Chapter 25

UNDER THE STERN SUPERVISION OF THE BAILIFF, A MAN named Grinder, they were reassembled and directed to their positions. Fink glanced about fearfully, uncertain whether to sit, stand, speak, or crawl under the table. Ord picked at the cuticle on a thumb. Baxter McLe-more had moved his chair as far away from Fink as possible.

His honor sipped the remains of the tea and waited until all was still. "On the record," he said in the general direction of the court reporter. "Ms. Love, I need to know if young Mark will testify." She was sitting a foot behind her client, and she looked at the side of his face. His eyes were still wet.

"Under the circumstances," she said, "he doesn't have much of a choice." "Is that a yes or a no?" "I will allow him to testify," she said, "but I will not tolerate abusive questioning by Mr. Fink." -"Your Honor, please," Fink said.

"Quiet, Mr. Fink. Remember rule number one? Don't speak until spoken to." Fink glared at Reggie. "A cheap shot," ne snancu.

"Knock it off, Mr. Fink," Harry said. All was quiet.

His honor was suddenly all warmth and smiles. "Mark, I want you to remain in your seat, next to your lawyer, while I ask you some questions." Fink winked at Ord. Finally, the kid would talk. This could be the moment.

"Raise your right hand, Mark," his honor said, and Mark slowly obeyed. The right hand, as well as the left, was trembling.

The elderly lady stood in front of Mark and properly swore him. He did not stand, but inched closer to Reggie.

"Now, Mark, I'm going to ask you some questions. If you don't understand anything I ask, please feel free to talk to your lawyer. Okay?" "Yes sir." "I'll try to keep the questions clear and simple. If you need a break to step outside and talk to Reggie, Ms. Love, just let me know. Okay?" "Yes sir." Fink turned his chair to face Mark and sat like a hungry puppy awaiting his Alpo. Ord finished his nails, and was ready with his pen and legal pad.

Harry reviewed his notes for a second, then smiled down at the witness. "Now, Mark, I want you to explain to me exactly how you and your brother discovered Mr. Clifford on Monday." Mark gripped the arms of his chair and cleared his throat. This was not what he expected. He'd never seen a movie in which the judge asked the questions.

"We sneaked off into the woods behind the trailer park, to smoke a cigarette," he began, and slowly led to the point where Romey stuck the water hose in the tail pipe the first time and got in the car.

"What'd you dp then?" his honor asked anxiously.

"I took it out," he said, and told the story about his trips through the weeds to remove Romey's suicide device. Although he'd told this before, once or twice to his mother and Dr. Greenway, and once or twice to Reggie, it had never seemed amusing to him. But as he told it now, the judge's eyes began to sparkle and his smile widened. He chuckled softly. The bailiff thought it was funny. The court reporter, always noncommittal, was enjoying it. Even the old woman at the clerk's desk was listening with her first smile of the proceedings.

But the humor turned sour as Mr. Clifford grabbed him, slapped him around, and threw him in the car. Mark relived this with a straight face, staring at the brown pumps of the court reporter.

"So you were in the car with Mr. Clifford before he died?" his honor asked cautiously, very serious now.

"Yes sir." "And what did he do once he got you in the car?" "He slapped me some more, yelled at me a few times, threatened me." And Mark told all that he remembered about the gun, the whiskey bottle, the pills.

The small courtroom was deathly still, and the smiles were long gone. Mark's words were deliberate. His eyes avoided all others. He spoke as if in a trance.

"Did he fire the gun?" Judge Roosevelt asked.

"Yes sir," he answered, and told them all about it.

When he finished this part of the story, he waited for the next question. Harry thought about it for a long minute.

"Where was Ricky?" "Hiding in the bushes, i saw mm MICA^ uu. vsu... the weeds, and I sort of figured he'd removed the water hose again. He did, I found out later. Mr. Clifford kept saying he could feel the gas, and he asked me over and over if I could feel it. I said yes, twice I think, but I knew Ricky had come through." "And he didn't know about Ricky?" It was a throwaway question, irrelevant, but asked because Harry couldn't think of a better one at the moment.

"No sir." Another long pause.

