Chapter 6

DOCTOR IN A YELLOW JOGGING SUIT RAN THROUGH THE swinging doors at the end of-the emergency hallway and said something to the receptionist sitting behind the dirty sliding windows. She pointed, and he approached Dianne and Mark and Hardy as they stood by a Coke machine in one corner of the admissions lobby of St. Peter's Charity Hospital. He introduced himself to Dianne as Dr. Simon Greenway and ignored the cop and Mark. He was a psychiatrist, he said, and had been called moments earlier by Dr. Sage, the family's pediatrician. She needed to come with him. Hardy said he would stay 'with Mark.

They hurried away, down the narrow hallway, dodging nurses and orderlies, darting around gurneys and parked beds, and disappeared through the swinging doors. The admissions lobby was crowded with dozens of sick and struggling patients-to-be. There were no empty chairs. Family members filled out" forms. No one was in a hurry. A hidden intercom rattled nonstop somewhere above, paging a hundred doctors a minute.

It was a few minutes after seven. "Are you hungry, Mark?" Hardy asked.

He wasn't, but he wanted to leave this place. "Maybe a little." "Let's go to the cafeteria. 1*11 buy you a cheeseburger." They walked through a busy hallway, down a flight of stairs to the basement, where a mass of anxious people roamed the corridor. Another hall led to a large open area, and suddenly they were in a cafeteria, louder and more crowded than the lunchroom at school. Hardy pointed to the only empty table in view, and Mark waited there.

Of particular concern to Mark at this moment was, of course, his litde brother. He was worried about Ricky's physical condition, although Hardy had explained that he was in no danger of dying. He said that some doctors would talk to him and try to bring him around. But it could take time. He said that it was terribly important for the doctors to know exactly what happened, the truth and nothing but the truth, and that if the doctors were not told the truth then it could be severely damaging to Ricky and his mental condition. Hardy said Ricky might be locked up in some institution for months, maybe years, if the doctors weren't told the truth about what the boys witnessed.

Hardy was okay, not too bright, and he was making the mistake of talking to Mark as if he were five years old instead of eleven. He described the padded walls, and rolled his eyes around with great exaggeration. He told of patients being chained to beds as if spinning some horror story around the campfire. Mark was tired of it.

Mark could think of little except Ricky and whether he would remove his thumb and start talking. He desperately wanted this to happen, but he wanted to have first crack at Ricky when the shock ended. They had things to discuss.

What if the doctors or, heaven forbid, the cops got to him first, and Ricky told the whole story and they all knew Mark was lying? What would they do to him if they caught him lying? Maybe they wouldn't believe Ricky. Since he'd blanked out and left the world for a while, maybe they would tend to believe Mark instead. This conflict in stories was too awful to think about.

It's amazing how lies grow. You start with a small one that seems easy to cover, then you get boxed in and tell another one. Then another. People believe you at first, and they act upon your lies, and you catch yourself wishing you'd simply told the truth. He could have told the truth to the cops and to his mother. He could have explained in great detail everything that Ricky saw. And the secret would still be safe because Ricky didn't know.

Things were happening so fast he couldn't plan. He wanted to get his mother in a room with the door locked and unload all this, just stop it now before it got worse. If he didn't do something, he might go to jail and Ricky might go to the nuthouse for kids.

Hardy appeared with a tray covered with french fries and cheeseburgers, two for him and one for Mark. He arranged the food neatly and returned the tray.

Mark nibbled on a french fry. Hardy launched into a burger.

"So what happened to your face?" Hardy asked, chomping away.

Mark rubbed the knot and remembered he had been wounded in the fray. "Oh nothing. Just got in a fight in school." "Who's the other kid?" Dammit! Cops are relentless. Tell one lie to cover another. He was sick of lying. "You don't know him," he answered, then bit into his cheeseburger.

