The Jacksonville paper arrived at Trumble each morning around seven. Four copies were taken to the game room where they were to be read and left behind for any of the inmates who cared about life on the outside. Most of the time Joe Roy Spicer was the only one waiting at seven, and he usually took one paper for himself because he needed to study the Vegas lines throughout the day. The scene rarely changed: Spicer with a tall Styrofoam cup of coffee, feet on a card table, waiting for Roderick the guard to bring the papers.
So Spicer saw the story first, at the bottom of the front page. Trevor Carson, a local lawyer who'd been missing for some vague reason, found dead outside a hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, shot twice in the head last night, just after dark. The story had no picture of Trevor, Spicer noticed.Why would the paper have one on file? Why would anyone care if Trevor died?
According to Jamaican officials, Carson was a tourist who'd apparently been robbed. An unidentified source close to the scene had tipped the police as to the identity of Mr. Carson, since his wallet was missing. The source seemed to know a lot.
The paragraph recapping Trevor's legal career was quite brief.A former secretary,Jan something or other, had no comment. The story had been thrown together, and placed on the front page only because the victim was a murdered lawyer.
Finn was at the far end of the track, rounding the turn, walking at a rapid clip in the damp early morning air, his shirt already off. Spicer waited at the homestretch, and handed him the paper without a word.
They found Beech waiting in line in the cafeteria, holding his plastic tray and staring forlornly at the crude piles of freshly scrambled eggs. They sat together in a corner, away from everyone else, picking at their food, talking in muted voices.
"If he was running, who the hell was he running from?...
"Maybe Lake was after him."
"He didn't know it was Lake. He didn't have a clue, did he?"
"Okay, then he was running from Konyers. The last time he was here he said Konyers was the big one. He said Konyers knew about us, then he disappeared the next day"
"Maybe he was just scared. Konyers confronted him, threatened to expose his role in our scam, and so Trevor, who wasn't the most stable guy to begin with, decided to steal all he could and disappear."
"Whose money was missing, that's what I want to know"
"Nobody knows about our money. How could it be missing?"
"Trevor probably stole from everybody he could, then vanished. Happens all the time. Lawyers get in trouble, crack up. They raid their clients' trust funds and bolt."
"Really?" asked Spicer.
Beech could think of three examples, and Yarber added a couple more for good measure.
"So who killed him?"
"There's a good chance he was just in the wrong part of town."
"Outside the Sheraton Hotel? I don't think so."
"Okay, what if Konyers iced him?"
"That's possible. Konyers somehow smoked out Trevor, learned he was the outside contact for Ricky. He put pressure on Trevor, threatened to nail him or whatever, and Trevor ran off to the Caribbean. Trevor didn't know Konyers was Aaron Lake."
"And Lake certainly has the money and power to track down a drunken lawyer."
"What about us? By now, Lake knows Ricky ain't Ricky, that Joe Roy here is the man, and that he has friends with him in prison."
"Question is, can he get to us?"
"I guess I'll find out first," Spicer said with a nervous laugh.
"And there's always the chance that Trevor was down there in Jamaica hanging around in the wrong part of town, probably drunk and trying to pick up a woman, and he got himself shot."
They all agreed on this, that Trevor was perfectly capable of getting himself killed.
May he rest in peace. But only if he didn't steal their money.
They scattered for an hour or so. Beech went to the track, to walk and think. Yarber was on the clock, twenty cents an hour trying to fix a computer in the chaplain's office. Spicer went to the library, where he found Mr. Argrow reading law books.
The law library was open, no appointments were necessary, but the unwritten rule was that you should at least ask one of the Brethren before using their books. Argrow was new, and obviously had not yet learned the rules. Spicer decided to give him a break.
They acknowledged each other with a nod, then Spicer got busy clearing tables and straightening books.
"Rumor has it you guys do legal work;" Argrow said from across the room. No one else was present.
"You hear a lot of rumors around here."
"My case is on appeal."
"What happened at trial?"
"Jury nailed me on three counts of bank fraud, hiding money offshore, in the Bahamas. The judge gave me sixty months. I've served four. I'm not sure I'm gonna last for fifty-six more. I need some help with my appeals."
"Virgin Islands. I worked for a big bank in Miami. Lots of drug money."
Argrow was glib and fast and very anxious to talk, and this irritated Spicer, but only slightly. The reference to the Bahamas had his attention.
"For some reason, I . developed a fascination for money laundering. I dealt with tens of millions every day, and it was intoxicating. I could move dirty money quicker than any banker in South Florida. Still can. But I made some bad friends, and bad choices."
"You admit you're guilty?"
"That puts you in the distinct minority around here."
"No, I was wrong, but I think the sentence was too harsh. Somebody said you guys can get some time knocked off"
Spicer was no longer concerned with the untidy tables and disorganized books. He took a chair nearby and had time to talk. "We can take a look at your papers," he said, as if he'd handled a thousand appeals.
