The Partner - Page 26

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DR. HAYANI began his morning rounds promptly at seven. Because Patrick had such trouble sleeping, he eased into his dark room each morning just for a peek. The patient was usually asleep, though later in the day he would often explain the ordeals of the night. This morning, Patrick was awake, and seated in a chair before the window. He wore only his white cotton boxers. He stared at the blinds closed tightly before him, stared at nothing because there was nothing to see. The dim light came from the table by his bed.

"Patrick, are you okay?" Hayani asked as he stood beside him.

He didn't answer. Hayani glanced down at the table in the corner where Patrick did his legal work. It was neat, with no books open or files out of place.

Finally, he said, "I'm fine, Doc."

"Did you sleep?"

"No. Not at all."

"You're safe now, Patrick. The sun is up."

He said nothing; didn't move or speak. Hayani left him as he found him, gripping the chair arms and watching the shades.

Patrick heard the pleasant voices in the hallway, the doc speaking again to the bored deputies, and the nurses as they hurried by. Breakfast would arrive shortly, not that food held much interest for him. After four and a half years of near starvation, he had mastered his desire to eat. A few bites of this and that, with sliced apples and carrots when hunger hit. The nurses at first had felt challenged to fatten him up, but Dr. Hayani intervened and imposed a diet low in fat, free of sugar, and heavy on steamed vegetables and breads.

He rose from his chair and walked to the door. He opened it and quietly said good morning to the deputies, Pete and Eddie, two of the regulars.

"Did you sleep well?" Eddie asked, as he did every morning.

"I slept safe, Eddie, thanks," Patrick said, part of the ritual. Down the hall on a bench by the elevator he saw Brent Myers, the useless FBI agent who had escorted him from Puerto Rico. He nodded, but Brent was involved with the morning paper.

Patrick withdrew to his room, and began a set of gentle knee bends. His muscles were healed, but the burns were still sore and stiff. Push-ups and sit-ups were out of the question.

A nurse knocked on the door as she pushed it open. "Good morning, Patrick," she chirped happily. "It's time for breakfast." She sat the tray on a table. "How was your night?"

"Wonderful. Yours?"

"Wonderful. Anything I can get for you?"

"No thanks."

"Just call," she said, leaving. The routine varied little from day to day. As boring as it had become, Patrick had not lost sight of how bad things could be. Breakfast at the Harrison County Jail would be served on metal trays stuck through narrow slots in the bars and eaten in the presence of various cellmates, the mixture of which changed daily.

He took his coffee and entered his little office in the corner, under the television. He turned the lamp on and stared at his files.

He had been in Biloxi a week. His other life had ended thirteen days ago, on a narrow dusty road that was now a million miles away. He wanted to be Danilo again, Senhor Silva, with his quiet life in his simple house, where the maid spoke to him in melodic Portuguese heavily tinted with her Indian roots. He yearned for the long walks along the warm streets of Ponta Pora, and the long runs into the countryside. He wanted to speak again to the old men lounging under cool trees sipping their green tea and anxious to chat up anyone willing to linger. He missed the bustle of the market downtown.

He missed Brazil, Danilo's home, with its vastness and beauty and stark contrasts, its teeming cities and backward villages, its gentle people. He ached for his beloved Eva; the softness of her touch, the beauty of her smile, the wonders of her flesh, the warmth of her soul. He would not live without her.

Why can't a man have more than one life? Where was it written that you couldn't start over? And over? Patrick had died, and Danilo had been captured.

He had survived both the death of the first and the seizure of the second. Why couldn't he escape again? A third life was calling-this one, though, without the sorrow of the first or the shadows of the second. This would be the perfect life with Eva. They would live somewhere, anywhere, as long as they were together and the past couldn't catch them. They would live in a grand home and reproduce like rabbits.

She was strong, but she had limits, like everyone. She loved her father, and home was a powerful magnet. All true Cariocas love their city, and consider it specially created by the Almighty.

He had placed her in danger, and now he must protect her.

Could he do it again? Or had his luck run out?

CUTTER AGREED to an eight o'clock meeting only because Mr. McDermott insisted it was urgent. The federal building was creaking to life as a meager handful of bureaucrats arrived at such an early hour. The throng would get there at nine.

Cutter was not abrupt, but certainly not hospitable. Chats with pushy lawyers ranked low on his list of favorite chores. He fixed scalding coffee in Styrofoam cups, and cleared some of the debris from his tiny desk.

Sandy thanked him nicely for agreeing to see him, and Cutter softened a bit. "You remember that phone call you received thirteen days ago?" Sandy asked. "The lady from Brazil?"

"Sure."

"I've met with her a few times. She's a lawyer for Patrick."

"Is she here?"

"She's around." Sandy blew hard into his cup, then ventured a sip. He quickly explained most of what he knew about Leah, though he never called her by name. Then he asked how the Stephano investigation was proceeding.

Cutter grew cautious. He scribbled some notes with a cheap pen, and tried to arrange the players. "How do you know about Stephano?"

