THOUGH SLICK MOELLER HAD REPORTED JAILHOUSE RIOTS, rapes, and beatings, and though he'd stood on the safe side of the doors and bars, he'd never actually, physically, been inside a jail cell. And though this thought was heavy on his mind, he kept his cool and projected the aura of the surefooted reporter and confident believer in the First Amendment. He had a lawyer on each side, high-paid studs from a hundred-man firm that had represented the Memphis Press for decades, and they had assured him a dozen times in the past two hours that the Constitution of the United States of America was his friend and on this day would be his shield. Slick wore jeans, a safari jacket, and hiking boots, very much the weather-beaten reporter.
Harry was not impressed with the aura being projected by this weasel. Nor was he impressed with the silk-stocking, blue-blooded Republican mouthpieces who'd never before darkened the doors to his courtroom. Harry was upset. He sat on his bench and read for the tenth time Slick's morning story. He also reviewed applicable First Amendment cases dealing with reporters and theirconfidential sources. And he took his time so Slick would sweat.
The doors were locked. The bailiff, Slick's friend Grinder, stood quite nervously by the bench. Following the judge's order, two uniformed deputies sat di-recdy behind Slick and his lawyers, and seemed poised and ready for action. This bothered Slick and his lawyers, but they tried not to show it.
The same court reporter with an even shorter skirt filed her nails and waited for the words to start flowing. The same grouchy old woman sat at her table and flipped through the National Enquirer. They waited and waited. It was almost twelve-thirty. As usual, the docket was packed and things were behind schedule. Marcia had a club sandwich waiting for Harry between hearings. The Sway hearing was next.
He leaned forward on his elbows and glared down at Slick, who at a hundred and thirty pounds weighed probably a third of what Harry did. "On the record," he barked at the stenographer, and she started pecking away.
Cool as he was, Slick jerked with these first words and sat upright.
"Mr. Moeller, I've brought you here under summons because you've violated a section of the Tennessee Code regarding the confidentiality of my proceedings. This is a very grave matter because we're dealing with the safety and well-being of a small child. Unfortunately, the law does not provide criminal penalties, only contempt." He removed his reading glasses and began rubbing them with a handkerchief. "Now, Mr. Moeller," he said like a frustrated grandfather, "as upset as I am with you and your story, I am much more troubled by the fact that someone leaked this information to you. Someone who was in this courtroom, during the hearing yesterday. Your source troubles me greatly." Grinder leaned against the wall and pressed his calves against it to keep his knees from shaking. He would not look at Slick. His first heart attack had been only six years earlier, and if he didn't control himself, this might be the big one.
"Please sit in the witness chair, Mr. Moeller," Harry instructed with a sweep of the hand. "Be my guest." Slick was sworn by the old grouch. He placed one hiking boot on one knee, and looked at his attorneys for reassurance. They were not looking at him. Grinder studied the ceiling tiles.
"You are under oath, Mr. Moeller," Harry reminded him just seconds after he'd been sworn.
"Yes sir," he uttered, and feebly attempted to smile at this huge man who was sitting high above him and peering down over the railing of the bench.
"Did you in fact write the story in today's paper with your name on it?" "Yes sir." "Did you write it by yourself, or did someone assist you?" "Well, Your Honor, I wrote every word, if that's what you mean." "That's what I mean. Now, in the fourth paragraph of this story, you write, and I quote, 'Mark Sway refused to answer questions about Barry Muldanno or Boyd Boyette. ' End quote. Did you write that, Mr. Moeller?" "Yes sir." day when the child testified?" "No sir." "Were you in this building?" "Uh, yes sir, I was. Nothing wrong with that, is there?" "Be quiet, Mr. Moeller. I'll ask the questions, and you answer them. Do you understand the relationship here?" "Yes sir." Slick pleaded with his eyes to his lawyers, but both were deep into reading at this moment. He felt alone.
