The Partner - Page 30

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IT WAS AFTER SIX, so Havarac was probably in a casino at the blackjack table, sipping free whiskey and looking for women. Rumors about his gambling debts were abundant. No doubt Rapley was locked away in his attic, a place the rest of the world preferred him to be. The secretaries and paralegals were gone. Doug Vitrano locked the front door of the building and walked to the rear office, the largest and nicest one, where Charlie Bogan was waiting behind his desk with his sleeves rolled up.

Patrick had managed to bug every office except the senior partner's, a fact Bogan had relied on heavily during the roaring brawls that followed the loss of the money. If Bogan wasn't hi his office, or somewhere in the very near vicinity, it was locked with a deadbolt. His partners had been much too careless, he had reminded them repeatedly. Especially Vitrano, whose phone had been used during those last fateful chats with Graham Dunlap offshore, which was how Patrick had learned the direction of the money. This had been rehashed to the point of near fistfights.

Bogan could not, in all fairness, claim he suspected espionage in his own firm. If so, why hadn't he warned his more indifferent partners? He'd simply been cautious, and lucky. Important conversations were held in Bogan's office. It took only seconds to engage the deadbolt. He kept the only key. Not even the janitors could get in without Bogan's presence.

Vitrano closed the door firmly and dropped into the soft leather chair across the desk.

"I saw the Senator this morning," Bogan said. "He called me to his house." Bogan's mother and the Senator's father were siblings. The Senator was ten years older than Bogan.

"Is he in a good mood?" Vitrano asked.

"I wouldn't call it that. He wanted an update on Lanigan, and I told him what I knew. Still no sign of the money. He's very nervous about what Lanigan might know. I assured him, as I've done many times, that all communications with him were done in this office, and that this office was clean. So, he shouldn't worry about what Lanigan might know."

"But he's worried?"

"Of course he's worried. He asked me again if there was any document tying him to Aricia, and I again said no."

"Which of course is true."

"Yes. There are no documents with the Senator's name. Everything with him was verbal. Most of it was done on the golf course. I've told him this a thousand times, but he wanted to hear it again, in light of Patrick's return."

"You didn't tell him about the Closet?"

"No."

They both watched the dust on Bogan's desk and relived what happened in the Closet. In January of 1992, a month after the Justice Department approved the Aricia settlement, and about two months before they were to receive the money, Aricia had popped in one day, unscheduled and unannounced and in a foul mood. Patrick was still around, though his funeral was only three weeks away. The firm had already begun an extensive renovation of its offices, and for this reason Bogan couldn't meet with Aricia in his office. Painters were on ladders. Drop cloths covered the furniture. They got the combative Aricia into a small meeting room across the hall from Bogan's, a room everyone referred to simply as the Closet because of its size. A small square table with a chair on each side. No windows. The ceiling was slanted because a stairway ran above it.

Vitrano was fetched because he was second in command, and a meeting of sorts commenced. It didn't last long. Aricia was chafed because the lawyers were about to earn thirty million dollars. Now that his settlement had been approved, reality had hit hard, and he thought thirty million in legal fees was obscene. Things turned nasty quickly as Bogan and Vitrano held their ground. They offered to find their contract for legal services, but Aricia cared nothing for it.

In the heat of the moment, Aricia asked how much of the thirty million the Senator would get. Bogan grew hostile and said it was none of his business.

Aricia claimed that it was his business, because, after all, the money was his, and then he launched into a windy diatribe attacking the Senator and all politicians in general. He made much of the fact that the Senator had been working so hard in Washington to pressure the Navy, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department to settle his claim. "How much will he get?" he kept asking.

Bogan kept slipping the punches. He would say only that the Senator would be taken care of. He reminded Aricia that he had carefully chosen the firm because of its political connections. And he hotly added that sixty million in Aricia's pocket was not such a bad deal, considering how the claim was bogus to begin with.

Too much was said.

Aricia proposed a fee of only ten million. Bogan and Vitrano rejected it outright. He stormed out of the Closet, swearing every step of the way.

There were no phones in the Closet, but two mikes were found. One was under the table, hidden in a corner where two brackets joined, stuck in place by black putty. The second was placed between two dusty ancient law books on the only shelf in the room. The books were for decorative purposes.