"I might want to talk to him." "Why?" "Did you get in trouble for this fight? I mean, did your teacher take you to the principal's office, or anything like that?" "No. It happened when school was out." "I thought you said you got in a fight at school." "Well, it sort of started at school, okay. Me and this guy got into it at lunch, and agreed to meet when school was out." Hardy drew mightily on the tiny straw in his milk shake. He swallowed hard, cleared his mouth, and said, "What's the other kid's name?" "Why do you want to know?" This angered Hardy and he stopped chewing. Mark refused to look into his eyes, and he bent low over his food and stared at the ketchup.

"I'm a cop, kid. It's my job to ask questions." "Do I have to answer them?" "Of course you do. Unless, of course, you're hiding something and afraid to answer. At that point, I'll have to get with your mother and perhaps take the both of you down to the station for more questioning." "Questioning about what? What exactly do you want to know?" "Who is the kid you had a fight with today?" Mark nibbled forever on the end of a long fry.

Hardy picked up the second cheeseburger. A spot ot mayonnaise hung from the corner of his mouth.

"I don't want to get him in trouble," Mark said.

"He won't get in trouble." "Then why do you want to know his name?" "I just want to know. It's my job, okay?" "You think I'm lying, don't you?" Mark asked, looking pitifully into the bulging face.

The chomping stopped. "I don't know, kid. Your story is full of holes." Mark looked even more pitiful. "I can't remember everything. It happened so fast. You expect me to give every little detail, and I can't remember it that way." Hardy stuck a wad of fries in his mouth. "Eat your food. We'd better get back." "Thanks for the dinner."

KICKY WAS IN A PRIVATE ROOM ON THE NINTH FLOOR. A large sign by the elevator labeled it as the PSYCHIATRIC WING, and it was much quieter. The lights were dimmer, the voices softer, the traffic much slower. The nurses' station was near the elevator, and those stepping off were scrutinized. A security guard whispered with the nurses and watched the hallways. Down from the elevators, away from the rooms, was a small, dark sitting area with a television, soft drink machines, magazines, and Gideon Bibles.

Mark and Hardy were alone in the waiting area. Mark sipped a Sprite, his third, and watched a rerun of "Hill Street Blues" on cable while Hardy dozed fitfully on the terribly undersized couch. It was almost nine, and half an hour had passed since Dianne had walked him down the hall to Ricky's room for^a quick peek.

He looked small under the sheets. The IV, Dianne had explained, was to feed him because he wouldn't eat. She assured him Ricky would be all right, but Mark studied her eyes and knew she was worried. Dr. Green-way would return in a bit, and wanted to talk to Mark.

"Has he said anything?" Mark had asked as he studied the IV.

"No. Not a word." She took his hand and they walked through the dim hallway to the sitting area. At least five times, Mark had almost blurted something out. They had passed an empty room not far from Ricky's and he thought of dragging her inside for a confession. But he didn't. Later, he kept telling himself, I'll tell her later.

Hardy had stopped asking questions. His shift ended at ten, and it was obvious he was tired of Mark and Ricky and the hospital. He wanted to return to the streets.

A pretty nurse in a short skirt walked past the elevators and motioned for Mark to follow her. He eased from his chair, holding his Sprite. She took his hand, and there was something exciting about this. Her fingernails were long and red. Her skin was smooth and tanned. She had blond hair and a perfect smile, and she was young. Her name was Karen, and she squeezed his hand a bit tighter than necessary. His heart skipped a beat.

"Dr. Greenway wants to talk to you," she said, leaning down as she walked. Her perfume lingered, and it was the most wonderful fragrance Mark could remember.

She walked him to Ricky's room, Number 943, and released his hand. The door was closed, so she knocked slightly and opened it. Mark entered slowly, and Karen patted him on the shoulder. He watched her leave through the half-open door.

Dr. Greenway now wore a shirt and tie with a white lab jacket over it. An ID tag hung from the left front pocket. He was a skinny man with round glasses and a black beard, and seemed too young to be doing this...

"Come in, Mark," he said after Mark was already in the room and standing at the foot of Ricky's bed. "Sit here." He pointed to a plastic chair next to a foldaway bed under the window. His voice was low, almost a whisper. Dianne sat with her feet curled under her on the bedHer shoes were on the floor. She wore blue jeans and a sweater, and stared at Ricky under the sheets with a tube in his arm. A lamp on a table near the bathroom door provided the only light. The blinds were shut tight.