"So you weren't present. Now, Mr. Moeller, how did you learn that the child refused to answer my questions about Barry Muldanno or Boyd Boyette?" "I had a source." Grinder had never thought of himself as a source. He was just a low-paid courtroom bailiff with a uniform and a gun, and bills to pay. He was about to be sued by Sears for his wife's credit card. He wanted to wipe the sweat from his forehead but was afraid to move.
"A source," Harry repeated, mocking Slick. "Of course you had a source, Mr. Moeller. I assumed this. You weren't here. Someone told you. This means you had a source. Now, who was your source?" The lawyer with the grayest hair quickly stood to speak. He was dressed in standard big-firm attirecharcoal suit, white button-down, red tie but with a daring yellow stripe on it, and black shoes. His name was Alliphant. He was a partner who normally avoided courtrooms. "Your Honor, if I may." Harry grimaced, and he slowly turned from the witness. His mouth was open as if he were shocked at this daring interruption. He scowled at Alliphant, wno repeated himself. "If I may, Your Honor." Harry let him hang there for an eternity, then said, "You haven't been in my courtroom before, have you, Mr. Alliphant?" "No sir," he answered, still standing.
"I didn't think so. Not one of your usual hangouts. How many lawyers are in your firm, Mr. Alliphant?" "A hundred and seven, at last count." Harry whistled and shook his head. "That's a buncha lawyers. Do any of them practice in Juvenile Court?" "Well, I'm sure some do, Your Honor." "Which ones?" Alliphant stuck one hand in one pocket while running a loose finger along the edge of his legal pad. He did not belong here. His legal world was one of boardrooms and thick documents, of fat retainers and fancy lunches. He was rich because he billed three hundred dollars an hour and had thirty partners doing the same. His firm prospered because it paid seventy associates fifty thousand a year and expected them to bill five times that. He was here ostensibly because he was chief counsel for the paper, but actually because no one in the firm's litigation section could make the hearing on two hours' notice.
Harry despised him, his firm, and their ilk. He did not trust the corporate types who came down from the tall buildings to mingle with the lower class only when necessary. They were arrogant and afraid to get their hands dirty.
"Sit down, Mr. Alliphant," he said, pointing. "You do not stand in my courtroom. Sit." "Now what are you trying to say, Mr. Alliphant?" "Well, Your Honor, we object to these questions, and we object to the court's interrogation of Mr. Moeller on the grounds that his story is protected free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution. Now-" "Mr. Alliphant, have you read the applicable code section dealing with closed hearings in juvenile matters? Surely you have." "Yes sir, I have. And, frankly, Your Honor, I have some real problems with this section." "Oh you do? Go on." "Yes sir. It's my opinion that this code section is unconstitutional as written. I have some cases here from other-" "Unconstitutional?" Harry asked with raised eyebrows.
"Yes sir," Alliphant answered firmly.
"Do you know who wrote the code section, Mr. Alliphant?" Alliphant turned to his associate as if he knew everything. But he shook his head.
"I - wrote 'it, Mr. Alliphant," Harry said loudly. "Me. Moi. Yours truly. And if you knew anything about juvenile law in this state, you would know that I am the expert because I wrote the law. Now, what can you say about that?" Slick slid down in his chair. He'd covered a thousand trials. He'd seen lawyers hammered by angry judges, and he knew their clients usually suffered.
"I contend it's unconstitutional, Your Honor," Alliphant said gallantly.
"And the last thing I intend to do, Mr. Alliphant, is to get into a long, hot-air debate with you about tne First Amendment. If you don't like the law, then take it up on appeal and get it changed. I honestly don't care. But right now, while I'm missing lunch, I want your client to answer the question." He turned back to Slick, who was waiting in terror. "Now, Mr. Moeller, who was your source?" Grinder was about to vomit. He stuck his thumbs under his belt and pressed against his stomach. By reputation, Slick was a man of his word. He always protected his sources.
"I cannot reveal my source," Slick said in an effort at great drama, the martyr willing to face death. Grinder took a deep breath. Such sweet words.
Harry immediately motioned for the two deputies. "I find you in contempt, Mr. Moeller, and order you to jail." The deputies stood beside Slick, who looked around wildly for help.
