The Brethren - Page 4

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Chapter Four

Teddy looked at his pill bottles lined along the edge of his table, like little executioners ready to take away his misery. York was seated across from him, reading from his notes.


York said, "He was on the phone until three this morning, talking to friends in Arizona."


"Who?"


"Bobby Lander, Jim Gallison, Richard Hassel, the usual gang. His money people."


"Dale Winer?"


"Yes, him too;" York said, amazed at Teddy's recall. Teddy had his eyes closed now, and was rubbing his temples. Somewhere between them, somewhere deep in his brain, he knew the names of Lake's friends, his contributors, his confidants, his poll workers, and his old high school teachers. All of it neatly tucked away, ready to be used if necessary.


"Anything unusual?"


"No, not really. Just the typical questions you'd expect from a man contemplating such an unexpected move. His friends were surprised, even shocked, and somewhat reluctant, but they'll come around."


"Did they ask about money?"


"Of course. He was vague, said it would not be a problem, though. They are skeptical."


"Did he keep our secrets?"


"He certainly did."


"Was he worried about us listening?"


"I don't think so. He made eleven calls from his office and eight from his home. None from his cell phones."


"Faxes? E-mail?"


"None. He spent two hours with Schiara, his-"


"Chief of staff."


"Right. They basically planned the campaign. Schiara wants to run it. They like Nance of Michigan as VE


"Not a bad choice."


"He looks fine. We're already checking him. Had a divorce when he was twenty-three, but that was thirty years ago"


"Not a problem. Is Lake ready to commit?"


"Oh yes. He's a politician, isn't he? He's been promised the keys to the kingdom. He's already writing speeches."


Teddy removed a pill from a bottle and swallowed it without the aid of anything liquid. He finwned as if it was bitter. He squeezed the wrinkles in his forehead and said, "York, tell me we're not missing anything on this guy. No skeletons."


"No skeletons, Chief. We've examined his dirty underwear for six months. There's nothing that can hurt us."


"He's not going to marry some fool; is he?"


"No. He dates several women, but nothing serious."


"No sex with his interns?"


"None. He's clean."


They were repeating a dialogue they'd had many times. Once more wouldn't hurt.


"No shady financial deals from another lifetime?"


"This is his life, Chief. There's nothing back there."


"Booze, drugs, prescription pills, gambling on the Internet?"


"No sir. He's very clean, sober, straight, bright, pretty remarkable."


"Let's talk to him."


Aaron Lake was once again escorted to the same room deep inside Langley, this time with three handsome young men guarding him as if danger lurked at every corner. He walked even quicker than the day before, his head even taller, his back without the slightest curve. His stature was rising by the hour.


Once again he said hello to Teddy and shook his calloused hand, then followed the quilt-laden wheelchair into the bunker and sat across the table. Pleasantries were exchanged. York watched from a room down the hall where three monitors hooked to hidden cameras relayed every word, every movement. Next to York were two men who spent their time studying tapes of people as they talked and breathed and moved their hands and eyes and heads and feet, in an effort to determine what the speakers really meant.


"Did you sleep much last night?" Teddy asked, managing a smile.


"Yes, actually," Lake lied.


"Good. I take it you're willing to accept our deal."


"Deal? I didn't know it was exactly a deal."


"Oh yes, Mr. Lake, it's exactly a deal. We promise to get you elected, and you promise to double defense spending and get ready for the Russians."


"Then you have a deal."


"That's good, Mr. Lake. I'm very pleased. You'll make an excellent candidate and a fine President."


The words rang through Lake's ears, and he couldn't believe them. President Lake. President Aaron Lake. He'd paced the floor until five that morning trying to convince himself that the White House was being offered to him. It seemed too easy.


And as hard as he tried, he couldn't ignore the trappings. The Oval Office. All those jets and helicopters. The world to be traveled. A hundred aides at his beck and call. State dinners with the most powerful people in the world.


And, above all, a place in history.


Oh yes, Teddy had himself a deal.