Mark eased into the plastic chair, and Dr. Green-way sat on the edge of the foldaway, not two feet away. He squinted and frowned, and projected such somber-ness that Mark thought for a second they were all about to die.

"I need to talk to you about what happened," he said. He was not whispering now. It was obvious Ricky was in another world and they were unafraid of waking him. Dianne was behind Greenway, still staring blankly at the bed. Mark wanted her alone so he could talk and work out of this mess, but she was back there in the darkness, behind the doctor, ignoring him.

"Has he said anything?" Mark asked first. The past three hours with Hardy had been nothing but quick questions, and the habit was hard to break.

"No." "How sick is he?" "Very sick," Greenway answered, his tiny, dark eyes glowing at Mark. "What did he see this afternoon?" "Is this in secret?" "Yes. Anything you tell me is strictly confidential." "What if the cops want to know what I tell you?" "I can't tell them. I promise. This is all very secret and confidential. Just you and me and your mother. We're all trying to help Ricky, and I've got to know what happened." Maybe a good dose of the truth would help everyone, especially Ricky. Mark looked at the small blond head with hair sticking in all directions on the pillow. Why oh why didn't they just run when the black car pulled up and parked? He was suddenly hit with guilt, and it terrified him. All of this was his fault. He should have known better than to mess with a crazy man.

His lip quivered and his eyes watered. He was cold. It was time to tell all. He was running out of lies and Ricky needed help. Greenway watched every move.

And then Hardy walked slowly by the door. He paused for a second in the hall and locked eyes with Mark, then disappeared. Mark knew he wasn't far away. Greenway had not seen him.

Mark started with the cigarettes. His mother looked at him hard, but if she was angry she didn't convey it. She shook her head once or twice, but never said a word. He spoke in a low voice, his eyes alternating quickly between Greenway vand the door, and described the tree with the rope and the woods and the clearing. Then the car. He left out a good chunk of the story, but did admit to Greenway, in a soft voice and in extreme confidence, that he once crawled to the car and removed the hose. And when he did so, Ricky cried and peed in his pants. Ricky begged him not to do it. He could tell Greenway liked this part. Dianne listened without expression.

Hardy walked by again, but Mark pretended not to see him. He paused in his story for a few seconds, then told how the man stormed out of the car, saw the garden hose lying harmlessly in the weeds, and crawled on the trunk and shot himself.

"How far away was Ricky?" Greenway asked.

Mark looked around the room. "You see that door across the hall?" he isked, pointing. "From here to there." Greenway looked and rubbed his beard. "About forty feet. That's not very far." "It was very close." "What exactly did Ricky do when the shot was fired?" Dianne was listening now. It apparently had just occurred to her that this was a different version from the earlier one. She wrinkled her forehead and looked hard at her eldest.

"I'm sorry, Mom. I was too scared to think. Don't be angry with me." "You actually saw the man shoot himself?" she asked in disbelief.

"Yes." She looked at Ricky. "No wonder." "What did Ricky do when the shot was fired?" "I wasn't looking at Ricky. I was watching the man with the gun." "Poor baby," Dianne mumbled in the background. Greenway held up a hand to cut her off.

"Was Ricky close to you?" Mark glanced at the door, and explained faintly how Ricky had frozen, then started away in an awkward jog, arms straight down, a dull moaning sound coming from his mouth. He told it all with dead accuracy from the point of the shooting to the point of the ambulance, and he left out nothing. He closed his eyes and relived each step, each movement. It felt wonderful to be so truthful.

"Why didn't you tell me you watched the man kill himself?" Dianne asked.

This irritated Greenway. "Please, Ms. Sway, you can discuss it with him later," he said without taking his eyes off Mark.

"What was the last word Ricky said?" Greenway asked.

He thought and watched the door. The hall was empty. "I really can't remember."