"Your Honor," Alliphant said, standing without thinking. "We object to this! You cannot-" Harry ignored Alliphant. He spoke to the deputies. "Take him to the city jail. No special treatment. No favors. I'll bring him back Monday for another try." They yanked Slick up and handcuffed him. "Do something!" he yelled at Alliphant, who was saying, "This is protected speech, Your Honor. You can't do this." "I'm doing it, Mr. Alliphant," Harry yelled. "And if you don't sit down, you'll be in the same cell with your client." Alliphant dropped into his chair.
They dragged Slick to the door, and as they opened it, Harry had one final thing to say. "Mr.
Moeller, if I read one word in your paper written by you while in jail, I'll let you sit there for a month before I bring you back. You understand." Slick couldn't speak. "We'll appeal, Slick," Alli-phant promised as they shoved him through and closed the door. "We'll appeal."
DIANNE SWAY SAT IN A HEAVY WOOD CHAIR, HOLDING HER oldest son and watching the sunlight filter through the dusty, broken blinds of Witness Room B. The tears were gone and words had failed them.
After five days and four nights of involuntary confinement in the psychiatric ward, she at first had been happy to leave it. But happiness these days came in tiny spurts, and she now longed to return to Ricky's bed. Now that she'd seen Mark, and held him and cried with him, she knew he was safe. Under the circumstances, that was all a mother could ask.
She didn't trust her instincts or judgment. Five days in a cave takes away any sense of reality. The endless series of shocks had left her drained and stunned. The drugs-pills to sleep and pills to wake up and pills to get through it-deadened the mind so that her life was a series of snapshots thrown on the table one at a time. The brain worked, but in slow motion.
"They want us to go to Portland," she said, rubbing his arm.
"Reggie talked to you about it." "Yes, we had a long talk yesterday. There's a good place for Ricky out there, and we can start over." "Sounds good, but it scares me." "Scares me too, Mark. I don't want to live the next forty years looking over my shoulder. I read a story one time in some magazine about a Mafia informant who helped the FBI and they agreed to hide him. Just like they want us to do. I think it took two years before the Mafia found him and blew him up in his car." "I think I saw the movie." "I can't live like that, Mark." "Can we get another trailer?" "I think so. I talked to Mr. Tucker this morning, and he says he had the trailer covered with plenty of insurance. He said he had another one for us. And I still have my job. In fact, they delivered my paycheck to the hospital this morning." Mark smiled at the thought of returning to the trailer park and hanging out with the kids. He even missed school.
"These people are deadly, Mark." "I know. I've met them." She thought for a second, then asked, "You what?" "I guess it's something else I forgot to tell you." "I'd like to hear it." "It happened a couple of days ago at the hospital. I don't know which day. They're all running together." He took a deep breath. He told her about his encounter with the man and the switchblade and their family portrait. Normally, she, or any mother, would have been shocked. But for Dianne, it was just another event in this horrible week.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked.
"Because I didn't want to worry you." "You know, we might not be in this trouble if you'd told me everything up front." "Don't fuss at me, Mom. I can't take it." She couldn't say it either, so she stopped it. Reggie knocked on the door and it opened. "We need to go," she said. "The judge is waiting." They followed her through the hall and around a corner. Two deputies trailed behind. "Are you nervous?" Dianne whispered.
"No. It's no big deal, Mom." Harry was munching on the sandwich and flipping through the file when they entered the courtroom. Fink, Ord, and Baxter McLemore, the Juvenile Court prosecutor-of-the-day, were all seated together at their table, all quiet and subdued, all bored and waiting for what would undoubtedly be a quick appearance by the kid. Fink and Ord were captivated by the court reporter's legs and skirt. Her figure was obscene-tiny waist, healthy breasts, slender legs. She was the only redeeming element in this rinky-dink courtroom, and Fink had to admit to himself that he'd thought about her on the flight to New Orleans yesterday. And he'd thought about her all the way back to Memphis. She was not disappointing him. The skirt was at mid-thigh and inching upward.