After the shock of the vanishing fortune, and the subsequent discovery by Stephano of all the bugs and wires, Bogan and Vitrano didn't discuss the Closet meeting for a long time. Maybe it would just disappear. They never spoke to Aricia about it, primarily because he had sued them so quickly and now hated the mention of their names. The incident faded from their memories. Maybe it never happened after all.

Now that Patrick was back, they had been forced to timidly confront it. There was always the chance that the mikes had malfunctioned or that Patrick in his haste had missed it. There were certainly enough other bugs for him to absorb and assimilate. In fact, they had decided there was a very good chance the Closet meeting had been missed by Patrick.

"Surely he wouldn't keep the tapes for four years, would he?" Vitrano asked.

But Bogan didn't answer. He sat with his fingers locked over his stomach and watched the dust settle on his desk. Oh, what could've been. He would get five million, the Senator the same. No bankruptcy, no divorce. He would still have his wife and family, his home and his stature. He could've taken the five and made it ten by now, and twenty before long, serious big money and the freedom to do anything. It was all there, a feast on a table, then Patrick snatched it.

The giddiness of finding Patrick had lasted a couple of days, then vanished slowly when it became obvious that the money was not following him back to Biloxi. With each passing day, the money actually seemed farther away.

"Do you think we'll get the money, Charlie?" Vitrano asked, barely audible, his eyes on the floor. He hadn't called him Charlie in years. Such familiarity was unheard of in a firm with so much hatred.

"No," he said. There was a long pause. "We'll be lucky if we're not indicted."

WITH AN HOUR of serious phone work ahead of him, Sandy made the most troubling one first. Sitting in his parked car in the hospital lot, he called his wife and told her he'd be in very late, so late that he might be forced to stay in Biloxi. His son was playing in a junior high football game. He apologized, blamed everything on Patrick, and said he'd explain later. She took it much better than expected.

He caught a secretary working late at his office, and collected phone numbers from her. He knew two lawyers in Miami, neither of whom happened to be at the office at seven-fifteen. The home number for one went unanswered. The other had a private listing. He made a series of calls to lawyers he knew in New Orleans, and finally got the home number of Mark Birck, a highly regarded criminal defense specialist in Miami. Birck was not delighted at receiving the call during dinner, but he listened anyway. Sandy gave the ten-minute version of the Patrick saga, including the latest development with Eva in jail somewhere in Miami. Thus the call. Birck showed an interest, and claimed a thorough knowledge of immigration law as well as criminal procedure. He would make two calls, after dinner. Sandy agreed to phone him back in an hour.

It took three calls to locate Cutter, and twenty minutes of wheedling before he would agree to meet for coffee at a doughnut shop. Sandy drove there, and while waiting for Cutter called Birck again.

Birck reported that Eva Miranda was indeed in custody in a federal detention center in Miami. She had not yet been formally charged with any crime, but it was early. There was no way to see her tonight, and it would be difficult to see her tomorrow. Under the law, the FBI and the U.S. Customs Service can hold an alien caught traveling under a bogus passport for up to four days before a release can be applied for. Makes sense, Birck explained, considering the circumstances. These people tend to disappear quickly.

Birck had been in the detention center several times visiting clients, and, as these places went, it was not bad. She was in her own private cell, and generally safe. With luck, she would have access to a telephone in the morning.

Without providing too much detail, Sandy stressed that there was no rush in getting her released. There were people looking for her on the outside. Birck promised to pull strings early in the morning and try to see her.

His fee would be ten thousand dollars, which Sandy agreed to pay.

He hung up as Cutter swaggered into the doughnut shop and sat at a table by the front window, as promised. Sandy locked his car and followed him in.

DINNER was packaged food, microwaved and served on a well-worn plastic tray. Though she was hungry, the thought of eating it hardly crossed her mind. It was delivered to her cinder-blocked cell by two heavy women in uniform, keys dangling from chains around their waists. One asked how she was doing. She mumbled something in Portuguese and they left her alone. The door was thick metal with a small square hole in it. Voices of other women prisoners could occasionally be heard, but the place was generally quiet.

She had never been in jail before, not even as a lawyer. Other than Patrick, she couldn't recall a friend who'd been incarcerated. The initial shock yielded to fear, then to humiliation at being caged like a criminal. Only the thought of her poor father kept her focused during the first hours. No doubt his conditions were far worse than hers. She prayed that they were not hurting him.

