The Firm - Page 49

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He hid behind a fruit stand and caught his breath. He saw no one running behind him. He ate an apple. If it came to a footrace, he hoped Two-Ton Tony was chasing him.

He had never been particularly impressed with Wayne Tarrance. The Korean shoe store was a fiasco. The chicken place on Grand Cayman was equally dumb. His notebook on the Moroltos would bore a Cub Scout. But his idea about a Mayday code, a "don't ask questions, just run for your life" alert, was a brilliant idea. For a month, Mitch knew if Judge Hugo called, he had to hit the door on a dead run. Something bad had gone wrong, and the boys on the fifth floor were moving in. Where was Abby? he thought.

A few pedestrians walked in pairs along Union. He wanted a crowded sidewalk, but there was none. He stared at the corner of Front and Union and saw nothing suspicious. Two blocks east, he casually entered the lobby of the Peabody and looked for a phone. On the mezzanine overlooking the lobby, he found a neglected one in a short hallway near the men's room. He dialed the Memphis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Wayne Tarrance, please. It's an emergency. This is Mitch McDeere."

Tarrance was on the phone in seconds. "Mitch, where are you?"

"Okay, Tarrance, what's going on?"

"Where are you?"

"I'm out of the building, Judge Hugo. I'm safe for now. What's happened?"

"Mitch, you've gotta come in."

"I don't have to do a damned thing, Tarrance. And I won't, until you talk to me."

"Well, we've, uh, we've had a slight problem. There's been a small leak. You need - "

"Leak, Tarrance? Did you say leak? There's no such thing as a small leak. Talk to me, Tarrance, before I hang up this phone and disappear. You're tracing this call, aren't you, Tarrance? I'm hanging up."

"No! Listen, Mitch. They know. They know we've been talking, and they know about the money and the files."

There was a long pause. "A small leak, Tarrance. Sounds like the dam burst. Tell me about this leak, and quick."

"God this hurts. Mitch, I want you to know how much this hurts. Voyles is devastated. One of our senior men sold the information. We caught him this morning at a hotel in Washington. They paid him two hundred thousand for the story on you. We're in shock, Mitch."

"Oh, I'm touched. I'm truly concerned over your shock and pain, Tarrance. I guess now you want me to run down there to your office so we can all sit around and console each other."

"Voyles will be there by noon, Mitch. He's flying in with his top people. He wants to meet with you. We'll get you out of town."

"Right. You want me to rush into your arms for protection. You're an idiot, Tarrance. Voyles is an idiot. You're all idiots. And I'm a fool for trusting you. Are you tracing this call, Tarrance?"


"You're lying. I'm hanging up, Tarrance. Sit tight and I'll call you in thirty minutes from another phone."

"No! Mitch, listen. You're dead if you don't come in."

"Goodbye, Wayne. Sit by the phone."

Mitch dropped the receiver and looked around. He walked to a marble column and peeked at the lobby below. The ducks were swimming around the fountain. The bar was deserted. A table was surrounded with rich old ladies sipping their tea and gossiping. A solitary guest was registering.

Suddenly, the Nordic stepped from behind a potted tree and stared at him. "Up there!" he yelled across the lobby to an accomplice. They watched him intently and glanced at the stairway under him. The bartender looked up at Mitch, then at the Nordic and his friend. The old ladies stared in silence.

"Call the police!" Mitch yelled as he backed away from the railing. Both men sprang across the lobby and hit the stairs. Mitch waited five seconds, and returned to the railing. The bartender had not moved. The ladies were frozen.

There were heavy noises on the stairs. Mitch sat on the railing, dropped his briefcase, swung his legs over, paused, then jumped twenty feet onto the carpet of the lobby. He fell like a rock, but landed squarely on both feet. Pain shot through his ankles and hips. The football knee buckled, but did not collapse.