Harry looked at Dianne and gave his best smile. His large teeth were perfect and his eyes were warm. "Hello, Ms. Sway," he said sweetly. She nodded and tried to smile.
"It is a pleasure meeting you, and I'm sorry it has to be under these circumstances." "Thank you, Your Honor," she said softly to the man who'd ordered her son to jail.
Harry looked at Finkwith contempt. "I trust everyone has read this morning's Memphis Press. It has a fascinating story about our proceedings yesterday, and the man who •wrote the story is now in jail. I intend to investigate this matter further, and 1 am confident 1 will find the leak." Grinder, by the door, was suddenly ill again.
"And when I find it, I intend to fix it with a contempt order. So, ladies and gentlemen, keep your mouths shut. Not a word to anyone." He took the file. "Now, Mr. Fink, where's Mr. Foltrigg?" Sitting firmly in place, Fink answered, "He's in New Orleans, Your Honor. I have a copy of the court order you requested." "Fine. I'll take your word for it. Madam Clerk, swear the witness." Madam Clerk threw her hand in the air, and barked at Mark, "Raise your right hand." Mark stood awkwardly, and was sworn.
"You can remain in your seat," Harry said. Reggie was on his right, Dianne on the left.
"Mark, I'm going to ask you some questions, okay?" "Yes sir." "Prior to his death, did Mr. Clifford say anything to you about a Mr. Barry Muldanno?" "I'm not going to answer that." "Did Mr. Clifford mention the name of Boyd Boyette?" "I'm not going to answer that." "Did Mr. Clifford say anything about the murder of Boyd Boyette?" "I'm not going to answer that." "Did Mr. Clifford say anything about the present location of the body of Boyd Boyette?" "I'm not going to answer that." Harry paused and looked at his notes. Dianne had stopped breathing and was staring blankly at Mark. "It's okay, Mom," he whispered to her.
"Your Honor," he said in a strong, confident voice. "I want you to understand that I'm not answering for the same reasons I gave yesterday. I'm just scared, that's all." Harry nodded but gave no expression. He was neither angry nor pleased. "Mr. Bailiff, take Mark back to the witness room, and keep him there until we finish. He can talk to his mother before he's transported to the detention center." Grinder's knees were putty, but he managed to lead Mark from the courtroom.
Harry unzipped his robe. "Let's go off the record. Madam Clerk, you and Ms. Gregg can go to lunch." It was not an offer, but a demand. Harry wanted fewer ears in the courtroom.
Ms. Gregg swung her legs toward Fink, and his heart stopped. He and Ord watched with their mouths open as she stood, took her purse, and pranced from the courtroom.
"Get the FBI, Mr. Fink," Harry instructed.
McThune and a weary K. O. Lewis were fetched and took seats behind Ord. Lewis was a busy man with a thousand important items stacked on his desk in Washington, and he'd asked himself a hundred times in the past twenty-four hours why he'd come to Memphis. Of course, Director Voyles wanted him here, which clarified his priorities immensely.
"Mr. Fink, you indicated before the hearing there is an urgent matter that I should know about." "Yes sir. Mr. Lewis would like to address it." "Mr. Lewis. Please be brief." "Yes, Your Honor. We've had Barry Muldanno under surveillance for several months, and yesterday we obtained by electronic means a conversation between Muldanno and Paul Gronke. It took place in a bar in the French Quarter, and I think you need to hear it." "You have the tape?" "Yes sir." "Then let it roll." Harry was suddenly unconcerned with time.
McThune quickly assembled a tape player and speaker on the desk in front of Fink, and Lewis inserted a micro-cassette. "The first voice you'll hear is that of Muldanno," he explained like a chemist preparing a demonstration. "Then Gronke." The courtroom was still and quiet as the scratchy but very clear voices squawked from the speaker. The entire conversation was captured; the suggestion by Muldanno of hitting the kid, and Gronke's doubts about getting to him; the idea of hitting the kid's mother or brother, and Gronke's protests of killing innocent people; Muldanno's talk of killing his lawyer, and the laughter about it doing wonders for the legal profession; the boasting of Gronke about taking care of the trailer; and finally the plans to bug the lawyer's phones that night.
