JL HE HONORABLE J. ROY FOLTRIGG, UNITED STATES ATTORney for the Southern District of Louisiana at New Orleans, and a Republican, sipped properly from a can of tomato juice and stretched his legs in the rear of his customized Chevrolet van as it raced smoothly along the expressway. Memphis was five hours to the north, straight up Interstate 55, and he could've caught a plane, but there were two reasons why he hadn't. First, the paperwork. He could claim it was official business related to the Boyd Boyette case, and he could stretch things here and there and make it work. But it would take months to get reimbursed and there would be eighteen different forms. Second, and much more important, he didn't like to fly. He could've waited three hours in New Orleans for a flight that •would last for an hour and place him in Memphis around n P. M., but they would make it by midnight in the van. He didn't confess this fear of flying, and he knew he would one day be forced to see a shrink to overcome it. For the meantime, he had purchased this fancy van with his own money and loaded it down with appliances and gadgets, two phones, a television, even a fax machine. He buzzed around the Southern District of Louisiana in it, always with Wally Boxx behind the wheel. It was much nicer and more comfortable than any limousine.
He slowly kicked off his loafers and watched the night fly by as Special Agent Trumann listened to the telephone stuck in his ear. On the other end of the heavily padded back bench sat Assistant U. S. Attorney Thomas Fink, a loyal Foltrigg subordinate who'd worked on the Boyette case eighty hours a week and would handle most of the trial, especially the non-glamorous grunt work, saving of course the easy and high-profile parts for his boss. Fink was reading a document, as always, and trying to listen to the mumblings of Agent Trumann, who was seated across from him in a heavy swivel seat. Trumann had Memphis FBI on the phone.
Next to Trumann, in an identical swivel recliner, was Special Agent Skipper Scherff, a rookie who'd worked little on the case but happened to be available for this joyride to Memphis. He scribbled on a legal pad, and would do so for the next five hours because in this tight circle of power he had absolutely nothing to say and no one wanted to hear him. He would obediently stare at his legal pad and record orders from his supervisor, Larry Trumann, and, of course, from the general himself, Reverend Roy. Scherff stared intently at his scribbling, avoiding with great diligence even the slightest eye contact with Foltrigg, and tried in vain to discern what Memphis was telling Trumann. The news of Clifford's death had electrified their office only an hour earlier, and Scherff was still uncertain why and how he was sitting in Roy's van speeding along the expressway. Trumann had told him to run home, pack a change of clothes, and go immediately to Foltrigg's office. And this is what he'd done. And here he was, scribbling and listening.
The chauffeur, Wally Boxx, actually had a license to practice law, though he didn't know how to use it. Officially, he was an assistant United States attorney, same as Fink, but in reality he was a fetch-and-catch boy for Foltrigg. He drove his van, carried his briefcase, wrote his speeches, and handled the media, which took fifty percent of his time because his boss was gravely concerned with his public image. Boxx was not stupid. He was deft at political maneuvering, quick to the defense of his boss, and thoroughly loyal to the man and his mission. Foltrigg had a great future, and Boxx knew he would be there one day whispering importantly with the great man as only the two of them strolled around Capitol Hill.
Boxx knew the importance of Boyette. It would be the biggest trial of Foltrigg's illustrious career, the trial he'd been dreaming of, the trial to thrust him into the national spotlight. He knew Foltrigg was losing sleep over Barry the Blade Muldanno.
Larry Trumann finished the conversation and replaced the phone. He was a veteran agent, early forties, with ten years to go before retirement. Foltrigg waited for him to speak.
"They're trying to convince Memphis PD to release the car so we can go over it. It'll probably take an hour or so. They're having a hard time explaining Clifford and Boyette and all this to Memphis, but they're making progress. Head of our Memphis office is a guy named Jason McThune, very tough and persuasive, and he's meeting with the Memphis chief right now. Mc-Thune's called Washington and Washington's called Memphis, and we should have the car within a couple of hours. Single gunshot wound to the head, obviously self-inflicted. Apparently he tried to do it first with a garden hose in the tail pipe, but for some reason it didn't work. He was taking Dalmane and codeine, and washing it all down with Jack Daniel's. No record on the gun, but it's too early. Memphis is checking it. A cheap. 38. Thought he could swallow a bullet." "No doubt it's suicide?" Foltrigg asked.
