The Brethren - Page 26

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Chapter Twenty-Six

There were two types of phones at Trumble; secured and unsecured. In theory, all calls made on unsecured lines were taped and subject to review by little elves in a booth somewhere who did nothing but listen to a million hours of useless chatter. In reality, about half the calls were actually taped, at random, and only about 5 percent were ever heard by anybody working for the prison. Not even the federal government could hire enough elves to handle all the listening.


Drug dealers had been known to direct their gangs from unsecured lines. Mafia bosses had been known to order hits on their rivals. The odds were very high against getting caught.


The secured lines were fewer in number, and by law could not be wired for surveillance. The secured calls went only to lawyers, and always with a guard posted nearby.


When Spicer's turn finally came to make a secured call, the guard had drifted away.


"Law office," came the rude hello from the free world.


"Yes, this is Joe Roy Spicer, calling from the Trumble prison, and I need to speak with Trevor."


"He's asleep:"


It was 1:30 p.m. "Then wake the sonofabitch up,"


Spicer growled.


"Hang on."


"Would you please hurry? I'm on a prison phone."


Joe Roy glanced around and wondered, not for the first time, what kind of lawyer they'd crawled in bed with.


"Why are you calling?" were Trevor's first words.


"Never mind. Wake your ass up and get to work. We need something done quickly"


By now, the rental across from Trevor's office was buzzing. This was the fast call firm Trumble.


"What is it?"


"We need a box checked out. Quickly. And we want you to go supervise it. Don't leave until it's finished."


Why me.


"Just do it, darnmit, okay? This could be the biggest one yet."


"Where is it?"


"Chevy Chase, Maryland. Write this down. Al Konyers, Box 455, Mailbox America, 39380 Western Avenue, Chevy Chase. Be very careful because this guy could have some friends, and there's a good chance someone else is already watching the box. Take some cash and hire a couple of good investigators."


"I'm pretty busy around here."


"Yeah, sorry I woke you up. Do it now, Trevor. Leave today. And don't come back until you know who rented the box."


"All right, all right."


Spicer hung up, and Trevor put his feet back on his desk and appeared to return to his nap. But he was just contemplating matters. A moment later he yelled for Jan to check the flights to Washington.


In fourteen years as a field supervisor, Klockner had never seen so many people watch one person do so little. He made a quick call to Deville at Langley, and the rental sprang into action. It was time for the Wes and Chap show.


Wes walked across the street and entered the creaking and peeling door of Mr. L. Trevor Carson, Attorney and Counselor-at-Law Wes was dressed in khakis and a pullover knit, loafers, no socks, and when Jan offered him her customary sneer she couldn't tell if he was a native or a tourist. "What can I do for you?" she asked.


"I really need to see Mr. Carson;' Wes said with an air of desperation.


"Do you have an appointment?" she asked, as if her boss was so busy she couldn't keep track of his meetings.


"Well, no, it's sort of an emergency."


"He's very busy;" she said, and Wes could almost hear the laughter from the rental.


"Please, I've got to talk to him."


She rolled her eyes and didn't budge. "What kind of matter is it?"


"I've just buried my wife;' he said, on the verge of tears, and Jan finally cracked a bit. "I'm very sorry," she said. Poor guy.


"She was killed in a car wreck on I-95, just north of Jacksonville."


Jan was standing now and wishing she'd made fresh coffee. "I'm so sorry;" she said. "When did this happen?"


"Twelve days ago. A friend recommended Mr. Carson."


Not much of a friend, she wanted to say. "Would you like some coffee?" she asked, putting the top on her nail polish. Twelve days ago, she thought. Like all good legal secretaries, she read the newspapers with a keen eye on the accidents. Who knows, one might walk in the door.


Never Trevor's door. Until now.


"No, thanks;" Wes said. "She was hit by a Texaco truck. The driver was drunk."


"Oh my god!" she exclaimed, hand over her mouth. Even Trevor could handle this one.


Serious money, big fees, right here in the reception area, and that fool back there snoring off his lunch.


"He's in a deposition;" she said. "Let me see if I can disturb him. Please have a seat." She wanted to lock the front door so he couldn't escape.


