The Firm - Page 37

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The black thunderheads and driving rain had long since cleared the tourists from Seven Mile Beach when the McDeeres, soaked and tired, arrived at the luxury condominium duplex. Mitch backed the rented Mitsubishi jeep over the curb, across the small lawn and up to the front door. Unit B. His first visit had been to Unit A. They appeared to be identical, except for the paint and trim. The key fit, and they grabbed and threw luggage as the clouds burst and the rain grew thicker.

Once inside and dry, they unpacked in the master bedroom upstairs with a long balcony facing the wet beach. Cautious with their words, they inspected the town house and checked out each room and closet. The refrigerator was empty, but the bar was very well stocked. Mitch mixed two drinks, rum and Coke, in honor of the islands. They sat on the balcony with their feet in the rain and watched the ocean churn and spill toward the shore. Rumheads was quiet and barely visible in the distance. Two natives sat at the bar, drinking and watching the sea.

"That's Rumheads over there," Mitch said, pointing with his drink.


"I told you about it. It's a hot spot where tourists drink and the locals play dominoes."

"I see." Abby was unimpressed. She yawned and sank lower into the plastic chair. She closed her eyes.

"Oh, this is great, Abby. Our first trip out of the country, our first real honeymoon, and you're asleep ten minutes after we hit land."

"I'm tired, Mitch. I packed all night while you were sleeping."

"You packed eight suitcases - six for you and two for me. You packed every garment we own. No wonder you were awake all night."

"I don't want to run out of clothes."

"Run out? How many bikinis did you pack? Ten? Twelve?"


"Great. One a day. Why don't you put one on?"


"You heard me. Go put on that little blue one with high legs and a couple of strings around front, the one that weighs half a gram and cost sixty bucks and your buns hang out when you walk. I wanna see it."

"Mitch, it's raining. You've brought me here to this island during the monsoon season. Look at those clouds. Dark and thick and extremely stationary. I won't need any bikinis this week."

Mitch smiled and began rubbing her legs. "I rather like the rain. In fact, I hope it rains all week. It'll keep us inside, in the bed, sipping rum and trying to hurt each other."

"I'm shocked. You mean you actually want sex? We've already done it once this month."


"I thought you wanted to snorkel and scuba-dive all week."

"Nope. There's probably a shark out there waiting for me."

The winds blew harder and the balcony was being drenched. "Let's go take off our clothes," Mitch said.

After an hour, the storm began to move. The rain slackened, then turned to a soft drizzle, then it was gone. The sky lightened as the dark, low clouds left the tiny island and headed northeast, toward Cuba. Shortly before its scheduled departure over the horizon, the sun suddenly emerged for a brief encore. It emptied the beach cottages and town homes and condos and hotel rooms as the tourists strolled through the sand toward the water. Rumheads was suddenly packed with dart throwers and thirsty beachcombers. The domino game picked up where it had left off. The reggae band next door at the Palms tuned up.

Mitch and Abby walked aimlessly along the edge of the water in the general direction of Georgetown, away from the spot where the girl had been. He thought of her occasionally, and of the photographs. He had decided she was a pro and had been paid by DeVasher to seduce and conquer him in front of the hidden cameras. He did not expect to see her this time.

As if on cue, the music stopped, the beach strollers froze and watched, the noise at Rumheads quietened as all eyes turned to watch the sun meet the water. Gray and white clouds, the trailing remnants of the storm, lay low on the horizon and sank with the sun. Slowly they turned shades of orange and yellow and red, pale shades at first, then, suddenly, brilliant tones. For a few brief moments, the sky was a canvas and the sun splashed its awesome array of colors with bold strokes. Then the bright orange ball touched the water and within seconds was gone. The clouds became black and dissipated. A Cayman sunset.

With great fear and caution, Abby slowly maneuvered the jeep through the early-morning traffic in the shopping district. She was from Kentucky. She had never driven on the left side of the road for any substantial period of time. Mitch gave directions and watched the rearview mirror. The narrow streets and sidewalks were already crowded with tourists window-shopping for duty-free china, crystal, perfume, cameras and jewelry.

Mitch pointed to a hidden side street, and the jeep darted between two groups of tourists. He kissed her on the cheek. "I'll meet you right here at five."

"Be careful," she said. "I'll go to the bank, then stay on the beach near the condo."

He slammed the door and disappeared between two small shops. The alley led to a wider street that led to Hogsty Bay. He ducked into a crowded T-shirt store filled with racks and rows of tourist shirts and straw hats and sunglasses. He selected a gaudy green-and-orange flowered shirt and a Panama hat. Two minutes later he darted from the store into the back seat of a passing taxi. "Airport," he said. "And make it quick. Watch your tail. Someone may be following."

The driver made no response, just eased past the bank buildings and out of town. Ten minutes later he stopped in front of the terminal.

"Anybody follow us?" Mitch asked, pulling money from his pocket.

"No, mon. Four dollars and ten cents."

Mitch threw a five over the seat and walked quickly into the terminal. The Cayman Airways flight to Cayman Brae would leave at nine. At a gift shop Mitch bought a cup of coffee and hid between two rows of shelves filled with souvenirs. He watched the waiting area and saw no one. Of course, he had no idea what they looked like, but he saw no one sniffing around and searching for lost people. Perhaps they were following the jeep or combing the shopping district looking for him. Perhaps.

For seventy-five Cayman dollars he had reserved the last seat on the ten-passenger, three-engine Trislandef. Abby had made the reservation by pay phone the night they arrived. At the last possible second, he jogged from the terminal onto the tarmac and climbed on board. The pilot slammed and locked the doors, and they taxied down the runway. No other planes were visible. A small hangar sat to the right.

