Chapter 20

PEPPER SCARBORO'S shotgun was a Remington .12 gauge pump he purchased from a pawnshop in Lucedale when he was sixteen, too young to buy from a licensed dealer. He paid two hundred dollars for it, and, according to his mother, Neldene, it was his most beloved possession. Sheriff Sweeney and Sheriff Tatum, of Greene County, found the shotgun, along with a well-worn sleeping bag and a small tent, a week after Patrick's death as they were making a routine inventory of his cabin. Trudy had given permission for the search, which in itself was a major problem since she had no ownership interest in the cabin. Any effort to use the shotgun, sleeping bag, and tent as evidence in Patrick's murder trial would be met with fierce resistance since they were found without a search warrant. A valid argument could be made that the sheriffs weren't searching for evidence since there wasn't, at that time, a crime. They were simply gathering up Patrick's personal effects to hand over to his family.

Trudy didn't want the sleeping bag and the tent. She was adamant in her belief that they didn't belong to Patrick. She had never seen them before. They were cheap, unlike items Patrick would buy. And, besides, he didn't camp. He had the cabin to sleep in. Sweeney put labels on them and stored them in his evidence room, for lack of a better place. He planned to wait a year or two, then sell them at one of his annual Sheriffs sales. Six weeks later, Neldene Crouch burst into tears when confronted with Pepper's camping gear.

The shotgun was handled differently. It was found under a bed, along with the tent and the sleeping bag, in the room Patrick slept in. Someone had hurriedly slid the items under the bed, in Sweeney's opinion. His curiosity was immediately aroused because of the presence of the shotgun. An avid hunter himself, he knew that no hunter with a brain would leave a shotgun or hunting rifle in a remote cabin for thieves to take at their convenience. Nothing of value was ever left in a hunting cabin in these parts. He had carefully examined it on the spot, and noticed the serial number had been filed off. The gun had been stolen at some point since its manufacture.

He discussed it with Sheriff Tatum, and they made the decision to at least have it checked for fingerprints. Nothing would come of it, they were sure, but both were experienced and patient cops.

Later, after repeated promises of immunity, the pawnbroker in Lucedale admitted he had sold the gun to Pepper.

SWEENEY AND TED GRIMSHAW, the chief investigator for Harrison County, politely knocked on Patrick's hospital door, and entered only when invited in. Sweeney had called ahead to alert Patrick of their visit, and to inform him of its purpose. Just routine procedures. Patrick had yet to be properly booked.

They photographed his face while he was sitting in a chair, wearing a tee shirt and gym shorts, his hair unruly and his expression sour. He held the booking numbers they had brought along. They took his fingerprints, with Grimshaw doing the work as Sweeney handled the conversation. Patrick insisted on standing over the small table while Grimshaw took the prints.

Sweeney asked a couple of questions about Pepper Scarboro, but Patrick quickly reminded him he had a lawyer, and his lawyer would be present during any interrogation. Furthermore, he had nothing to say about anything, with or without a lawyer.

They thanked him and left. Cutter and an FBI fingerprint expert from Jackson were waiting in the Lanigan Room at the jail. At the time it was found, Pepper's .12 gauge yielded more than a dozen full, usable prints. They had been lifted by Grimshaw after dusting, filed away in a vault, and now were spread on the table. The shotgun was on a shelf, next to the tent and the sleeping bag, and the jogging shoe and the photographs, and the few other sparse items of evidence to be used against Patrick.

They drank coffee from plastic cups and talked about fishing while the print expert compared the old with the new through a magnifying glass. It didn't take long.

"Several of these are perfect matches," he said, still working. "The gun stock was covered with Lanigan's prints."

Certainly good news, they thought. Now what?

PATRICK INSISTED on a different room for all future meetings with his attorney, and Dr. Hayani was quick to make the necessary arrangements. He also requested a wheelchair to transport him to the room on the first floor. A nurse pushed him, past the two deputies sitting benignly in the hall outside his door, past Special Agent Brent Myers, and onto the elevator for the brief ride to the first floor. One of the deputies trailed along.