"The name's Yates. Yates Newman," he said, trying to help her.


"Oh yes," she said, racing down the hall. She knocked politely on Trevor's door, then stepped inside. "Wake up, asshole!" she hissed through clenched teeth, loud enough for Wes to hear up front.


"What is it?" Trevor said, standing, ready for a fistfight. He wasn't sleeping after all. He'd been reading an old People.


"Surprise! You have a client."


"Who is it?"


"A man whose wife got run over by a Texaco truck twelve days ago. He wants to see you right now"


"He's here?"


"Yep. Hard to believe, isn't it? Three thousand lawyers in Jacksonville and this poor guy falls through the cracks. Said a friend recommended you."


"What'd you tell him?"


"I told him he needed to find new friends."


"No, really, what did you tell him?"


"That you're in a deposition."


"I haven't had a deposition in eight years. Send him back."


"Be cool. I'll make him some coffee. Act like you're finishing some important stuff back here. Why don't you straighten this place up?"


"You just make sure he can't get out:"


"The Texaco driver was drunk;" she said, opening the door. "Don't screw this up."


Trevor froze, slack jawed, glassy-eyed, his deadened mind suddenly springing to life. One third of $2 million, $4 million, hell, $10 million if he was really drunk and punitive damages kicked in. He wanted to at least straighten his desk, but he couldn't move.


Wes stared out the front window, stared at the rental, where his buddies were staring at him. He kept his back to the ruckus down the hall because he was struggling to keep a straight face. Footsteps, then Jan said, "Mr. Carson will see you in just a moment."


"Thanks;" he said softly, without turning around.


Poor guy's still grieving, she thought, then walked to the dirty kitchen to make coffee.


The deposition was over in a flash, and the other participants miraculously vanished without a trace. Wes followed her down the hall to Mr. Carson's cluttered office. Introductions were made. She brought them flesh coffee, and when she was finally gone, Wes made an unusual request.


"Is there any place to get a strong latte around here?"


"Why, certainly, yes, of course," Trevor said, the words jumping across the desk. "There's a place called Beach Java just a few blocks away"


"Could you send her to get me one?"


Absolutely. Anything!


"Yes, of course. Tall or grande?"


"Tall's fine."


Trevor bounced out of his office, and a few seconds later Jan hit the front door and practically ran down the street. When she was out of sight, Chap left the rental and walked to Trevor's. The front door was locked, so he opened it with a key of his own. Inside, he latched the chain, so poor Jan would be stuck on the porch with a cup of scalding latte.


Chap eased down the hall and made a sudden entrance into the lawyer's office.


"Excuse me,"Trevor said.


"It's okay,"Wes said. "He's with me."


Chap closed and locked the door, then he yanked a 9-millimeter pistol from his jacket and almost pointed it at poor Trevor, whose eyes bulged and heart froze.


"What-" he managed to emit in a high-pitched painful voice.


"Just shut up, okay," said Chap, handing the pistol to Wes, who was sitting. Trevor's wild eyes followed it from one to the other, then it disappeared. What have I done? Who are these thugs? All my gambling debts are paid.


He was very happy to shut up. Whatever they wanted.


Chap leaned on the wall, pretty damned close to Trevor, as if he might lunge at any moment. "We have a client;" he began. "A wealthy man, who has been snagged in the little scam run by you and Ricky"


"Oh my god;" Trevor mumbled. His worst nightmare.


"It's a wonderful idea," Wes said. "Extorting from rich gay men who are still hiding in the closet. They can't complain. Ricky's already in prison, so what does he have to lose?"


"Almost perfect," Chap said. "Until you hook the wrong fish, which is exactly what you've done."


"It's not my scam," Trevor said, his voice still two octaves above normal, his eyes still searching for the pistol.


"Yes, but it wouldn't work without you, would it?" Wes asked. "There has to be a crooked lawyer on the outside to shuttle mail. And Ricky needs someone to direct the money and do a little investigative work."


"You're not cops, are you?"Trevor asked.


"No. We're private thugs," Chap said.


"Because if you're cops then I'm not sure I wanna talk anymore."


