphis since Tuesday night. That photo was taken as he entered the airport in New Orleans. An hour later he was in Memphis, and unfortunately we lost him when he left the airport here." McThune produced two smaller photos. "The guy with the dark shades is Mack Bono, a convicted murderer with strong mob ties in New Orleans. The guy in the suit is Gary Pirini, another Mafia thug who works for the Sulari family. Bono and Pirini arrived in Memphis last night. They didn't come here to eat barbecued ribs." He paused for dramatic effect. "The kid's in serious danger, Your Honor. The family home is a house trailer in north Memphis, in a place called Tucker Wheel Estates." "I'm very familiar with the place," Harry said, rubbing his eyes.
"About four hours ago, the trailer burned to the ground. The fire looks suspicious. We think it's intimidation. The kid has been roaming at will since Monday night. There's no father, and the mother cannot leave the younger son. It's very sad, and it's very dangerous." "So you've been watching him." "Yes sir. His lawyer asked the hospital to provide security guards outside the brother's room." "And she called me," Ord added. "She is very concerned about the kid's safety, and asked me to request FBI protection at the hospital." "And we complied," added McThune. "We've had at least two agents near the room for the past forty-eight hours. These guys are killers, Your Honor, and they're taking orders from Muldanno. And the kid's just roaming around oblivious to the danger." Harry listened to them carefully. It was a well-rehearsed full court press. By nature, he was suspicious of police and their kind, but this was not a routine case. "Our laws certainly provide for the child to be taken into custody after the petition is filed," he said to no one in particular. "What happens to the kid if the hearing does not produce -what you want, if the kid is in fact not obstructing justice?" Lewis answered. "We've thought about this, Your Honor, and we would never do anything to violate the secrecy of your hearings. But, we have ways of getting word to these thugs that the kid knows nothing. Frankly, if he comes clean and knows nothing, the matter is closed and Muldanno's boys will lose interest in him. Why should they threaten him if he knows nothing?" "That makes sense," Harry said. "But what do you do if the kid tells you what you want to hear. He's a marked little boy at that point, don't you think? If these guys are as dangerous as you say, then our little pal could be in serious trouble." preliminary arrangements to place him in the witness protection program. All of themMark, his mother, and brother." "Have you discussed this with his attorney?" "No sir," Fink answered. "The last time we were in her office she refused to meet with us. She's been difficult too." "Let me see your petition." Fink whipped it out and handed it to him. He carefully put on his reading glasses and studied it. When he finished, he handed it back to Fink.
"I don't like this, gentlemen. I just don't like the smell of it. I've seen a million cases, and never one involving a minor and a charge of obstructing justice. I have an uneasy feeling." "We're desperate, Your Honor," Lewis confessed with a great deal of sincerity. "We have to know what the kid knows, and we fear for his safety. This is all on the table. We're not hiding anything, and we're damned sure not trying to mislead you." "I certainly hope not." Harry glared at them. He scribbled something on scratch paper. They waited and watched his every move. He glanced at his watch.
"I'll sign the order. I want the kid taken directly to the Juvenile Wing and placed in a cell by himself. He'll be scared to death, and I want him handled with velvet gloves. I'll personally call his lawyer later in the morning." They stood in unison and thanked him. He pointed to the door, and they left quickly without handshakes or farewells.