"So you talked with Mr. Clifford while you were in the car?" Mark knew what was coming, as did everyone in the courtroom, so he jumped in quickly in an attempt to divert it.

"Yes sir. He was out of his mind, kept talking about floating off to see the Wizard of Oz, off to la-la land, then he would yell at me for crying, then he would apologize for hitting me." There was a pause as Harry waited to see if he was finished. "Is that all he said?" Mark glanced at Reggie, who was watching him carefully. Fink inched closer. The court reporter was frozen.

"What do you mean?" Mark asked, stalling.

"Did Mr. Clifford say anything else?" Mark thought about this for a second, and decided he hated Reggie. He could simply say "No," and the ballgame was over. No sir, Mr. Clifford did not say anything else. He just rambled on like an idiot for about five minutes, then fell asleep, and I ran like hell. If he'd never met Reggie, and had not heard her lecture about being under oath and telling the truth, then he would simply say "No sir." And go home, or back to the hospital, or wherever.

Or would he? One day in the fourth grade the cops put on a show about police work, and one of them demonstrated a polygraph. He wired up Joey McDermant, the biggest liar in the class, and they watched as the needle went berserk every time Joey opened his mouth. "We catch criminals lying every time," the cop had boasted.

With cops and FBI agents swarming around him, could the polygraph be far away? He'd lied so much since Romey killed himself, and he was really tired of it.

"Mark, I asked you if Mr. Clifford said anything else." "Like what?" "Like, did he mention anything about Senator Boyd Boyette?" "Who?" Harry flashed a sweet little smile, then it was gone. "Mark, did Mr. Clifford mention anything about a case of his in New Orleans involving a Mr. Barry Muldanno or the late Senator Boyd Boyette?" A tiny spider was crawling next to the court reporter's brown pumps, and Mark watched it until it disappeared under the tripod. He thought about that damned polygraph again. Reggie said she would fight to keep it away from him, but what if the judge ordered it?

The long pause before his response said it all. Fink's heart was laboring and his pulse had tripled. Aha! The little bastard does know!

"I don't think I want to answer that question," he said, staring at the floor, waiting tor me spiaer to reappear.

Fink looked hopefully at the judge.

"Mark, look at me," Harry said like a gentle grandfather. "I want you to answer the question. Did Mr. Clifford mention Barry Muldanno or Boyd Boy-ette?" "Can I take the Fifth Amendment?" "No." "Why not? It applies to kids, doesn't it?" "Yes, but not in this situation. You're not implicated in the death of Senator Boyette. You're not implicated in any crime." "Then why did you put me in jail?" "I'm going to send you back there if you don't answer my questions." "I take the Fifth Amendment anyway." They were glaring at each other, witness and judge, and the witness blinked first. His eyes watered and he sniffed twice. He bit his lip, fighting hard not to cry. He clenched the armrests and squeezed until his knuckles were white. Tears dropped onto his cheeks, but he kept staring up into the dark eyes of the Honorable Harry Roosevelt.

The tears of an innocent little boy. Harry turned to his side and pulled a tissue from a drawer under the bench. His eyes were wet too.

"Would you like to talk to your attorney, in private?" he asked.

"We've already talked," he said in a fading voice. He wiped his cheeks with a sleeve.

Fink was near cardiac arrest. He had so much to say, so many questions for this brat, so many suggestions for the court on how to handle this matter. The kid knew, dammit! Let's make him talk!

"Mark, I don't like to do this, but you must answer my questions. If you refuse, then you're in contempt of court. Do you understand this?" "Yes sir. Reggie's explained it to me." "And did she explain that if you're in contempt, then I can send you back to the Juvenile Detention Center?" "Yes sir. You can call it a jail if you like, it doesn't bother me." "Thank you. Do you want to go back to jail?" "Not really, but I have no place else to go." His voice was stronger and the tears had stopped. The thought of jail was not as frightening now that he'd seen the inside of it. He could tough it out for a few days. In fact, he figured he could take the heat longer than the judge. He was certain his name would appear in the paper again in the very near future. And the reporters would undoubtedly learn he was locked up by Harry Roosevelt for not talking. And surely the judge would catch hell for locking up a little kid'who'd done nothing wrong.