"No doubt." "Where did he do it?" "Somewhere in north Memphis. Drove into the woods in his big black Lincoln, and took care of himself." "I don't suppose anyone saw it?" "Evidently not. A couple of kids found the body in a remote area." "How long had he been dead?" "Not long. They'll do an autopsy in a few hours, and determine the time of death." "Why Memphis?" "Not sure. If there's a reason, we don't know it yet." Foltrigg pondered these things and sipped his tomato juice. Fink took notes. Scherff scribbled furiously. Wally Boxx hung on every word.
"What about the note?" Foltrigg asked, looking out the window.
"Well, it could be interesting. Our guys in Memphis have a copy of it, not a very good copy, and they'll try and fax it to us in a few minutes. Apparently the note was handwritten in black ink, and the writing is fairly legible. It's a few paragraphs of instructions to his secretary about the funeral-he wants to be cremated -and what to do with his office furniture. The note tells the secretary where to find his will. Nothing about Boyette, of course. Nothing about Muldanno. Then, he apparently tried to add something to the note with a blue Bic pen, but it ran out of ink after he started his message. It's badly scrawled, and hard to read." "What is it?" "We don't know. The Memphis police still have possession of the note, the gun, the pills, all the physical evidence removed from the car. McThune is trying to get it now. They found a Bic pen, no ink, in the car, and it appears to be the same pen he tried to use to add something to the note." "They'll have it when we arrive, won't they?" Foltrigg asked in a tone that left no doubt he expected to have it all as soon as he got to Memphis.
"They're working on it," Trumann answered. Foltrigg was not his boss, technically, but this case was a prosecution now, not an investigation, and the reverend was in control.
"So Jerome Clifford drives to Memphis and blows his brains out," Foltrigg said to the window. "Four weeks before trial. Man oh man. What else can go crazy with this case?" No answer was expected. They rode in silence, waiting for Roy to speak again.
"Where's Muldanno?" he finally asked.
"New Orleans. We're watching him." "He'll have a new lawyer by midnight, and by noon tomorrow he'll file a dozen motions for continuances claiming the tragic death of Jerome Clifford seriously undermines his constitutional right to a fair trial with assistance of counsel. We'll oppose it of course, and the judge will order a hearing for next week, and we'll have the hearing, and we'll lose, and it'll be six months before this case goes to trial. Six months! Can you believe it?" Trumann shook his head in disgust. "At least it'll give us more time to find the body." • It certainly would, and of course Roy had thought of this. He needed more time, really, he just couldn't admit it because he was the prosecutor, the people's lawyer, the government fighting crime and corruption. He was right, justice was on his side, and he had to be ready to attack evil at any moment, anytime, anyplace. He had pushed hard for a speedy trial because he was right, and he would get a conviction. The United States of America would win! And Roy Foltrigg would deliver the victory. He could see the headlines. He could smell the ink.
He also needed to find the damned body of Boyd Boyette, or else there might be no conviction, no frontpage pictures, no interviews on CNN, no speedy ascent to Capitol Hill. He had convinced those around him that a guilty verdict was possible with no corpse, and this was true. But he didn't want to chance it. He wanted the body.
Fink looked at Agent Trumann. "We think Clifford knew where the body is. Did you know that?" It was obvious Trumann did not know this. "What makes you think so?" Fink placed his reading material on the seat. "Ro-mey and I go way back. We were in law school together twenty years ago at Tulane. He was a little crazy back then, but very smart. About a week ago, he called me at home and said he wanted to talk about the Mul-danno case. He was drunk, thick-tongued, out of his head, and kept saying he couldn't go through with the trial, which was surprising given how much he loves these big cases. We talked for an hour. He rambled and stuttered-" "He even cried," Foltrigg interrupted.