"We're not cops, okay"


Trevor was breathing and thinking again, the breathing going much faster than the thinking, but his training kicked in. "I think I'll record this;' he said. "Just in case you're cops:"


"I said we're not cops."


"I don't trust cops, especially the FBI. The fibbies would walk in here just like the two of you, wave a gun around, and swear that they weren't fibbies. I just don't like cops. I think I'll get this on tape."


Don't worry, pal, they wanted to say. It was all being recorded, live and in high-density digital color from a tiny camera in the ceiling a few feet behind where they were sitting. And there were mikes planted all around Trevor's littered desk so that when he snored or burped or even cracked his knuckles somebody across the street heard it.


The pistol was back. Wes held it with both hands and examined it carefully.


"You're not recording anything," Chap said. "As I told you, we're private boys. And we're calling the shots right now" He took a step closer along the wall. Trevor watched him with one eye, and with the other helped Wes examine the pistol.


"In fact, we come in peace;" Chap said.


"We have some money for you;"Wes said, and put the damned thing away again.


"Money for what?"Trevor asked.


"We want you on our side. We want to retain your services."


"To do what?"


"To help us protect our client," Chap said. "Here's the way we see it.You're a conspirator in an extortion scheme operating from inside a federal prison, and you've been discovered by us.We could go to the feds, get you and your client busted, you'd be sent away for thirty months, probably to Trumble, where you'd fit right in. You'd be automatically disbarred, which means you'd lose all this." Chap casually waved his right hand, dismissing the clutter and dust and heaps of old files untouched in years.


Wes jumped right in. "We're prepared to go to the feds right now, and we could probably stop the mail out of Trumble. Our client would probably be spared any embarrassment. But there's an element of risk our client is not willing to take.What if Ricky has another cohort, either inside or out of Trumble, somebody we haven't found yet, and he somehow manages to expose our client in retaliation?"


Chap was already shaking his head. "Its too risky. We'd rather work with you, Trevor. We'd rather buy you off, and kill the scam from this office."


"I cannot be bought,"Trevor said with only a trace of conviction.


"Then we'll lease you for a while, how about that?" Wes said. "Aren't all lawyers leased by the hour anyway?"


"I suppose, but you're asking me to sell out a client."


"Your client is a felon who's committing crimes every day from inside a federal prison. And you're just as guilty as he is. Let's not get too sanctimonious here."


"When you become a criminal, Trevor;" Chap said gravely, "you lose the privilege of being self-righteous. Don't preach to us. We know it's just a question of how much money."


Trevor forgot about the gun for a moment, and he forgot -about his law license hanging on the wall behind him, slightly crooked. As he so often did these days when faced with yet another unpleasantry from the practice of law, he closed his eyes and dreamed of his forty-foot schooner, anchored in the warm, still waters of a secluded bay, topless girls on the beach a hundred yards away, and himself barely clad, sipping a beverage on the deck. He could smell the salt water, feel the gentle breeze, taste the rum, hear the girls.


He opened his eyes and tried to focus on Wes across the desk. "Who is your client?" he asked.


"Not so fast;" Chap said. "Let's cut the deal first."


"What deal?"


"We give you some money, and you work as a double agent. We get access to everything. We wire you when you talk to Ricky. We see all the mail.You don't make a move until we discuss it."


"Why don't you just pay the extortion money?" Trevor asked. "It'd be a whole lot easier."


"We've thought of that," Wes said. "But Ricky doesn't play fair. If we paid him, then he'd come back for more. And more."


"No, he wouldn't."


"Really? What about Quince Garbe in Bakers, Iowa?"


Oh my god, thought Trevor, and he almost said it aloud. How much do they know? All he could manage was a very weak "Who's he?"


"Come on, Trevor;" Chap said. "We know where the money is hidden in the Bahamas. We know about Boomer Realty, and about your little account, currently with a balance of almost seventy thousand bucks."


"We've dug as far as we can dig, Trevor," Wes said, jumping in with perfect timing. Trevor was watching tennis, back and forth, back and forth. "But we've finally hit a rock.That's why we need you."