"Let's talk about the campaign itself," Teddy said. "I think you should announce two days after New Hampshire. Let the dust settle. Let the winners get their fifteen minutes and let the losers sling more mud, then announce."


"That's pretty fast," Lake said.


"We don't have a lot of time. We ignore New Hampshire and get ready for Arizona and Michigan on February twenty-second. It's imperative that you win those two states. When you do, you establish yourself as a serious candidate, and you're set for the month of March."


"I was thinking of announcing back home, somewhere in Phoenix."


"Michigan's better. It's a bigger state, fifty-eight delegates, compared to twenty-four for Arizona.You'll be expected to win at home. If you win in Michigan on the same day, then you're a candidate to be reckoned with. Announce in Michigan first, then do it again hours later in your home district."


"An excellent idea."


"There's a helicopter plant in Flint, D-L Trilling. They have a large hangar, four thousand workers. The CEO is a man I can talk to."


"Book it;" Lake said, certain that Teddy had already chatted with the CEO.


"Can you start filming ads day after tomorrow?"


"I can do anything;" Lake said, settling into the passenger's seat. It was becoming obvious who was driving the bus.


"With your approval, we'll hire an outside consulting group to front the ads and publicity. But we have better people here, and they won't cost you anything. Not that money will be a problem, you understand."


"I think a hundred million should cover things."


"It should. Anyway, we'll start working on the TV ads today. I think you'll like them. They're total gloom and doom-the miserable shape of our military, all sorts of threats from abroad. Armageddon, that sort of stuff. They'll scare the hell out of people. We'll plug in your name and face and a few brief words, and in notime you'll be the most famous politician in the country"


"Fame won't win the election."


"No, it won't. But money will. Money buys television and polls, and that's all it takes."


"I'd like to think the message is important."


"Oh, it is, Mr. Lake, and our message is far more important than tax cuts and affirmative action and abortion and trust and family values and all the other silliness we're hearing. Our message is life and death. Our message will change the world and protect our affluence. That's all we really care about."


Lake was nodding his agreement. Protect the economy, keep the peace, and American voters would elect anyone. "I have a good man to run the campaign," Lake said, anxious to offer something.


"Who?"


"Mike Schiara, my chief of staff. He's my closest adviser, a man I trust implicitly"


"Any experience on the national level?" Teddy asked, knowing full well there was none.


"No, but he's quite capable."


"That's fine. It's your campaign."


Lake smiled and nodded at the same time.That was good to hear. He was beginning to wonder.


"What about Vice President?"Teddy asked.


"I have a couple of names. Senator Nance of Michigan is an old friend. There's also Governor Guyce from Texas."


Teddy received the names with careful deliberation. Not bad selections, really, though Guyce would never work. He was a rich boy who'd skated through college and golfed through his thirties, then spent a fortune of his father's money to purchase the governor's mansion for four years. Besides, they wouldn't have to worry about Texas.


"I like Nance,"Teddy said.


Then Nance it would be, Lake almost said.


They talked about money for an hour, the first wave from the PAC's and how to accept instant millions without creating too much suspicion. Then the second wave from the defense contractors. Then the third wave of cash and other untraceables.


There'd be a fourth wave Lake would never know about. Depending on the polls,Teddy Maynard and his organization would be prepared to literally haul boxes filled with cash into union halls and black churches and white VFW's in places like Chicago and Detroit and Memphis and throughout the Deep South. Working with locals they were already identifying, they would be prepared to buy every vote they could find.


The more Teddy pondered his plan, the more convinced he became that the election would be won by Mr. Aaron Lake.


Trevor's little law office was in Neptune Beach, several blocks from Atlantic Beach, though no one could tell where one beach stopped and the other started. Jacksonville was several miles to the west and creeping toward the sea every minute. The office was a converted summer rental, and fiiom his sagging back porch Revor could see the beach and the ocean and hear the seagulls. Hard to believe he'd been renting the place for twelve years now. Early in the lease he'd enjoyed hiding on the porch, away from the phone and the clients, staring endlessly at the gentle waters of the Atlantic two blocks away.