SERGEANT HARDY HUDDLED WITH HIS LIEUTENANT AND Special Agent Jason McThune of the FBI. They chatted in the sitting area next to the soft drink machines. Another FBI agent loitered suspiciously near the elevator. The hospital security guard glared at him.

The lieutenant explained hurriedly to Hardy that it was now an FBI matter, that the dead man's car and all other physical evidence had been turned over by the Memphis PD, that print experts had finished dusting the car and found lots of fingerprints too small for an adult, and they needed to know if Mark had dropped any clues or changed his story.

"No, but I'm not convinced he's telling the truth," Hardy said.

"Has he touched anything we can take?" Mc-Thune asked quickly, unconcerned about Hardy's theories or convictions.

"What do you mean?" "We have a strong suspicion the kid was in the car at some point before Clifford died. We need to lift the kid's prints from something and see if they match." "What makes you think he was in the car?" Hardy asked with great anticipation.

"I'll explain later," his lieutenant said.

Hardy looked around the sitting area, and suddenly pointed to a trash basket by the chair Mark had sat in. "There. The Sprite can. He drank a Sprite while sitting right there." McThune looked up and down the hall, and carefully wrapped a handkerchief around the Sprite can. He placed it in the pocket of his coat.

"It's definitely his," Hardy said. "This is the only trash basket, and that's the only Sprite can." "I'll run this to our fingerprint men," McThune said. "Is the kid, Mark, staying here tonight?" "I think so," Hardy said. "They've moved a portable bed into his brother's room. Looks like they'll all sleep in there. Why is the FBI concerned with Clifford?" "I'll explain later," said his lieutenant. "Stay here for another hour." "I'm supposed to be off in ten minutes." "You need the overtime."

DR. GREENWAY SAT IN THE PLASTIC CHAIR NEAR THE BED and studied his notes. "I'm gonna leave in a minute, but I'll be back early in the morning. He's stable, and I expect little change through the night. The nurses will check in every so often. Call them if he wakes up." He flipped a page of notes and read the chicken scratch, then looked at Dianne. "It's a severe case of acute post-traumatic stress disorder." "What does that mean?" Mark asked. Dianne rubbed her temples and kept her eyes closed.

"Sometimes a person sees a terrible event and cannot cope with it. Ricky was badly scared when you removed the garden hose from the tail pipe, and when he saw the man shoot himself he was suddenly exposed to a terrifying experience that he couldn't handle. It triggered a response in him. He sort of snapped. It shocked his mind and body. He was able to run home, which is quite remarkable because normally a person traumatized like Ricky would immediately become numb and paralyzed." He paused and placed his notes on the bed. "There's not a lot we can do right now. I expect him to come around tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, and we'll start talking about things. It may take some time. He'll have nightmares of the shooting, and flashbacks. He'll deny it happened, then he'll blame himself for it. He'll feel isolated, betrayed, bewildered, maybe even depressed. You just never know." "How will you treat him?" Dianne asked.

"We have to make him feel safe. You must stay here at all times. Now, you said the father is of no use." "Keep him away from Ricky," Mark said sternly. Dianne nodded.

"Fine. And there are no grandparents or relatives nearby." "No." "Very well. It's imperative that both of you stay in this room as much as possible for the next several days. Ricky must feel safe and secure. He'll need emotional and physical support from you. He and I will talk several times a day. It will be important for Mark and Ricky to talk about the shooting. They need to share and compare their reactions." "When do you think we might go home?" Di-anne asked.

"I don't know, but as soon as possible. He needs the safety and familiarity of his bedroom and surroundings. Maybe a week. Maybe two. Depends on how quickly he responds." Dianne pulled her feet under her. "I, uh, I have a job. I don't know what to do." "I'll have my office contact your employer first 'thing in the morning." "My employer runs a sweatshop. It is not a nice, clean corporation with benefits and sympathy. They will not send flowers. I'm afraid they won't understand." "I'll do the best I can." "What about school?" Mark asked.