Reggie'd told him he could change his mind anytime he got tired of jail.

"Did Mr. Clifford mention the name Barry Mul-danno to you?" "Take the Fifth." "Did Mr. Clifford mention the name Boyd Boy-ette to you?" "Take the Fifth." "Did Mr. Clifford say anything about the murder of Boyd Boyette?" "Take the fifth." "Did Mr. Clifford say anything about the present location of the body of Boyd Boyette?" "Take the Fifth." Harry removed his reading glasses for the tenth time, and rubbed his face. "You can't take the Fifth, Mark." "I just did." "I'm ordering you to answer these questions." "Yes sir. I'm sorry." Harry took a pen and began writing.

"Your Honor," Mark said. "I respect you and •what you're trying to do. But I cannot answer these questions because I'm afraid of what might happen to me or my family." "I understand, Mark, but the law does not allow private citizens to withhold information that might be crucial to a criminal investigation. I'm following the law, not picking on you. I'm holding you in contempt. I'm not angry with you, but you leave me no choice. I'm ordering you to return to the Juvenile Detention Center, where you will remain as long as you're in contempt." "How long will that be?" "It's up to you, Mark." "What if I decide never to answer the questions?" "I don't know. Right now we'll take it one day at a time." Harry flipped through his calendar, found a spot, and made a note. "We'll meet again at noon tomorrow, if that's agreeable with everyone." Fink was crushed. He stood, and was about to speak when Ord grabbed his arm and pulled him down. "Your Honor, I don't think I can be here tomorrow," he said. "As you know, my office is in New Orleans, and-" "Oh, you'll be here tomorrow, Mr. Fink. You and Mr. Foltrigg together. You chose to file your petition here in Memphis, in my court, and now I have jurisdiction over you. As soon as you leave here, I suggest you call Mr. Foltrigg and tell him to be here at noon tomorrow. I want both petitioners, Fink and Foltrigg, right here at twelve o'clock sharp tomorrow. And if you're not here, I'll hold you in contempt, and tomorrow it'll be you and your boss being hauled off to jail." Fink's mouth was open but nothing came out. Ord spoke for the first time. "Your Honor, I believe Mr. Foltrigg has a hearing in federal court in the morning. Mr. Muldanno has a new lawyer who's asking for a continuance, and the judge down there has set the hearing for tomorrow morning." "Is that true, Mr. Fink?" "Yes sir." "Then tell Mr. Foltrigg to fax me a copy of the judge's order setting the hearing for tomorrow. I'll excuse him. But as long as Mark is in jail for contempt, I intend to bring him back here every other day to see if he wants to talk. I'll expect both petitioners to be here." "That's quite a hardship on us, Your Honor." "Not as hard as it's gonna be if you don't show up. You picked this forum, Mr. Fink. Now you gotta live with it." Fink had flown to Memphis six hours earlier without a toothbrush or change of underwear. Now it appeared as though he might be forced to lease an apartment with bedrooms for himself and Foltrigg.

me Damn nau eabeu ms] way IAJ uic Reggie and Mark, and was watching his honor and waiting for a signal.

"Mark, I'm going to excuse you now," Harry said, scribbling on a form, "and I'll see you again tomorrow. If you have any problems in the detention center, you inform me tomorrow and I'll take care of it. Okay?" Mark nodded. Reggie squeezed his arm, and said, "I'll talk to your mother, and I'll come see you in the morning." "Tell Mom I'm fine," he whispered in her ear. "I'll try and call her tonight." He stood and left with the bailiff.

"Send in those FBI people," Harry said to the bailiff as he was closing the door.

"Are we excused, Your Honor?" Fink asked. There was sweat on his forehead. He was eager to leave this room and call Foltrigg with the horrible news.

"What's the hurry, Mr. Fink?" "Uh, no hurry, Your Honor." "Then relax. I want to talk, off the record, with you boys and the FBI people. Just take a minute." Harry excused the court reporter and the old woman. McThune and Lewis entered and took their seats behind the lawyers.

Harry unzipped his robe, but did not remove it. He wiped his face with a tissue and sipped the last of the tea. They watched and waited.