Truthfully, Trevor had never liked Spicer. He was a cold, ruthless, nasty little man who'd had the gall to cut Trevor's percentage. Beech and Yarber were okay, but what the hell. It wasn't as if Trevor had a lot of choices here. "How much?" he asked.


"Our client is prepared to pay a hundred thousand dollars, cash," Chap said.


"Of course it's cash;" Trevor replied. "A hundred thousand is a joke. That would be Ricky's first installment. Myself-respect is worth a helluva lot more than a hundred thousand."


"Two hundred thousand;"Wes said.


"Let's do it this way"Trevor said, trying to willfully suppress his racing heart. "How much is it worth to your client to have his little secret buried?"


"And you're willing to bury it?"Wes asked.


"Yep."


"Give me a second," Chap said, yanking a tiny phone from his pocket. He punched numbers as he opened the door and stepped into the hallway, then mumbled several sentences Trevor could barely hear.


Wes stared at a wall, the gun lying peacefully bide his chair. Trevor couldn't see it, though he tried.


Chap returned and stared hard at Wes, as if his eyebrows and wrinkles could somehow deliver a crucial message. In the brief hesitation, Trevor rushed in. "I think it's worth a million bucks," he said. "It could be my last case. You're asking me to divulge confidential client information, a rather egregious act for a lawyer. It would get me disbarred in an instant."


Disbarment would be a step up for old Trevor, but Wes and Chap let it pass. Nothing good could come from an argument about how valuable his law license might be.


"Our client will pay a million dollars," Chap said.


And Trevor laughed. He couldn't help it. He cackled as if he'd just heard the perfect punch line, and across the street in the rental they laughed because Trevor was laughing.


Trevor managed to control himself. He stopped chuckling but couldn't wipe off the smile. A million bucks. Cash. Tax-free. Hidden offshore, in another bank, of course, away from the clutches of the IRS and every other branch of the government.


Then he managed to arrange a lawyerly frown, a little embarrassed that he'd reacted so unprofessionally He was about to say something important when three sharp raps on glass came from the front. "Oh yes," he said. "That would be the coffee."


"She's gotta go," Chap said.


"I'll send her home;" Trevor said, standing for the first time, a little light-headed.


"No. Permanently. Get her out of the office."


"How much does she know?"Wes asked.


"She's dumb as a rock,"Trevor said happily.


"It's part of the deal;" Chap said. "She goes, and now. We have a lot to discuss, and we don't want her around."


The knocking grew louder. Jan had unlocked the door but was caught by the security chain. "Trevor! It's me!" she shouted through the two-inch crack.


Trevor walked slowly down the hall, scratching his head, searching for words. He came face to face with her through the window of the front door, and he looked very confused.


"Open up;" she growled. "This coffee is hot."


"I want you to go home," he said.


"Why?"


"Why?"


"Yes, why?"


"Because, well, uh-" Words failed him for a second, then he thought of the money. Her exit was part of the deal. "Because you're fired;" he said.


"What?"


"I said you're fired!" he yelled, loud enough for his new pals in the back to hear.


"You can't fire me! You owe me too much money."


"I don't owe you a damned thing!"


"How about a thousand bucks in back salary !"


The windows of the rental were crowded with faces hidden by one-way shading. The voices echoed down the quiet street.


"You're crazy!"Trevor screamed. "I don't owe you a dime!"


"One thousand forty bucks, to be exact!"


"You're nuts."


"You sonofabitch! I stick with you for eight years, making minimum wage, then you fmally get the big case, and you fire me. Is that what you're doing, Trevor!?"


"Something like that! Now leave!"


"Open the door, you little coward!"


"Leave, Jan!"


"Not until I get my things!"


"Come back tomorrow. I'm meeting with Mr. Newman." With that, Trevor took a step back. When she saw he wasn't opening the door, she lost it. "You sonofabitch!" she screamed even louder, then hurled the tall latte at the door. The thin, rickety window shook but didn't break, and was instantly covered with creamy brown liquid.


Trevor, safe on the inside, flinched anyway and watched in horror as this woman he knew so well lost her mind She stormed away, red-faced and cursing, and took a few steps until a rock caught her attention. It was a remnant of along-forgotten, low-budget landscaping project he'd once okayed at her insistence. She grabbed it, gritted her teeth, cursed some more, then launched it toward the door.