The room was one used by doctors for staff meetings. The hospital was small and the room appeared to be used sparingly. Sandy had ordered the antibugging scanner Patrick had mentioned, but it wouldn't be in for a few days.

"Please rush it," Patrick said.

"Come on, Patrick. Surely you don't think they would bug this room. No one knew we would use it until an hour ago."

"We can't be too careful." Patrick stood from the wheelchair and walked around the long conference table, walked without any limp whatsoever, Sandy noted.

"Look, Patrick, I think you should try and relax a little. I know you've been on the run for a long time. You've lived in fear, always looking over your shoulder, I know all that. But those days are over. They caught you. Relax."

"They're still out there, okay? They have me, but not the money. And the money is much more important. Don't forget that, Sandy. They won't rest until they have the money."

"So who might be bugging us here? Good guys or bad? Cops or crooks?"

"The people who lost the money have spent a bloody fortune trying to find it."

"How do you know?"

Patrick merely shrugged as if it were time to play games again.

"Who are they?" Sandy asked, and there was a long pause, one similar to those used by Leah when she wanted to change the subject.

"Sit down," Patrick said. They sat on opposite sides of the table. Sandy removed the thick file Leah had given him four hours earlier; the dirt-on-Trudy file.

Patrick recognized it immediately. "When did you see her?" he asked anxiously.

"This morning. She's fine, sends her love, says nobody's stalking her yet, and asked me to deliver this." He slid the envelope across the table where Patrick grabbed it, ripped it open, and pulled out a three-page letter. He then proceeded to read it slowly, oblivious to his lawyer.

Sandy flipped through the file and settled on the nudie pictures of Trudy reclining by the pool with her gigolo sprawled nearby. He couldn't wait to show these to her lawyer in Mobile. They had a meeting scheduled in three hours.

Patrick finished the letter, carefully refolded it, and placed it in the envelope. "I have another letter for her," he said. He glanced across the table and saw the photos. "Pretty good work, huh?"

"It's amazing. I've never seen this much proof in a divorce case."

"Well, there was a lot to work with. We'd been married almost two years when I bumped into her first husband, quite by accident. It was at a party before a Saints game in New Orleans. We had a few drinks, and he told me about Lance. He's the tomcat in the pictures there."

"Leah explained it."

"Trudy was very pregnant at the time, so I said nothing. The marriage was slowly unraveling, and we hoped the child would make things perfect. She has an amazing capacity for deceit. I decided to play along, be a proud daddy and all that, but a year later I started gathering evidence. I wasn't sure when I would need it, but I knew the marriage was over. I left town every chance I got-business, hunting, fishing, weekends with the boys, whatever. She never seemed to mind."

"I meet with her lawyer at 5 P.M."

"Good. You'll have a great time. It's a lawyer's dream. Threaten everything, but walk away with the settlement. She has to sign away all rights, Sandy. She gets none of my assets."

"When do we talk about your assets?"

"Soon. I promise. But there is something more pressing."

Sandy removed his obligatory legal pad and poised himself to take notes. "I'm listening," he said.

"Lance is a nasty character. He grew up in the bars along Point Cadet, never finished high school, and served three years for smuggling dope. A bad seed. He has friends in the underworld. He knows people who'll do anything for money. There's another thick file, this one on him. I take it Leah didn't give it to you."

"No. Just this one."

"Ask her about it next time. I gathered dirt on Lance for a year with the same private detective. Lance is a small-time hood, but he's dangerous because he has friends. And Trudy has money. We don't know how much is left, but she probably hasn't spent it all."

"And you think he's coming after you?"

"Probably. Think about it, Sandy. Trudy is the only person right now who still needs me dead. If I'm out of the way, she keeps the money she has left, and she doesn't worry about the insurance company getting what she now owns. I know her. The money and the lifestyle mean everything."

"But how could he-"

"It can be done, Sandy. Believe me. It can be done."