It was chilling. Fink and Ord had heard it ten times already, so they were noncommittal. Reggie closed her eyes when the taking of her life was so nonchalantly bantered about. Dianne was rigid with fear. Harry stared at the speaker as if he could see their faces, and when the tape was finished and Lewis punched the button, he simply said, "Play it again." They listened to it the second time, and the shock began to wear off. Dianne was trembling. Reggie held her arm and tried to be brave, but the easy talk of Killing the kid's lawyer made her blood run cold. Dianne's skin broke out in goose pimples, and her eyes began to water. She thought of Ricky, who at that moment was being watched by Greenway and a nurse, and prayed he was safe.
"I've heard enough," Harry said when the tape stopped. Lewis took his seat, and they waited for his honor to give direction. He wiped his eyes with a handkerchief, then took a long drink of iced tea. He smiled at Dianne. "Now, Ms. Sway, do you understand why we've placed Mark in the detention center?" "I think so." "Two reasons. The first is that he refused to answer my questions, but at the moment, that's not nearly as important as the second. He's in great danger, as you've just heard. What would you like me to do next?" It was an unfair question posed to a scared, deeply troubled, and irrational person, and she didn't like him asking it. She just shook her head. "I don't know," she mumbled.
Harry spoke slowly, and there was no doubt he knew exactly what should be done next. "Reggie has told me that she's discussed the witness protection program with you. Tell me what you think." Dianne raised her head and bit her lip. She thought for a few seconds and tried to focus on the tape recorder. "I do not want those people," she said deliberately, nodding at the recorder, "following me and my children for the rest of our lives. And I'm afraid that will happen if Mark gives you what you want." "You'll have the protection of the FBI and every necessary agency of the U. S. government." "But no one can completely guarantee our safety.
These are my children, Your Honor, and I'm a single parent. There's no one else. If I make a mistake, I could lose, well, I can't even imagine it." "I think you'll be safe, Ms. Sway. There are thousands of government witnesses now being protected." "But some have been found, haven't they?" It was a quiet question that hit hard. Neither Mc-Thune nor Lewis could deny the fact that witnesses had been lost. There was a long silence.
"Well, Ms. Sway," Harry finally said with a great deal of compassion, "what's the alternative?" "Why can't you arrest these people? Lock them up somewhere. I mean, it looks as if they're just roaming free terrorizing me and my family, and also Reggie here. What're the damned cops doing?" "It's my understanding, Ms. Sway, that one arrest was made last night. The police here are looking for the two men who burned your trailer, two thugs from New Orleans named Bono and Pirini, but they haven't found them. Is that correct, Mr. Lewis?" "Yes sir. We think they're still in the city. And I might add, Your Honor, that the U. S. attorney in New Orleans intends to indict Muldanno and Gronke early next week on charges of obstruction of justice. So they'll be in custody'very soon." "But this is the Mafia, isn't it?" Dianne asked.
Every idiot who could read the newspapers knew it was the Mafia. It was a Mafia killing by a Mafia gunman whose family had been Mafia hoods in New Orleans for four decades. Her question was so simple, yet it implied the obvious: The Mafia is an invisible army with plenty of soldiers.
Lewis did not wish to answer the question, so he waited for his honor, who likewise hoped it would simply go away. There was a long, awkward silence.
Dianne cleared her throat and spoke in a much. stronger voice. "Your Honor, when you guys can show me a way to completely protect my children, then I'll help you. But not until then." "So you want him to stay in jail," Fink blurted out.
She turned and glared at Fink, less than ten feet away. "Sir, I'd rather have him in a detention center than in a grave." Fink slumped in his chair and stared at the floor. Seconds ticked away. Harry looked at his watch, and zipped his robe. "I suggest we meet again Monday at noon. Let's take things one day at a time."