He was from Scranton, and like all snowbirds, he'd finally grown weary of gazing at the sea, roaming the beaches barefoot, and throwing bread crumbs to the birds. Now he preferred to waste time locked in his office.


Trevor was terrified of courtrooms and judges. While this was unusual and even somewhat honorable, it made for a different style of lawyering. It relegated Trevor to paperwork-real estate closings, wills, leases, zoning-all the mundane, nondazzling, small-time areas of the profession no one told him about in law school. Occasionally he handled a drug case, never one involving a trial, and it was one of his unfortunate clients at Trumble who'd connected him with the Honorable Joe Roy Spicer. In short order he'd become the official attorney for all dime-Spicer, Beech, and Yarber. The Brethren, as even Trevor referred to them.


He was a courier, nothing more or less. He smuggled them letters disguised as official legal documents and thus protected by the lawyer-client privilege. And he sneaked their letters out. He gave them no advice, and they sought none. He ran their bank account offshore and handled phone calls from the families of their clients inside Trumble. He fronted their dirty little deals, and in doing so avoided courtrooms and judges and other lawyers, and this suited Trevor just fine.


He was also a member of their conspiracy, easily indictable should they ever be exposed, but he wasn't worried. The Angola scam was absolutely brilliant because its victims couldn't complain. For an easy fee with potential rewards, he'd gamble with the Brethren.


He eased from his office without seeing his secretary, then sneaked away in his restored 1970 V W Beetle, no air-conditioning. He drove down First Street toward Atlantic Boulevard, the ocean visible through homes and cottages and rentals. He wore old khakis, a white cotton shirt, a yellow bow tie, a blue seersucker jacket, all of it heavily wrinkled. He passed Pete's Bar and Grill, the oldest watering hole along the beaches and his personal favorite even though the college kids had discovered the place. He had an outstanding and very past-due bar tab there of $361, almost all for Coors longnecks and lemon daiquiris, and he really wanted to clear the debt.


He turned west on Atlantic Boulevard, and began fighting the traffic into Jacksonville. He cursed the sprawl and the congestion and the cars with Canadian plates. Then he was on the bypass, north past the airport and soon deep into the flat Florida countryside.


Fifty minutes later he parked at Trumble.You gotta love the federal system, he told himself again. Lots of parking dose to the fiont entrance, nicely landscaped grounds tended daily by the inmates, and modern, well-kept buildings.


He said, "Hello, Mackey," to the white guard at the door, and "Hello,Vince," to the black one. Rufus at the front desk X-rayed the briefcase while Nadine did the paperwork for his visit. "How're the bass?" he asked Rufus.


"Ain't biting," Rufus said.


No lawyer in the brief history of Trumble had visited as much as Trevor. They took his picture again, stamped the back of his hand with invisible ink, and led him through two doors and a short hallway. "Hello, Link," he said to the next guard.


"Mornin, Trevor;" Link said. Link ran the visitors' area, a large open space with lots of padded chairs and vending machines against one wall, a playground for youngsters, and a small outdoor patio where two people could sit at a picnic table and share a moment. It was cleaned and shined and completely empty. It was a weekday. Traffic picked up on Saturdays and Sundays, but for the rest of the time Link observed an empty area.


They went to the lawyers' room, one of several, private cubbyholes with doors that shut and windows through which Link could do his observing, if he were so inclined. Joe Roy Spicer was waiting and reading the daily sports section where he played the odds on college basketball. Trevor and Link stepped into the room together, and very quickly Trevor removed two twenty-dollar bills and handed them to Link. The closed-circuit cameras couldn't see them if they did this just inside the door. As part of the routine, Spicer pretended not to see the transaction.


Then the briefcase was opened and Link made a pretense of looking through it. He did this without touching a thing. Trevor removed a large manila envelope which was sealed and marked in bold "Legal Papers." Link took it and squeezed it to make sure it held only papers and not a gun or a bottle of pills, then he gave it back. They'd done this dozens of times.