Wes and Chap had done a masterful job of playing it straight, but when the rock crashed through the door window, they couldn't help but laugh. Trevor yelled, "You crazy bitch!" They laughed again and looked away from each other, trying gamely to tighten up.


Silence followed. Peace had broken out in and around the reception area.


Trevor appeared in the doorway of his office, unscathed, no visible injuries. "Sorry about that;' he said softly, and went to his chair.


"You okay?" Chap asked.


"Sure. No problem. How about plain coffee?" he asked Wes.


"Forget about it"


The details were hammered out during lunch, which Trevor insisted they enjoy at Pete's. They found a table in the back, near the pinball machines. Wes and Chap were concerned with privacy, but they soon realized that nobody listened because nobody conducted business at Pete's.


Trevor knocked down three longnecks with his french fries. They had soft drinks and burgers.


Trevor wanted all the money in hand before he betrayed his client. They agreed to deliver a hundred thousand cash that afternoon, and immediately start a wire transfer for the balance. Trevor demanded a different bank, but they insisted on keeping Geneva Trust in Nassau. They assured him their access was limited only to observing the account; they could not tamper with the funds. Besides, the money would arrive there by late afternoon. If they changed banks, then it might take a day or two. Both sides were anxious to complete the deal. Wes and Chap wanted full, immediate protection for their client. Trevor wanted his fortune. After three beers he was already spending it.


Chap left early to fetch the money.Trevor ordered a longneck to go, and they got into Wes' car for a ride around town.The plan was to meet Chap at some spot and take possession of the cash. As they rode south on Highway AlA, along the beach, Trevor began talking.


"Isn't it amazing," he said, his eyes hidden behind cheap sunglasses, his head back on the headrest.


"What's amazing?"


"The risks people are willing to take. Your client, for example. A rich man. He could hire all the young boys he wanted, yet he answers an ad in a gay magazine and starts writing letters to a complete stranger."


"I don't understand it," Wes said, and the two straight boys bonded for a second. "It's not my job to ask questions."


"I suppose the thrill is in the unknown,"Trevor said and took a small sip.


"Yeah, probably so. Who's Ricky?"


"I'll tell you when I get the money. Which one's your client?"


"Which one? How many victims are you working on right now?"


"Ricky's been busy lately. Probably twenty or so in the works."


"How many have you extorted?"


"Two or three. It's a nasty business."


"How'd you get involved?"


"I'm Ricky's lawyer. He's very bright, very bored, somehow he cooked up this scheme to put the squeeze on gays still in the closet. Against my better judgment, I signed on."


"Is he gay?" Wes asked. Wes knew the names of Beech's grandchildren. He knew Yarber's blood type.


He knew who Spicer's wife was dating back in Mississippi.


"No;" said Trevor.


"He's a sicko then."


"No, he's a nice guy. So who's your client?"


"Al Konyers."


Trevor nodded and tried to remember how many letters he'd handled between Ricky and Al. "What a coincidence. I was making plans to go to Washington to-do some background work on Mr. Konyers. Not his real name, of course."


"Of course not:'


"Do you know his real name?"


"No. We were hired by some of his people."


"How interesting. So none of us knows the real Al Konyers?"


"That's correct. And I'm sure it'll stay that way"


Trevor pointed to a convenience store and said, "Pull in there. I need a beer."


Wes waited near the gas pumps. It had been determined that they would not say anything about his drinking until the money changed hands and he'd told them everything. They would build some trust, then gently try to nudge him closer to sobriety. The last thing they needed was Trevor at Pete's every night, drinking and talking too much.


Chap was waiting in a matching rental car, in front of a Laundromat five miles south of Ponte Vedra Beach. He handed Trevor a thin, cheap briefcase and said, "It's all there. A hundred thousand. I'll meet you guys back at the office."


Trevor didn't hear him. He opened the briefcase and began counting the money. Wes turned around and headed north. Ten stacks of $10,000, all in $100 bills.


Trevor closed it, and crossed over to the other side.


***



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