He said this with the calm assurance of one who had committed murder and gotten by with it, and for a second Sandy's blood ran cold.

"It can easily be done," he said for the third time, his eyes glaring, the wrinkles around them pinched tightly.

"Okay, what am I supposed to do? Sit with the deputies in the hallway?"

"You create the fiction, Sandy."

"I'm listening."

"First, you tell her lawyer that your office has received an anonymous tip that Lance is in the market for a hit man. Do this at the end of your meeting today. By then, the guy will be shell-shocked and he'll believe anything you say. Tell him you plan to meet with the cops and discuss this. He'll no doubt call his client, who'll deny it vehemently. But her credibility with him will be shot. Trudy will recoil at the very idea that someone else suspects she and Lance have entertained such thoughts. Then, meet with the Sheriff and the FBI and tell the same story. Tell them why you're worried about my safety. Insist that they chat with Trudy and Lance about these rumors. I know her very well, Sandy. She'll sacrifice Lance to keep the money, but not if there's the chance she'll get caught too. If the cops are suspicious now, she'll back off."

"You've given this some thought. Anything else?"

"Yes. The last thing you do is leak it to the press. You need to find a reporter-"

"That shouldn't be hard to do."

"One that you can trust."

"Much harder."

"Not really. I've been reading the papers, and I have a couple of names for you. Check them out. Find one you like. Tell him to print the rumors, off the record, and in return you'll give him first shot at the real stories. That's the way these guys operate. Tell him the Sheriff is investigating reports of the wife attempting to procure the services of a contract killer so she can keep the money. He'll eat it up. He won't have to validate the story. Hell, they print rumors all the time."

Sandy finished his notes and marveled at his client's preparation. He closed his file, tapped it with his pen, and asked, "How much of this stuff do you have?"



"I'd guess fifty pounds. It's been locked in a mini-storage in Mobile ever since I disappeared."

"What else is there?"

"More dirt."

"On who?"

"My former partners. And others. We'll get to it later."


"Soon, Sandy."

TRUDY'S LAWYER, J. Murray Riddleton, was a jovial, thick-necked man of sixty who specialized in two types of law: big, nasty divorces, and financial advice aimed at cheating the government. He was a quick study in contrasts; successful but badly dressed, intelligent but plain-faced, smiling but vicious, mild-spoken but sharp-tongued. His large office in downtown Mobile was strewn with long neglected files and out-of-date law books. He politely welcomed Sandy, indicated a chair, and offered a drink. It was, after all, a few minutes after five. Sandy declined, and J. Murray drank nothing.

"So how's our boy?" J. Murray asked, flashing teeth.

"That would be?"

"Come on. Our boy Patrick. Have you found the money yet?"

"Didn't know I was looking for any."

J. Murray found this hilarious and laughed a few seconds. There was no doubt in his mind that he was thoroughly in control of this meeting. The cards were heavily stacked on his side of the desk.

"I saw your client on TV last night," Sandy said. "That sleazy tabloid, what's it called?"

" 'Inside Journal.' Wasn't she marvelous? And the little girl, what a doll. Those poor people."

"My client would like to request that your client refrain from any further public comment about their marriage and divorce."

"Your client can kiss my client's ass. And you can kiss mine."

"I'll pass, as will my client."

"Look, son, I'm a First Amendment hawk. Say anything. Do anything. Publish anything. It's all protected right there by the Constitution." He pointed to a wall of cobwebbed law books next to his window. "Request denied. My client has the right to go public with anything she wants, anytime she wants. She's been humiliated by your client, and now faces a very uncertain future."

"Fair enough. Just wanted to clear the air."

"Is it clear enough?"

"Yes. Now, we really have no problems with your client's desire to get a divorce, and she can have custody of the child."

"Gee thanks. You guys are being generous."

"In fact, my client has no plans to seek visitation rights with the child."

"Smart man. After abandoning the child for four years, he'd be hard-pressed to see her."

"There is another reason," Sandy said, as he opened the file and picked out the DNA test. He handed a copy across to J. Murray, who had stopped smiling and was squinting at the papers.