"Your mother has given me the name of the principal. I'll call first thing in the morning and talk to your teachers." Dianne was rubbing her temples again. A nurse, not the pretty one, knocked while entering. She handed Dianne two pills and a cup of water.

"It's Dalmane," Greenway said. "It should help you rest. If not, call the nurses' station and they'll bring something stronger." The nurse left and Greenway stood and felt Ricky's forehead. "See you guys in the morning. Get some sleep." He smiled for the first time, then closed the door behind him.

They were alone, the tiny Sway family, or what was left of it. Mark moved closer to his mother and leaned on her shoulder. They looked at the small head on the large pillow less than five feet away.

She patted his arm. "It'll be all right, Mark. We've been through worse." She held him tight and he closed his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Mom." His eyes watered, and he was ready for a cry. "I'm so sorry about all this." She squeezed him, and held him tight. He sobbed quietly with his face buried in her shirt.

She gently lay down with Mark still in her arms, and they curled together on the cheap foam mattress. Ricky's bed was two feet higher. The window was above them. The lights were low. Mark stopped the crying. It was something he was lousy at anyway.

The Dalmane was working, and she was exhausted. Nine hours of packing plastic lamps into cardboard boxes, five hours of a full-blown crisis, and now the Dalmane. She was ready for a deep sleep.

"Will you get fired, Mom?" Mark asked. He worried about the family finances as much as she did.

"I don't think so. We'll worry about it tomorrow." "We need to talk, Mom." "I know we do. But let's do it in the morning." "Why can't we talk now?" She relaxed her grip and breathed deeply, eyes already closed. "I'm very tired and sleepy, Mark. I promise we'll have a long talk first thing in the morning. You have some questions to answer, don't you? Now go brush your teeth and let's try and sleep." Mark was suddenly tired too. The hard line of a metal brace protruded through the cheap mattress, and he crept closer to the wall and pulled the lone sheet over him. His mother rubbed his arm. He stared at the wall, six inches away, and decided he could not sleep like this for a week.

Her breathing was much heavier and she was completely still. He thought of Romey. Where was he now? Where was the chubby little body with the bald head? He remembered the sweat and how it poured from his shiny scalp and ran down in all directions, some dripping from his eyebrows and some soaking his collar. Even his ears were wet. Who would get his car? Who would clean it up and wash the blood off? Who would get the gun? Mark realixed for the first time that his ears were no longer ringing from the gunfire in the car. Was Hardy still out there in the sitting room trying to sleep? Would the cops return tomorrow with more questions? What if they asked about the garden hose? What if they asked a thousand questions?

He was wide awake now, staring at the wall. Lights from the outside trickled through the blinds. The Dalmane worked well because his mother was breathing very slow and heavy. Ricky had not moved. He stared at the dim light above the table, and thought of Hardy and the police. Were they watching him? Was he under surveillance, like on television? Surely not.

He watched them sleep for twenty minutes, and got bored with it. It was time to explore. When he was a first-grader, his father came home drunk late one night and started raising hell with Dianne. They fought and the trailer shook, and Mark eased open the shoddy window in his room and slid to the ground. He went for a long walk around the neighborhood, then through the woods. It was a hot, sticky night with plenty of stars, and he rested on a hill overlooking the trailer park. He prayed for the safety of his mother. He asked God for a family in which everyone could sleep without fear of abuse. Why couldn't they just be normal? He rambled for two hours. All was quiet when he returned home, and thus began a habit of nighttime excursions that had brought him much pleasure and peace.

Mark was a thinker, a worrier, and when sleep came and went or wouldn't come at all, he went for long, secret walks. He learned much. He wore dark clothing and moved like a thief through the shadows of Tucker Wheel Estates. He witnessed petty crimes of theft and vandalism, but he never told. He saw lovers sneak from windows. He loved to sit on the hill above the park on clear nights and enjoy a quiet smoke. The fear of getting caught by his mother had vanished years earlier. She worked hard and slept sound.