The ten tourists admired the brilliant blue sea and said little during the twenty-minute flight. As they approached Cayman Brae, the pilot became the tour guide and made a wide circle around the small island. He pajd special attention to the tall bluffs that fell into the sea on the east end. Without the bluffs, he said, the island would be as flat as Grand Cayman. He landed the plane softly on a narrow asphalt strip.

Next to the small white frame building with the word AIRPORT painted on all sides, a clean-cut Caucasian waited and watched the passengers quickly disembark. He was Rick Acklin, Special Agent, and sweat dripped from his nose and glued his shirt to his back. He stepped slightly forward. "Mitch," he said almost to himself.

Mitch hesitated and then walked over.

"Car's out front," Acklin said.

"Where's Tarrance?" Mitch looked around.

"He's waiting."

"Does the car have air conditioning?"

"Afraid not. Sorry."

The car was minus air, power anything and signal lights. It was a 1974 Ltd., and Acklin explained as they followed the dusty road that there simply was not much of a selection of rental cars on Cayman Brae. And the reason the U.S. government had rented the car was because he and Tarrance had been unable to find a taxi. They were lucky to find a room, on such late notice.

The small neat homes were closer together, and sea appeared. They parked in the sand parking lot of an establishment called Brae Divers. An aging pier jutted into the water and anchored a hundred boats of all sizes. To the west along the beach a dozen thatched-roof cabins sat two feet above the sand and housed divers who came from around the world. Next to the pier was an open-air bar, nameless, but complete with a domino game and a dartboard. Oak-and-brass fans hung from the ceiling through the rafters and rotated slowly and silently, cooling the domino players and the bartender.

Wayne Tarrance sat at a table by himself drinking a Coke and watching a dive crew load a thousand identical yellow tanks from the pier onto a boat. Even for a tourist, his dress was hysterical. Dark sunglasses with yellow frames, brown straw sandals, obviously brand-new, with black socks, a tight Hawaiian luau shirt with twenty loud colors and a pair of gold gym shorts that were very old and very short and covered little of the shiny, sickly-white legs under the table. He waved his Coke at the two empty chairs.

"Nice shirt, Tarrance," Mitch said in undisguised amusement.

"Thanks. You gotta real winner yourself."

"Nice tan too."

"Yeah, yeah. Gotta look the part, you know."

The waiter hovered nearby and waited for them to speak. Acklin ordered a Coke. Mitch said he wanted a Coke with a splash of rum in it. All three became engrossed with the dive boat and the divers loading their bulky gear.

"What happened in Holly Springs?" Mitch finally asked.

"Sorry, we couldn't help it. They followed you out of Memphis and had two cars waiting in Holly Springs. We couldn't get near you."

"Did you and your wife discuss the trip before you left?" asked Acklin.

"I think so. We probably mentioned it around the house a couple of times."

Acklin seemed satisfied. "They were certainly ready for you. A green Skylark followed you for about twenty miles, then got lost. We called it off then."

Tarrance sipped his Coke and said, "Late Saturday night the Lear left Memphis and flew nonstop to Grand Cayman. We think two or three of the goons were on board. The plane left early Sunday morning and returned to Memphis."

"So they're here and they're following us?"

"Of course. They probably had one or two people on the plane with you and Abby. Might have been men, women or both. Could've been a black dude or an oriental woman. Who knows? Remember, Mitch, they have plenty of money. There are two that we recognize. One was in Washington when you were there. A blond fellow, about forty, six-one, maybe six-two, with real short hair, almost a crew cut, and real strong, Nordic-looking features. He moves quickly. We saw him yesterday driving a red Escort he got from Coconut Car Rentals on the island."

"I think I've seen him," Mitch said.

"Where?" asked Acklin.

"In a bar in the Memphis airport the night I returned from Washington. I caught him watching me, and I thought at the time that I had seen him in Washington."

"That's him. He's here."

"Who's the other one?"

"Tony Verkler, or Two-Ton Tony as we call him. He's a con with an impressive record of convictions, most of it in Chicago. He's worked for Morolto for years. Weighs about three hundred pounds and does a great job of watching people because no one would ever suspect him."

"He was at Rumheads last night," Acklin added.

"Last night? We were there last night."

With great ceremony, the dive boat pushed from the pier and headed for open water. Beyond the pier, fishermen in their small catboats pulled their nets and sailors navigated their brightly colored catamarans away from land. After a gentle and dreamy start, the island was awake now. Half the boats tied to the pier had left or were in the process of leaving.

"So when did you boys get in town?" Mitch asked, sipping his drink, which was more rum than Coke.

"Sunday night," Tarrance answered while watching the dive boat slowly disappear.

"Just out of curiosity, how many men do you have on the islands?"

"Four men, two women," said Tarrance. Acklin became mute and deferred all conversation to his supervisor.

"And why exactly are you here?" Mitch asked.

"Oh, several reasons. Number one, we wanted to talk to you and nail down our little deal. Director Voyles is terribly anxious about reaching an agreement you can live with. Number two, we want to watch them to determine how many goons are here. We'll spend the week trying to identify these people. The island is small, and it's a good place to observe."

"And number three, you wanted to work on your sun-tan?"

Acklin managed a slight giggle. Tarrance smiled and then frowned. "No, not exactly. We're here for your protection."

"My protection?"

"Yes. The last time I sat at this very table I was talking to Joe Hodge and Marty Kozinski. About nine months ago. The day before they were killed, to be exact."

"And you think I'm about to be killed?"

"No. Not yet."

Tags: John Grisham Suspense