"Yeah, cried like a child. I was surprised by all this at first, but then nothing Jerome Clifford did really surprised me anymore, you know. Not even suicide. He finally hung up. He called me at the office at nine the next morning scared to death he'd let something slip the night before. He was in a panic, kept hinting he might know where the body is and fishing to see whether he'd dropped off any clues during his drunken chitchat. Well, I played along, and thanked him for the information he gave me the night before, which was nothing. I thanked him twice, then three times, and I could feel Romey sweating on the other end of the phone. He called twice more that day, at the office, then called me at home that night, drunk again. It was almost comical, but I thought I could string him along and maybe he'd let something slip. I told him I had to tell Roy, and that Roy had told the FBI, and that the FBI was now trailing him around the clock." "This really freaked him out," Foltrigg added helpfully.
"Yeah, he cussed me out pretty good, but called the next day at the office. We had lunch, and the guy was a nervous wreck. He was too scared to come right out and ask if we knew about the body, and I played it cool. I told him we were certain we'd have the body in plenty of time for the trial, and I thanked him again. He was cracking up before my eyes. He hadn't slept or bathed. His eyes were puffy and red. He got drunk over lunch, and started accusing me of trickery and all sorts of sleazy, unethical behavior. It was an ugly scene. I paid the check and left, and he called me at home that night, remarkably sober. He apologized. I said no problem. I explained to him that Roy was seriously considering an indictment against him for obstruction of justice, and this set him off. He said we couldn't prove it. I said maybe not, but he'd be indicted, arrested, and put on trial, and there would be no way he could represent Barry Muldanno. He screamed and cussed for fifteen minutes, then hung up. I never heard from him again." "He knows, or he knew, where Muldanno put the body," Foltrigg added with certainty.
"Why weren't we informed?" Trumann asked.
"We were about to tell you. In fact, Thomas and I discussed it this afternoon, just a short time before we got the call." Foltrigg said this with an air of indifference, as if Trumann should not question him about such things. Trumann glanced at ScherfF, who was glued to his legal pad, drawing pictures of handguns.
Foltrigg finished his tomato juice and tossed the can in the garbage. He crossed his feet. "You guys need to track Clifford's movements from New Orleans to Memphis. Which route did he take? Are there friends along the way? Where did he stop? Who did he see in Memphis? Surely he must've talked to someone from the time he left New Orleans until he shot himself. Don't you think so?" Trumann nodded. "It's a long drive. I'm sure he had to stop along the way." "He knew where the body is, and he obviously planned to commit suicide: There's an outside chance he told someone, don't you think?" "Maybe.". "Think about it, Larry. Let's say you're the lawyer, heaven forbid. And you represent a killer who's murdered a United States senator. Let's say that the killer tells you, his lawyer, where he hid the body. So, two, and only two, people in the entire world know this secret. And you, the lawyer, go off the deep end and decide to kill yourself. And you plan it. You know you're gonna die, right? You get pills and whiskey and a gun and a water hose, and you drive five hours from home, and you kill yourself. Now, would you share your little secret with anyone?" "Perhaps. I don't know." "There's a chance, right?" "Slight chance." "Good. If we have a slight chance, then we must investigate it thoroughly. I'd start with his office personnel. Find out when he left New Orleans. Check his credit cards. Where did he buy gas? Where did he eat? Where did he get the gun and the pills and the booze? Does he have family between here and there? Old lawyer friends along the way? There are a thousand things to check." Trumann handed the phone to Scherff. "Call our office. Get Hightower on the phone." Foltrigg was pleased to see the FBI jump when he barked. He grinned smugly at Fink. Between them on the floor was a storage box crammed with files and exhibits and documents all related to U. S. A. vs. Barry Muldanno. Four more boxes were at the office. Fink had their contents memorized, but Roy did not. He pulled out a file and flipped through it. It was a thick motion filed by Jerome Clifford two months earlier that still had not been ruled upon. He laid it down, and stared through the window at the dark Mississippi landscape passing in the night. The Bogue Chitto exit was just ahead. Where do they get these names?
This would be a quick trip. He needed to confirm that Clifford was in fact dead, and had in fact died by his own hand. He had to know if any clues were dropped along the way, confessions to friends or loose talk to strangers, perhaps notes with last words that might be of help. Long shots at best. But there had been many dead ends in the search for Boyd Boyette and his killer, and this would not be the last.