You idiot, Argrow wanted to say. You dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, and stole a car when you were nineteen.Your father pulled some strings and got the charges dropped. You got yourself elected justice of the Peace by voting dead people and stuffing absentee ballots, and now you're stuck in a federal pen and trying to play the big shot.
And, Argtow conceded, you, Mr. Spicer, now have the power to bring down the next President of the United States.
"What will it cost?"Argrow asked.
"How much do .you have?" Spicer asked, just like a real lawyer.
"I thought you knew how to hide money offshore." "Oh, I do, believe me. And at one point I had a nice bundle, but I let it get away"
"So you can't pay anything?"
"Not much. Maybe a couple of thousand or so."
"What about your lawyer?"
"He got me convicted. I don't have enough to hire a new one."
Spicer pondered the situation for a moment. He realized he did indeed miss Trevor. Things had been much simpler when they had him on the outside collecting money. "You still got contacts in the Bahamas?"
"I have contacts all over the Caribbean. Why?"
"Because you'll have to wire the money. Cash is forbidden around here."
"You want me to wire two thousand dollars?"
"No. I want you to wire five thousand dollars. That's our minimum fee."
"Where's your bank?"
"In the Bahamas."
Argrow's eyes narrowed. His eyebrows pushed together, and while he was deep in thought so was Spicer. The minds were in the process of meeting.
"Why the Bahamas?" Argxow asked.
"Same reason you used the Bahamas."
Thoughts rattled around in both heads. "Lemme ask you something," Spicer said. "You said you could move dirty money quicker than anybody else."
Argrow nodded and said, "No problem."
"Can you still do it?"
"You mean, from in here?"
"Yes. From here."
Argrow laughed and shrugged as if nothing could be easier. "Sure. I still have some friends."
"Meet me here in an hour. I might have a deal for you."
An hour later, Argrow returned to the law library and found the three judges already in position, behind a table with papers and law books scattered about as if the Supreme Court of Florida were in session. Spicer introduced him to Beech and Yarber, and he took a seat across the table. No one else was present.
They talked for a moment about his appeal, and he was sufficiently vague on the details. His file was en route from the other prison, and they couldn't do much without it.
The appeal was a preliminary topic of conversation, and both sides of the table knew it.
"Mr. Spicer tells us you're an expert on moving dirty money," Beech said.
"I was until I got caught," Argrow said modestly. "I take it you have some."
"We have a little account offshore, money we've earned doing legal work and a few other things we can't be too open about. As you know, we can't charge for legal work:"
"But we do anyway," added Yarber. "And we get paid for it."
"How much is in the account?" Argrow asked, knowing yesterday's closing balance to the exact penny.
"Let's wait on that," Spicer said. "There's a good chance the money may have disappeared."
Argrow let the words hang for a second, and managed to appear confused. "I'm sorry?" he said.
"We had a lawyer," Beech said slowly, each word measured. "He disappeared and he may have taken the money.
"I see. And this account is in a bank in the Bahamas?"
"It was. We're not sure if it still is."
"We doubt the money is still there;'Yarber added.
"But we'd like to know for sure," Beech added.
"Which bank?" Argrow asked.
"Geneva Trust, in Nassau;" Spicer answered, glancing at his colleagues.
Argrow .nodded smugly, as if he knew dark little dirty secrets about the bank.
"You know the bank?" Beech asked.
"Sure," he said, and let them hang for a long second.
"And?" Spicer said.
Argrow was overcome with smugness and insider knowledge, so he stood rather dramatically and walked around the small library for a moment, deep in thought, then moved closer to the table again. "Look, what do you guys want me to do? Let's cut to the chase."
The three looked at him, then at each other, and it was obvious they weren't sure of two things: (a) how much they trusted this man they'd just met, and (b) what they really wanted from him.
But they figured the money was gone anyway, so what was there to lose.Yarber said, "We're not too sophisticated when it comes to moving dirty money. That was not our original calling, you understand. Forgive our lack of knowledge, but is there any way to verify if the money is still where it once was?"
"We're just not sure if the lawyer stole it," Beech added.
"You want me to verify the balance of a secret account?" Argrow asked.
"Yes, that's it," saidYarber.
"We figure that maybe you still have some friends in the business,". Spicer said, treading water. "And we're just curious as to whether there's any way to do this."
"You're lucky;" Argrow said, and allowed the words to settle.
"How's that?" Beech asked.
"You picked the Bahamas."
"Actually, the lawyer picked the Bahamas," Spicer said.
"Anyway, the banks are pretty loose there. Lots of secrets get told. Lots of officials get bribed. Most of the serious money launderers stay away from the Bahamas. Panama is the current hot spot, and, of course, Grand Cayman is still rock solid."
Of course, of course, they all three nodded. Offshore was offshore, wasn't it? Just another example of trusting an idiot like Trevor.
Argrow watched them with their puzzled faces and thought how truly clueless they were. For three men with the ability to totally wreck the American electoral process, they seemed awfully naive.
"You haven't answered our question," Spicer said.
"Anything's possible in the Bahamas."
"So you can do it?"