He was not afraid of strange places. He pulled the sheet over his mother's shoulder, did the same for Ricky, and quietly closed the door behind him. The hall was dark and empty. Karen the gorgeous was busy at the nurses' desk. She smiled beautifully at him and stopped her writing. He wanted to go for some orange juice in the cafeteria, he said, and he knew how to get there. He'd be back in a minute. Karen grinned at him as he walked away, and Mark was in love.

Hardy was gone. The sitting room was empty but the television was on. "Hogan's Heroes." He took the empty elevator to the basement.

The cafeteria was deserted. A man with casts on both legs sat stiffly in a wheelchair at one table. The casts were shiny and clean. An arm was in a sling. A band of thick gauze covered the top of his head and it looked as though the hair had been shaven. He was terribly uncomfortable.

Mark paid for a pint of juice, and sat at a table near the man. He grimaced in pain, and shoved his soup away in frustration. He sipped juice through a straw, and noticed Mark. ( "What's up?" Mark asked with a smile. He could talk to anyone and felt sorry for the guy.

The man glared at him, then looked away. He grimaced again and tried to adjust his legs. Mark tried not to stare.

A man with a white shirt and tie appeared from nowhere with a tray of food and coffee, and sat at a table on the other side of the injured guy. He didn't appear to notice Mark. "Bad injury," he said with a large smile. "What happened?" "Car wreck" came the somewhat anguished reply. "Got hit by an Exxon truck. Nut ran a stop sign." The smile grew even larger and the food and coffee were ignored. "When did it happen?" "Three days ago." "Did you say Exxon truck?" The man was standing and moving quickly to the guy's table, pulling something out of his pocket. He took a chair and was suddenly sitting within inches of the casts.

"Yeah," the guy said warily.

The man handed him a white card. "My name's Gill Teal. I'm a lawyer, and I specialize in auto accidents, especially cases involving large trucks." Gill Teal said this very rapidly, as if he'd hooked a large fish and had to work quickly or it might get away. "That's my specialty. Big-truck cases. Eighteen wheelers. Dump trucks. Tankers. You name it, and I go after them." He thrust his hand across the table. "Name's Gill Teal." Luckily for the guy, his good arm was his right one, and he lamely slung it over the table to shake hands with this hustler. "Joe Farris." Gill pumped it furiously, and eagerly moved in for the kill. "What you got-two broke legs, concussion, coupla puncture wounds?" "And broken collarbone." "Great. Then we're looking at permanent disability. What type work you do?" Gill asked, rubbing his chin in careful analysis. The card was lying on the table, untouched by Joe. They were unaware of Mark.

"Crane operator." "Union?" "Yeah." "Wow. And the Exxon truck ran a stop sign. No doubt about who's at fault here?" Joe frowned and shifted again, and even Mark could tell he was rapidly tiring of Gill and this intrusion. He shook his head no.

Gill made frantic notes on a napkin, then smiled at Joe and announced, "I can get you at least six hundred thousand. I take only a third, and you walk away with four hundred thousand. Minimum. Four hundred grand, tax free, of course. We'll file suit tomorrow." Joe took this as if he'd heard it before. Gill hung in midair with his mouth open, proud of himself, full of confidence.

"I've talked to some other lawyers," Joe said.