The praying came easier in jail. She prayed for her father, and she prayed for Patrick. She resisted the temptation to blame him for her troubles, though it would've been easy. Most of the blame rested with her. She had panicked and run too quickly. Patrick had taught her how to move without leaving a trail, how to vanish. The mistake was her fault, not his.

The false passport charges were minor, she decided, and could be dealt with in short order. In a violent country without enough jail cells, surely such a simple offense from such a noncriminal could be handled swiftly with a small fine and a quick deportation.

She found comfort in the money. Tomorrow she would demand an attorney, a good one with clout. Phone calls would be made to officials in Brasilia; she knew their names. If necessary, the money could be used to bully everyone in sight. She would be out before long, then back home to rescue her father. She would hide somewhere in Rio; it would be simple.

The cell was warm, and locked, and guarded by lots of people with guns. It was a safe place, she decided. The men who hurt Patrick and now had her father couldn't touch her.

She turned off the ceiling light and stretched out on the narrow bunk. The FBI would be anxious to tell Patrick that she was in custody, so he probably knew by now. She could see him with his legal pad, running lines here and there, analyzing this latest development from an amazing variety of angles. By now, Patrick had conceived no fewer than ten ways to rescue her. And he wouldn't sleep until he had the list pared down to the best three plans.

The fun was in the planning, he always said.

CUTTER ORDERED a caffeine-free soda and a chocolate doughnut. He was off-duty, so the standard dark suit and white shirt were replaced by jeans and short sleeves. Smirking came naturally for him. Now that they had found the girl and locked her up, he was especially cocky.

Sandy ate a ham sandwich in four bites. It was almost 9 P.M. Lunch had been hospital food with Patrick, a long time ago. "We need to have a serious talk," he said. The shop was packed and his voice was low.

"I'm listening," Cutter said.

Sandy swallowed, wiped his mouth, leaned even closer and said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but we need to include other people."

"Like who?"

"Like the people above you. People in Washington."

Cutter pondered this for a minute as he watched the traffic move along Highway 90. The Gulf was a hundred yards away.

"Sure," he said. "But I gotta tell them something."

Sandy glanced around. Not a single person was even casually looking their way. "What if I can prove that the Aricia claim against Platt & Rockland was completely fraudulent; that he conspired with the Bogan firm to defraud the government, and that Bogan's cousin, the Senator, was a part of the conspiracy and was to have received several million bucks under the table?"

"A wonderful story."

"I can prove it."

"And if we believe it, then we're supposed to allow Mr. Lanigan to make some type of restitution and walk away."

"Perhaps."

"Not so fast. There's still the matter of the dead body."

Cutter casually took a bite of his doughnut and chewed it thoughtfully. Then, "What kind of proof?"

"Documents, recorded phone calls, all sorts of things."

"Admissible in court?"

"Most of it."

"Enough for convictions?"

"A box full."

"Where's the box?"

"In the trunk of my car."

Cutter instinctively looked over his shoulder in the general direction of the parking lot. Then he stared at Sandy. "This is stuff Patrick gathered before he split?"

"Correct. He got wind of the Aricia matter. The firm was planning to kick him out, so he very patiently collected the dirt."

"Bad marriage, etc., etc., so he took the money and ran."

"No. He ran, then took the money."

"Whatever. So now he wants to cut a deal, huh?"

"Of course. Wouldn't you?"

"What about the murder?"

"That's a state matter, not really your concern. We'll deal with it later."

"We can make it our concern."

"I'm afraid not. You've got the indictment for the theft of the ninety million. The state of Mississippi has the indictment for the murder. Unfortunately for you, the feds can't come in now and charge murder."

Cutter hated lawyers for that very reason. They didn't bluff easily.

Sandy continued. "Look, this meeting is a formality. I'm just going through channels, don't want to overstep here. But I'm perfectly ready to start making calls to Washington first thing in the morning. I thought we'd have this chat, and I hoped you would be convinced we're ready to deal. Otherwise, I'm on the phone."

"Who do you want?"

"Someone with complete authority, FBI and Justice. We'll meet in a large room somewhere and I'll lay out the case."

"Let me talk to Washington. But this better be good."

They shook hands stiffly, and Sandy left.



Tags: John Grisham Thriller
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