"I can try. No guarantees."
"Here's the deal, " Spicer said. "You verify the account, and we'll do your appeals for free."
"That's not a bad deal;' Argrow said.
"We didn't think so. Agreed?"
For an awkward second they just looked at one another, proud of their mutual agreement but not sure who moved next. Finally, Argrow said, "I'll need to know something about the account."
"Such as?" Beech asked.
"Such as a name or a number."
"The account name is Boomer Realty, Ltd. The account number is 144-DXN-9593."
Argrow scribbled some notes on a sheet of scrap paper.
"Just curious;" Spicer said as they watched him closely. "How do you plan to communicate with your contacts outside?"
"Phone," Argrow said without looking up.
"Not these phones," Beech said.
"These phones are not secure,"Yarber said.
"You can't use these phones," Spicer said with an edge.
Argrow smiled and acknowledged their concerns, then he glanced over his shoulder and removed from his pants pocket an instrument of some sort, not much larger than a pocketknife. He held it between his thumb and index finger, and said, "This is a phone, gentlemen."
They stared in disbelief, then watched as he quickly unfolded it from the top and the bottom and from one side so that when properly opened it,still looked much too small for any meaningful conversation. "It's digital," he said. "Very secure."
"Who gets the monthly bill?" asked Beech.
"I have a brother in Boca Raton. The phone and the service were gifts from him." He snapped it back smartly, and it vanished before their eyes. Then he pointed to the small conference room behind them, to their chamber. "What's in there?" he asked.
"Just a conference room," Spicer said.
"It has no windows, right?"
"None, except for that small one in the door."
"All right. What if I go in there, get on the phone, and go to work.You three stay here and watch out for me. If anyone enters the library, come knock on the door."
The Brethren readily agreed, though they did not believe Argrow could pull it off.
The call went to the white van, parked a mile and a half from Trumble, on a gravel road sometimes maintained by the county. The road was next to a hay field, farmed by a man they'd yet to meet. The property line for the acreage owned by the federal government was a quarter of a mile away, but from where the van was sitting there was no sign of a prison.
Only two technicians were in the van, one fully asleep in the front seat, the other half asleep in the back with a headset on. When Argrow pressed the Send button on his fancy little gadget, a receiver in the van was activated, and both men came to life.
"Hello," he said. "This is Argrow"
"Yes, Argrow, Chevy One here, go ahead;" said the technician in the back.
"I'm near the three stooges, going through the motions, supposedly making calls to friends on the outside to verify the existence of their account offshore. So far things are progressing even faster than I'd hoped."
"Sounds like it."
"Roger. I'll check in later." He pushed the End button, but kept the phone at his head and appeared to be deep in conversation. He sat on the edge of the table, then he walked around some, glancing occasionally at the Brethren and beyond.
Spicer couldn't help but sneak a look through the window of the door. "He's making calls;" he said excitedly.
"What do you expect him to be doing?" asked Yarber, who was actually reading recent court decisions.
"Relax, Joe Roy," Beech said. "The money disappeared with Trevor."
Twenty minutes passed, and things became dull as usual. While Argrow worked the phones,- the judges killed time, waiting at first, then returning to more pressing business. It had been six days since Buster had left with their letter. No word from Buster meant he'd walked away clean, dropped off the note to Mr. Konyers, and was now somewhere far away. Give it three days to travel to Chevy Chase, and the way they had it figured Mr. Aaron Lake should now be scrambling with a plan to deal with them.
Prison had taught them patience. Only one deadline worried them. Lake had the nomination, which meant he would be vulnerable to their blackmail until November. If he won, they would have four years in which to torment him. But if he lost he would fade quickly away, like all the losers. "Where's Dukakis now?" Beech had asked.
They had no plans to wait until November. Patience was one thing, release was another. Lake was their one fleeting opportunity to walk away with enough money to coast forever.
They intended to give it a week, then write another letter to Mr. Al Konyers in Chevy Chase. They weren't sure how to smuggle it out, but they would think of something. Link, the guard up front whom Trevor had been bribing for months, was their first prospect.
Argrow's phone presented an option. "If he'll let us use it;" Spicer said, "then we can call Lake, call his campaign office, his congressional office, call every damned number we can get from directory assistance. Leave the message that Ricky in rehab really needs to see Mr. Lake. That'll scare the hell out of him."
"But Argrow will have a record of our calls, or at least his brother will,"Yarber said.
"So? We'll pay him for the calls, and so what if they know we're trying to call Aaron Lake. Right now, half the country is trying to call him. Argrow won't have a clue why we're doing it."
A brilliant idea, one they pondered for a long time. Ricky in rehab could make the calls and leave the messages. Spicer in Trumble could do the same. Poor Lake would get hounded.
Poor Lake. The man had money pouring in so fast he couldn't count it.
After an hour, Argrow emerged from the chamber and announced he was making progress, "I need to wait an hour, then make a few more calls," he said. "What about lunch?"
They were anxious to continue their discussion, and they did so over sloppy joes and coleslaw.