"What's this?" he asked suspiciously.

"Why don't you read it?" Sandy said.

J. Murray yanked his reading glasses from a coat pocket, and stuck them to his rather round head. He pushed the report away, got it just right, then read it slowly. He glanced up with a blank look after page one, and his buoyant shoulders sagged a bit at the end of page two.

"Disastrous, isn't it?" Sandy said when J. Murray had finished.

"Don't patronize me. I'm sure this can be explained."

"I'm sure it cannot. Under Alabama law, the DNA is conclusive proof. Now, I'm not quite the First Amendment hawk you are, but if this got published it would be very embarrassing for your client. Imagine, having someone else's child while pretending to be happily married to another. Wouldn't play well along the Coast, I'm afraid."

"Publish it," J. Murray said, with no conviction. "I don't care."

"Better check with your client first."

"It's insignificant, under our law. Even if she committed adultery, he continued to live with her after he knew. Therefore, he accepted it. He's barred from using it as grounds for divorce."

"Forget the divorce. She can have that. Forget the kid too."

"Oh, I see then. It's extortion. She releases her claim to his assets, and he doesn't go public."

"Something like that."

"Your client's crazy as hell and so are you." J. Murray's cheeks turned red and his fists clenched for a second.

Sandy, coolly, flipped through the file and extracted the next bit of damage. He slid a report across the desk.

"What is it?" J. Murray demanded.

"Read it."

"I'm tired of reading."

"Okay, it's a report by the private detective who followed your client and her boyfriend for a year prior to my client's disappearance. They were together, alone, at various places but primarily at my client's home, indoors, and we presume in bed, on at least sixteen occasions."

"Big deal."

"Check these out," Sandy said, and flung two eight-by-ten color photos, two of the nude ones, on top of the report. J. Murray glanced, then grabbed them for a more in-depth study.

Sandy decided to be helpful. "Those were taken by the pool at my client's home while he was attending a seminar in Dallas. Recognize anyone?"

J. Murray managed a slight grunt.

"There are many more," Sandy promised, then waited for J. Murray to stop his gawking. "And I also have three other reports from private detectives. Seems my client was quite suspicious."

Before Sandy's eyes, J. Murray was transformed from a hard-nosed advocate to a soulful mediator, a chameleon-like conversion common among lawyers who suddenly found themselves stripped of ammunition. He exhaled heavily, defeated, and sat low in his leather swivel, "They never tell us everything, do they," he said. It was suddenly us versus them. Lawyers versus their clients. He and Sandy were really together now, and what were they to do?

Sandy, though, was not ready for the tag team. "Again, I'm not the First Amendment hawk you claim to be, but if these found their way into the tabloids, then it sure would be embarrassing for Trudy."

J. Murray waved him off and glanced at his watch. "Sure you don't want a drink?"

"I'm sure."

"What's your boy got?"

"I honestly don't know, yet. And that's not the important question. What matters is what he will have left when the dust settles, and right now no one knows."

"Surely he's got most of the ninety million."

"He's being sued for much more than that. Not to mention the possibility of a long prison sentence and maybe an execution. This divorce, Mr. Riddleton, is the least of his worries."

"Then why are you threatening us?"

"He wants her to shut up, to get her divorce and go away, and to release all future claims against him. He wants it done now."

"If not?" J. Murray loosened his tie and sunk an inch lower. The day was suddenly late; he needed to go home. He thought for a long minute, then said, "She'll lose everything, does he know that? The life insurance company will wipe her out."

"There are no winners here, Mr. Riddleton."

"Let me speak to her."

Sandy gathered his things and made a slow retreat to the door. J. Murray managed another sad smile, and just as they were shaking hands to depart, Sandy, as if he had almost forgotten it, mentioned the anonymous tip his office had received in New Orleans about Lance searching for a hit man. He didn't know if he believed it, but he felt compelled to discuss it with the Sheriff and the FBI anyway.

They discussed it briefly. Riddleton promised to mention it to his client.