"I can get you more than anybody. I do this for a living, nothing but truck cases... I've sued Exxon before, know all their lawyers and corporate people locally, and they're terrified of me because I go for the jugular. It's warfare, Joe, and I'm the best in town. I know how to play their dirty games. Just settled a truck case for almost half a million. They threw money at my client once he hired me. Not bragging, Joe, but I'm the best in town when it comes to these cases." "A lawyer called me this morning and said he could get me a million." "He's lying. What was his name? McFay? Ragland? Snodgrass? F know these guys. I kick their asses all the time, Joe, and anyway I said six hundred thousand is a minimum. Could be much more. Hell, Joe, if they push us to trial, who knows how much a jury might give us. I'm in trial every day, Joe, kicking ass all over Memphis. Six hundred is a minimum. Have you hired anybody yet? Signed a contract?" Joe shook his head no. "Not yet." "Wonderful. Look, Joe, you've got a wife and kids, right?" "Ex-wife, three kids." "So you've got child support, man, now listen to me. How much child support?" "Five hundred a month." "That's low. And you've got bills. Here's what I'll do. I'll advance you a thousand bucks a month to be applied against your settlement. If we settle in three months, I withhold three thousand. If it takes two years, and it won't, but if it does I'll withhold twenty-four thousand. Or whatever. You follow me, Joe? Cash now on the spot." Joe shifted again and stared at the table. "This other lawyer came by my room yesterday and said he'd advance two thousand now and float me two thousand a month." "Who was it? Scottie Moss? Rob LaMoke? I know these guys, Joe, and they're trash. Can't find their way to the courthouse. You can't trust them. They're incompetent. I'll match it-two thousand now, and two thousand a month." "This other guy with some big firm offered ten thousand up front and a line of credit for whatever I needed." Gill was crushed, and it was at least ten seconds before he could speak. "Listen to me, Joe. It's not a matter of advance cash, okay. It's a matter of how much money I can get for you from Exxon. And nobody, I repeat, nobody will get more than me. Nobody. Look. I'll advance five thousand now, and allow you to draw what you need to pay bills. Fair enough?" "I'll think about it." "Time is critical, Joe. We must move fast. Evidence disappears. Memories fade. Big corporations move slow." "I said I'll think about it." "Can I call you tomorrow?" "No." "Why not?" "Hell, I can't sleep now for all the damned lawyers calling. I can't eat a meal without you guys bargin' in. There are more lawyers around this damned place than doctors." Gill was unmoved. "There are a lot of sharks out here, Joe. A lot of really lousy lawyers who'll screw up your case. Sad but true. The profession is overcrowded, so lawyers are everywhere trying to find business. But don't make a mistake, Joe. Check me out. Look in the Yellow Pages. There's a full-page three-color ad for me, Joe. Look up Gill Teal, and you'll see who's for real." "I'll think about it." Gill came forth with another card and handed it to Joe. He said good-bye and left, never touching the food or coffee on his tray.

Joe was suffering. He grabbed the wheel with his right arm, and slowly rolled himself away. Mark wanted to help, but thought better of asking. Both of Gill's cards were on the table. He finished his juice, glanced around, and picked up one of the cards.

MARK TOLD KAREN, HIS SWEETHEART, THAT HE COULDN'T sleep and would be watching television if anyone needed him. He sat on the couch in the waiting area and flipped through the phone book while watching "Cheers" reruns. He sipped another Sprite. Hardy, bless his heart, hfd given him eight quarters after dinner.

Karen brought him a blanket and tucked it around his legs. She patted his arm with her long, thin hands, and glided away. He watched every step.

Mr. Gill Teal did indeed have a full-page ad in the Attorneys section of the Memphis Yellow Pages, along with a dozen other lawyers. There was a nice picture of him standing casually outside a courthouse with his jacket off and sleeves rolled up. "I FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS!" it said under the photo. In bold red letters across the top, the question HAVE YOU BEEN INJURED? cried out. Thick green print answered just below, IF SO, CALL GILL TEAL-HE'S FOR REAL. Farther down, in blue print, Gill listed all the types of cases he handled, and. there were hundreds. Lawn mowers, electrical shock, deformed babies, car wrecks, exploding water heaters. Eighteen years' experience in all courts. A small map in the corner of the ad directed the world to his office, which was just across the street from the courthouse.

Mark heard a familiar voice, and suddenly there he was, Gill Teal himself, on television standing beside a hospital emergency entrance talking about injured loved ones and crooked insurance companies. Red lights flashed in the background. Paramedics ran behind him. But Gill had the situation under control, and he would take your case for nothing down. No fee unless he recovered.

Small world! In the past two hours, Mark had seen him in person, picked up one of his business cards, was literally looking at his face in the Yellow Pages, and now, here he was speaking to him from the television.

He closed the phone book and laid it on the cluttered coffee table. He pulled the blanket over him and decided to go to sleep.

Tomorrow? he might call Gill Teal.