Trumble regulations required a guard to be present in the room when all papers were removed and all envelopes were opened. But the two twenties got Link outside where he posted himself at the door because there was simply nothing else to guard at the moment. He knew letters were being passed back and forth, and he didn't care. As long as Trevor didn't traffic in weapons or drugs, Link wouldn't get involved. The place had so many silly regulations anyway. He leaned on the door, with his back to it, arid before long was drifting into one of his many horse naps, one leg stiff, the other bent at the knee.


In the lawyers' room, little legal work was being done. Spicer was still absorbed in point spreads. Most inmates welcomed their guests. Spicer only tolerated his.


"Got a call last night from the brother of Jeff .Daggett ;" Trevor said. "The kid from Coral Gables."


"I know him," Spicer said; finally lowering his newspaper because money was on the horizon. "He got twelve years in a drug conspiracy."


"Yep. His brother says that there's this ex-federal judge inside Trumble who's looked over his papers and thinks he might be able to knock off a few years. This judge wants a fee, so Daggett calls his brother, who calls me." Trevor removed his rumpled blue seersucker jacket and flung it on a chair. Spicer hated his bow tie.


"How much can they pay?"


"Have you guys quoted a fee?"Trevor asked.


"Beech may have, I don't know. We try to get five thousand for a two-two-five-five reduction." Spicer said this as if he had practiced criminal law in the federal courts for years. Truth was, the only time he'd actually seen a federal courtroom was the day he was sentenced.


"I know," Trevor said. "I'm not sure they can pay five thousand. The kid had a public defender for a lawyer."


"Then squeeze whatever you can, but get at least a thousand up front. He's not a bad kid."


"You're getting soft, Joe Roy."


"No. I'm getting meaner."


And in fact he was. Joe Roy was. the managing partner of the Brethren. Yarber and Beech had the talent and the training, but they'd been too humiliated by their fall to have any ambition. Spicer, with no training and little talent, possessed enough manipulative skills to keep his colleagues on track. While they brooded, he dreamed of his comeback.


Joe Roy opened a file and withdrew a check. "Here's a thousand bucks to deposit. Came from a pen pal in Texas named Curtis."


"What's his potential?"


"Very good, I think. We're ready to bust Quince in Iowa." Joe Roy withdrew a pretty lavender envelope, tightly sealed and addressed to Quince Garbe in Bakers, Iowa.


"How much?"Trevor asked, taking the envelope.


,:A hundred thousand." Wow"


"He's got it, and he'll pay it. I've given him the wiring instructions. Alert the bank."


In twenty-three years of practicing law, Trevor had never earned a fee anywhere close to $33,000. Suddenly, he could see it, touch it, and, though he tried not to, he began spending it $33,000 for doing nothing but shuttling mail.


"You really think this will work?" he asked, mentally paying off the tab at Pete's Bar and telling MasterCard to take this check and shove it. He'd keep the same car, his beloved Beetle, but he might spring for an air conditioner.


"Of course it will," Spicer said, without a trace of doubt.


He had two more letters, both written by justice Yarber posing as young Percy in rehab. Trevor took them with anticipation.


"Arkansas is at Kentucky tonight," Spicer said, returning to his newspaper. "The line is fourteen. Whatta you think?"


"Much closer than that. Kentucky is very tough at home."


"Are you in?"


"Are you"


Trevor had a bookie at Pete's Bar, and though he gambled little he had learned to follow the lead of justice Spicer.


"I'll put a hundred on Arkansas," Spicer said.


"I think I will too."


They played blackjack for half an hour, with Link occasionally glancing in and frowning his disapproval. Cards were prohibited during visitation, but who cared? Joe Roy played the game hard because he was training for his next career. Poker and gin rummy were the favorites in the rec room, and Spicer often had trouble finding a blackjack opponent.


Trevor wasn't particularly good, but he was always willing to play. It was, in Spicer's opinion, his only redeeming quality.


***



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