Behind him, next to the elevators, was a small haberdashery with windows full of ties and Ralph Lauren's latest. He limped into it. A kid of no more than nineteen waited eagerly behind the counter. There were no customers. An outside door opened onto Union.

"Is that door locked?" Mitch asked calmly.

"Yes, sir."

"You wanna make a thousand dollars cash? Nothing illegal." Mitch quickly peeled off ten hundred-dollar bills and threw them on the counter.

"Uh, sure. I guess."

"Nothing illegal, okay? I swear. I wouldn't get you in trouble. Unlock that door, and when two men come running in here in about twenty seconds, tell them I ran through that door and jumped in a cab."

The kid smiled even brighter and raked up the money. "Sure. No problem."

"Where's the dressing room?"

"Yes, sir, over there next to the closet."

"Unlock the door," Mitch said as he slid into the dressing room and sat down. He rubbed his knees and ankles.

The clerk was straightening ties when the Nordic and his partner ran through the door from the lobby. "Good morning," he said cheerfully.

"Did you see a man running through here, medium build, dark gray suit, red tie?"

"Yes, sir. He just ran through there, through that door, and jumped in a cab."

"A cab! Damn!" The door opened and closed, and the store was silent. The kid walked to a shoe rack near the closet. "They're gone, sir."

Mitch was rubbing his knees. "Good. Go to the door and watch for two minutes. Let me know if you see them."

Two minutes later, he was back. "They're gone."

Mitch kept his seat and smiled at the door. "Great. I want one of those kelly-green sport coats, forty-four long, and a pair of white buckskins, ten D. Bring them here, would you? And keep watching."

"Yes, sir." He whistled around the store as he collected the coat and shoes, then slid them under the door. Mitch yanked off his tie and changed quickly. He sat down.

"How much do I owe you?" Mitch asked from the room.

"Well, let's see. How about five hundred?"

"Fine. Call me a cab, and let me know when it's outside."

Tarrance walked three miles around his desk. The call was traced to the Peabody, but Laney arrived too late. He was back now, sitting nervously with Acklin. Forty minutes after the first call, the secretary's voice blasted through the intercom. "Mr. Tarrance. It's McDeere."

Tarrance lunged at the phone. "Where are you?"

"In town. But not for long."

"Look, Mitch, you won't last two days on your own. They'll fly in enough thugs to start another war. You've got to let us help you."

"I don't know, Tarrance. For some strange reason I just don't trust you boys right now. I can't imagine why. Just a bad feeling."

"Please, Mitch. Don't make this mistake."

"I guess you want me to believe you boys can protect me for the rest of my life. Sorta funny, isn't it, Tarrance? I cut a deal with the FBI, and I almost get gunned in my own office. That's real protection."

Tarrance breathed deeply into the phone. There was a long pause. "What about the documents? We've paid you a million for them."

"You're cracking up, Tarrance. You paid me a million for my clean files. You got them, and I got the million. Of course, that was just part of the deal. Protection was also a part of it."

"Give us the damned files, Mitch. They're hidden somewhere close to us, you told me that. Take off if you want to, but leave the files."

"Won't work, Tarrance. Right now I can disappear, and the Moroltos may or may not come after me. If you don't get the files, you don't get the indictments. If the Moroltos don't get indicted, maybe, if I'm lucky, one day they'll just forget about me. I gave them a real scare, but no permanent damage. Hell, they may even hire me back one of these days."

"You don't really believe that. They'll chase you until they find you. If we don't get the records, we'll be chasing too. It's that simple, Mitch."

"Then I'll put my money on the Moroltos. If you guys find me first, there'll be a leak. Just a small one."

"You're outta your mind, Mitch. If you think you can take your million and ride into the sunset, you're a fool. They'll have goons on camels riding the deserts looking for you. Don't do it, Mitch."

"Goodbye, Wayne. Ray sends his regards."

The line was dead. Tarrance grabbed the phone and threw it against the wall.

Mitch glanced at the clock on the airport wall. He punched in another call. Tammy answered.