"I do not intend to keep this child in jail," he said, looking at Reggie. "Maybe for a few days, but not long. It's apparent to me that he has some critical information, and he's duty bound to divulge it." Fink started nodding. ' "He's scared, and we can all certainly understand that. Perhaps we can convince him to talk if we can guarantee his safety, and that of his mother and brother. I'd like Mr. Lewis to help us on this. I'm open to suggestions." K. O. Lewis was ready. "Your Honor, we have taken preliminary sfeps to place him in our witness protection program." "I've heard of it, Mr. Lewis, but I'm not familiar with the details." "It's quite simple. We move the family to another city. We provide new identities. We find a good job for the mother, and get them a nice place to live. Not a trailer or an apartment, but a house. We make sure the boys are in a good school. There's some cash up front. And we stay close by." "Sounds tempting, Ms. Love," Harry said.

It certainly did. At the moment, the Sways had no home. Dianne worked in a sweatshop. There were no relatives in Memphis.

"They're not mobile right now," she said. "Ricky is confined to the hospital." "We've already located a children's psychiatric hospital in Portland that can take him right away," Lewis explained. "It's a private one, not a charity outfit like St. Peter's, and it's one of the best in the country. They'll take him whenever we ask, and, of course, we'll pay for it. After he's released, we'll move the family to another city." "How long will it take to place the entire family into the program?" Harry asked.

"Less than a week," Lewis answered. "Director Voyles has given it top priority. The paperwork takes a few days, new driver's license, social security numbers, ILK. C urn. i lie iam-ily has to make the decision to do it, and the mother must tell us where she wants to go. We'll take over from there." "What do you think, Ms. Love?" Harry asked. "Will Ms. Sway go for it?" "I'll talk to her. She's under enormous stress right now. One kid in a coma, the other in jail, and she lost everything in the fire last night. The idea of running away in the middle of the night could be a hard sell, at least for now." "But you'll try?" "I'll see." "Do you think she could be in court tomorrow? I'd like to talk to her." "I'll ask the doctor." "Good. This meeting is adjourned. I'll see you folks at noon tomorrow."

THE BAILIFF HANDED MARK TO TWO MEMPHIS POLICEMEN IN plain clothes, and they took him through a side door into the parking lot. When they were gone, the bailiff climbed the stairs to the second floor and darted into an empty rest room. Empty, except for Slick Moeller.

They stood before the urinals, side by side, and stared at the graffiti.

"Are we alone?" asked the bailiff.

"Yep. What happened?" Slick had unzipped his pants and had both hands on his waist. "Be quick." "Kid wouldn't talk, so he's going back to jail. Contempt." "What does he know?" "I'd say he knows everything. It's rather obvious.

He said he was in the car with Clifford, they talked about this and that, and when Harry pressed him on the New Orleans stuff the kid took the Fifth Amendment. Tough little bastard." "But he knows?" "Oh sure. But he's not telling. Judge wants him back tomorrow at noon to see if a night in the slammer changes his mind." Slick zipped his pants and stepped away from the urinal. He took a folded one-hundred-dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to the bailiff.

"You didn't hear it from me," the bailiff said.

"You trust me, don't you?" "Of course." And he did. Mole Moeller never revealed a source.

MOELLER HAD THREE PHOTOGRAPHERS POISED AT VARIOUS places around the Juvenile Court building. He knew the routines better than the cops themselves, and he figured they'd use the side door near the loading dock for a quick getaway with the kid. That's exactly what they did, and they almost made it to their unmarked car before a heavy woman in fatigues jumped from a parked van and nailed them straight on with her Nikon. The cops yelled at her, and tried to hide the kid behind them, but it was too late. They rushed him to their car, and pushed him into the backseat.

Just great, thought Mark. It was not yet 2 P. M., and so far this day had brought the burning of their trailer, his arrest at the hospital, his new home at the jail, a hearing with Judge Roosevelt, and now, another damned photographer shooting at him for what would undoubtedly be another front-page story.

As the car squealed tires and raced away, he sunk low in the backseat. His stomach ached, not from hunger, but from fear. He was alone again.