"My co-counsel, the lady from Brazil, knows all about Stephano. Remember, she gave you his name."

"How did she know about him?"

"It's a very long, complicated story, and I don't know most of it."

"Then why bring it up?"

"Because Stephano is still after my client, and I'd like to stop him."

More scribbling by Cutter, another sip of steaming coffee. A rough flow chart evolved as he tried to arrange who had said what to whom. He knew most of what was happening in Washington with the Stephano tell-all, but there were gaps. It had certainly been established that Stephano would stop his chase. "And how do you know this?"

"Because his men in Brazil have kidnapped the father of my co-counsel."

Cutter couldn't keep his lips together, nor his head exactly straight. His eyes wandered to the ceiling as this rattled around his brain. Then it made some sense. "Could it be that this Brazilian lawyer might possibly know where the money is?"

"That's a possibility."

Perfect sense now.

Sandy continued, "The kidnapping is an effort to lure her back to Brazil, where they'd like to snatch her and give her some of the same medicine they gave , Patrick. It's all about money."

Cutter's words were ponderous, but not by choice. "When did the kidnapping occur?"

"Yesterday." A paralegal in Sandy's office had pulled a story off the Internet two hours earlier. It was a short report on page six of O Globo, a popular Rio daily. It gave the victim's name as Paulo Miranda. Sandy still had no idea of Leah's real name, and it was safe to assume the FBI could identify her if and when it got the story. Frankly, he saw no harm in telling the FBI her name. Trouble was, he didn't know it.

"There's not much we can do about it."

"The hell there isn't. Stephano's behind it. Put pressure on him. Tell him my co-counsel is not about to be sucked into his trap, and that she's preparing to go to the Brazilian authorities with the name of Jack Stephano."

"I'll see what I can do." Cutter had not forgotten the fact that Sandy McDermott had filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the Bureau for crimes it did not commit. Nothing would be gained by discussing the lawsuit at this point. Maybe later.

"Stephano cares about nothing but the money," Sandy said. "If the old man gets hurt, he'll never see a dime."

"Are you implying there's room for negotiation here?"

"What do you think? You're facing death row or life in prison, wouldn't you be willing to negotiate?"

"So what do we tell Stephano?"

"Tell him to release the old man, and then we might talk about the money."

STEPHANO'S DAY began early. The meeting, his fourth, was scheduled to last all day and bring to an end his tales of adventure in the search for Patrick. His lawyer was absent, away in court with an unavoidable conflict. Stephano didn't need a lawyer to hold his hand, and, frankly, he was tired of paying $450 an hour. The interrogator was a new one. Oliver something or other. It didn't matter. They were all from the same school.

"You were talking about the plastic surgeon," Oliver said, as if the two men had simply been interrupted by a phone call. The two men had never met, and it had been thirteen hours since Jack had spoken to anyone about Patrick.

"Yes."

"And that was April of '94?"

"Correct."

"Continue, then."

Stephano settled into his chair and got himself comfortable. "The trail ran cold for a while. For a long time, actually. We worked hard, but months passed with nothing, absolutely nothing. Not a clue. Then, late in '94, we were contacted by an investigative firm in Atlanta, the Pluto Group."

"Pluto?"

"Yes, the Pluto Group. We referred to them as the boys from Pluto. Good boys. Some of your ex-agents. They asked questions about the search for Patrick Lanigan, said they might have some information. I met with them a couple of times here in Washington. They had a mysterious client who claimed to know something about Lanigan. Obviously, I was interested. They were in no hurry because their client seemed quite patient. The client, not surprisingly, wanted lots of money. Oddly enough, this was encouraging."

"How so?"

"If their client knew enough to expect a fat reward, then the client had to know that Lanigan still had plenty of money. In July of '95, the boys from Pluto approached me with a scheme. What if, they said, their client could lead us to a place in Brazil where Lanigan had recently lived? I said sure. They said, how much? And we agreed on the sum of fifty thousand dollars. I was desperate. The money changed hands by way of a wire transfer to a bank in Panama. I was then told to go to the small city of Itajai in the state of Santa Catarina, in die deep south of Brazil. The address they gave us led to a small apartment building in a nice part of town. The manager was cordial, especially after we greased his palm. We showed him our pictures of Lanigan post-op, and he said maybe. More grease in the palm, and he made a definite I.D. Jan Horst was the man's name, a German, he thought, with good Portuguese. He had rented a three-room apartment for two months, paid in cash, kept to himself, and spent little time there. He was friendly, and liked to drink coffee with the manager and his wife. She also made a positive I.D. Horst said he was a travel writer who was working on a book about the immigration of Germans and Italians to Brazil. When he left, he said he was going to the city of Blumenau to study the Bavarian architecture there."

"Did you go to Blumenau?"

"Of course we did. And quickly. We covered the town, but after two months gave it up. After the initial excitement, we settled back into the tedium of hanging around hotels and markets, showing the photos and offering small bribes."