"Hello, sweetheart. Hate to wake you."

"Don't worry, the couch kept me awake. What's up?"

"Major trouble. Get a pencil and listen very carefully. I don't have a second to waste. I'm running, and they're right behind me."

"Fire away."

"First, call Abby at her parents'. Tell her to drop everything and get out of town. She doesn't have time to kiss her mother goodbye or to pack any clothes. Tell her to drop the phone, get in her car and drive away. And don't look back. She takes Interstate 64 to Huntington, West Virginia, and goes to the airport. She flies from Huntington to Mobile. In Mobile, she rents a car and drives east on Interstate 10 to Gulf Shores, then east on Highway 182 to Perdido Beach. She checks in at the Perdido Beach Hilton under the name of Rachel James. And she waits. Got that?"


"Second. I need you to get on a plane and fly to Memphis. I called Doc, and the passports, etc., are not ready. I cussed him, but to no avail. He promised to work all night and have them ready in the morning. I will not be here in the morning, but you will. Get the documents."

"Yes, sir."

"Third. Get on a plane and get back to the apartment in Nashville. Sit by the phone. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the phone."

"Got it."

"Fourth. Call Abanks."

"Okay. What are your travel plans?"

"I'm coming to Nashville, but I'm not sure when I'll be there. I gotta go. Listen, Tammy, tell Abby she could be dead within the hour if she doesn't run. So run, dammit, run!"

"Okay, boss.."

He walked quickly to Gate 22 and boarded the 10:04 Delta flight to Cincinnati. He clutched a magazine full of one-way tickets, all bought with MasterCard. One to Tulsa on American Flight 233, leaving at 10:14, and purchased in the name of Mitch McDeere; one to Chicago on Northwest Flight 861, leaving at 10:15, and purchased in the name of Mitchell McDeere; one to Dallas on United Flight 562, leaving at 10:30, and purchased in the name of Mitchell McDeere; and one to Atlanta on Delta Flight 790, leaving at 11:10, and purchased in the name of Mitchell McDeere.

The ticket to Cincinnati had been bought with cash, in the name of Sam Fortune.

* * *

Lazarov entered the power office on the fourth floor and every head bowed. DeVasher faced him like a scared, whipped child. The partners studied their shoelaces and held their bowels.

"We can't find him," DeVasher said.

Lazarov was not one to scream and cuss. He took great pride in being cool under pressure. "You mean he just got up and walked out of here?" he asked coolly.

There was no answer. None was needed.

"All right, DeVasher, this is the plan. Send every man you've got to the airport. Check with every airline. Where's his car?"

"In the parking lot."

"That's great. He left here on foot. He walked out of your little fortress on foot. Joey'll love this. Check with every rental-car company. Now, how many honorable partners do we have here."

"Sixteen present."

"Divide them up in pairs and send them to the airports in Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, L.A., San Francisco and New York. Roam the concourses of these airports. Live in these airports. Eat in these airports. Watch the international flights in these airports. We'll send reinforcements tomorrow. You honorable esquires know him well, so go find him. It's a long shot, but what have we got to lose? It'll keep you counselors busy. And I hate to tell you boys, but these hours are not billable. Now, where's his wife?"

"Danesboro, Kentucky. At her parents'."

"Go get her. Don't hurt her, just bring her in."

"Do we start shredding?" DeVasher asked.

"We'll wait twenty-four hours. Send someone to Grand Cayman and destroy those records. Now hurry, DeVasher."

The power office emptied.

* * *

Voyles stomped around Tarrance's desk and barked commands. A dozen lieutenants scribbled as he yelled. "Cover the airport. Check every airline. Notify every office in every major city. Contact customs. Do we have a picture of him?"

"We can't find one, sir."

"Find one, and find it quick. It needs to be in every FBI and customs office by tonight. He's on the run. Son-of-a-bitch!"

Tags: John Grisham Suspense