"What about the boys from Pluto, as you called them?"

"They cooled off considerably. I was anxious to talk to them, but they had little to say. I think their client got scared, or maybe was happy just to get the fifty grand. Anyway, six months passed with little word from Pluto. Then, in late January of this year, they came back in a rush. Their client needed money, and was finally ready to sell out. We shadowboxed for a few days, then they dropped the bomb that for a million dollars we could learn the exact location of our man. I said no. It wasn't that I didn't have the money, it was just too risky. Their client was not willing to talk until the money was paid, and I was not willing to pay until their client talked. There was no way whatsoever to ascertain whether their client knew anything. In fact, for all I knew there wasn't a client anymore. Tempers flared and talks broke down."

"But you kept talking?"

"Yes, eventually. We had to. Their client had to have the money. We had to have Lanigan. Another deal was proposed whereby we would, for another fifty thousand bucks, get the name and location of a place Lanigan had lived after he left Itajai. We agreed, because from our point of view the fifty thousand was cheap and there was always the chance of getting lucky and stumbling over another tip. From their point of view, it was smart because it strengthened their client's credibility. And, of course, it was another step toward the million bucks. There was a brain at work behind Pluto, and I was desperate to play ball. I would gladly pay the million bucks. I just needed some reassurance."

"Where was the second town?"

"Sao Mateus, in the state of Espirito Santo, north of Rio on the coast. It's a small town of sixty thousand, a pretty place with friendly people, and we spent a month there mingling and showing our photos. The apartment arrangement was similar to the one in Itajai -two months' cash paid by a man named Derrick Boone, a Brit. Without being bribed, the owner positively identified Boone as our man. Seems as if Boone stayed over for a week without paying, so there was a bit of a grudge. Unlike Itajai, though, Boone kept to himself and the owner knew nothing about his doings. Nothing else turned up, and we left Sao Mateus in early March of this year. We regrouped in Sao Paulo and Rio, and made new plans."

"What were the new plans?"

"We withdrew from the north and concentrated on the smaller towns in the states near Rio and Sao Paulo. Here in Washington, I got more aggressive with the boys from Pluto. Their client was stuck on a million. My client was unwilling to pay without verification. It was a logjam, with both sides playing hardball but willing to keep talking."

"Did you ever learn how their client knew so much about Lanigan's movements?"

"No. We speculated for hours. One theory was that their client was also chasing Lanigan, for some unknown reason. It could've been someone in the FBI who needed cash. That, of course, was a longshot, but we thought of everything. The second theory, and the most likely, was that their client was someone Lanigan knew and trusted, who was willing to sell him out. Regardless, my client and I decided we could not allow the opportunity to escape. The search was now almost four years old, and going nowhere. As we had learned, there are a million wonderful places to hide in Brazil, and Lanigan seemed to know what he was do-ing."

"Did you break the logjam?"

"They did. In August of this year, they ambushed us with another offer: current photos of Lanigan, in exchange for another fifty grand. We said yes. The money was wired offshore. They handed me the photos in my office here in Washington. There were three, black-and-white eight-by-tens."

"Could I see them, please?"

"Sure." Stephano pulled them from his perfectly organized briefcase, and slid them down the table. The first was a shot of Lanigan in a crowded market, obviously taken at long range. He wore sunglasses, and was holding what appeared to be a tomato. The second was taken either a moment before or a moment after as he walked along a sidewalk with a bag of something in his hand. He wore jeans and looked no different from any Brazilian. The third was the most telling; Patrick in shorts and a tee shirt washing the hood of his Volkswagen Beetle. The license plates could not be seen, nor could much of the house. The sunglasses were off, and it was a clear shot of his face.

"No street names, no license plates," Oliver said.

"Nothing. We studied them for hours, but found nothing. Again, as I said, there was a brain at work."

"So what did you do?"

"Agreed to pay the million dollars-"

"When?"

"In September. The money was placed in escrow with a trust agent in Geneva, to be held until both sides gave notice to move it. Under our deal, their client had fifteen days to give us the name of the town, and the street address where he lived. We chewed our nails for the entire fifteen days, then on the sixteenth, after verbal warfare, they came through. The town was Ponta Pora, the street was Rua Tiradentes. We raced to the town, then sneaked into it. We had great respect for Lanigan by now, and we figured he was brilliant at moving forward while watching his back. We found him, then watched him for a week just to make sure. His name was Danilo Silva."

"A week?"

"Yeah, we had to be patient. He picked Ponta Pora for a reason. It's a wonderful place to hide. Local officials are cooperative if the money is right. The Germans discovered it after the war. One bad move, the cops get tipped, and they step in to protect him. So we waited and schemed and finally grabbed him outside of town, on a small road with no witnesses. A clean getaway. We sneaked him into Paraguay to a safe house."

"And there you tortured him?"

Stephano paused, took a sip of coffee, and stared at Oliver. "Something like that," he said.



Tags: John Grisham Thriller
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