The Firm - Page 5

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"Hodge will be a new man. But I don't think we've reached that point. Dammit, Ollie, he ain't some hotshot thug who gets in the way. He's a very nice young man, with kids and all that."

"Your compassion is overwhelming. I guess you think I enjoy this. Hell, I practically raised these boys."

"Well, get them back in line, then, before this thing goes too far. New York's getting suspicious, Ollie. They're asking a lot of questions."



"What have you told them, DeVasher?"

"Everything. That's my job. They want you in New York day after tomorrow, for a full briefing."

"What do they want?"

"Answers. And plans."

"Plans for what?"

"Preliminary plans to eliminate Kozinski, Hodge and Tarrance, should it become necessary."

"Tarrance! Are you crazy, DeVasher? We can't eliminate a cop. They'll send in the troops."

"Lazarov is stupid, Ollie. You know that. He's an idiot, but I don't think we should tell him."

"I think I will. I think I'll go to New York and tell Lazarov he's a complete fool."

"You do that, Ollie. You do that."

Oliver Lambert jumped from his seat and headed for the door. "Watch McDeere for another month."

"Sure, Ollie. You betcha. He'll sign. Don't worry."

* * *

The Mazda was sold for two hundred dollars, and most of the money was immediately invested in a twelve-foot U-Haul rental truck. He would be reimbursed in Memphis. Half of the odd assortment of furniture was given or thrown away, and when loaded the truck held a refrigerator, a bed, a dresser and chest of drawers, a small color television, boxes of dishes, clothes and junk and an old sofa which was taken out of sentiment and would not last long in the new location.

Abby held Hearsay, the mutt, as Mitch worked his way through Boston and headed south, far south toward the promise of better things. For three days they drove the back roads, enjoyed the countryside, sang along with the radio, slept in cheap motels and talked of the house, the BMW, new furniture, children, affluence. They rolled down the windows and let the wind blow as the truck approached top speeds of almost forty-five miles per hour. At one point, somewhere in Pennsylvania, Abby mentioned that perhaps they could stop in Kentucky for a brief visit. Mitch said nothing, but chose a route through the Carolinas and Georgia, never venturing within two hundred miles of any point on the Kentucky border. Abby let it pass.

They arrived in Memphis on a Thursday morning, and, as promised, the black 318i sat under the carport as though it belonged there. He stared at the car. She stared at the house. The lawn was thick, green and neatly trimmed. The hedges had been manicured. The marigolds were in bloom.

The keys were found under a bucket in the utility room, as promised.

After the first test drive, they quickly unloaded the truck before the neighbors could inspect the sparse belongings. The U-Haul was returned to the nearest dealer. Another test drive.

An interior designer, the same one who would do his office, arrived after noon and brought with her samples of carpet, paint, floor coverings, curtains, drapes, wallpaper. Abby found the idea of a designer a bit hilarious after their apartment in Cambridge, but played along. Mitch was immediately bored, and excused himself for another test drive. He toured the tree-lined, quiet, shady streets of this handsome neighborhood of which he was now a member. He smiled as boys on bicycles stopped and whistled at his new car. He waved at the postman walking down the sidewalk sweating profusely. Here he was, Mitchell Y. McDeere, twenty-five years old and one week out of law school, and he had arrived.

At three, they followed the designer to an upscale furniture store where the manager politely informed them that Mr. Oliver Lambert had already made arrangements for their credit, if they so chose, and there was in fact no limit on what they could buy and finance. They bought a houseful. Mitch frowned from time to time, and twice vetoed items as too expensive, but Abby ruled the day. The designer complimented her time and again on her marvelous taste, and said she would see Mitch on Monday, to do his office. Marvelous, he said.

* * *

With a map of the city, they set out for the Quin residence. Abby had seen the house during the first visit, but did not remember how to find it. It was in a section of town called Chickasaw Gardens, and she remembered the wooded lots, huge houses and professionally landscaped front yards. They parked in the driveway behind the new Mercedes and the old Mercedes.

The maid nodded politely, but did not smile. She led them to the living room, and left them. The house was dark and quiet - no children, no voices, no one. They admired the furniture and waited. They mumbled quietly, then grew impatient. Yes, they agreed, they had in fact been invited to dinner on this night, Thursday, June 25, at 6 P.M. Mitch checked his watch again and said something about it being rude. They waited.

From the hallway, Kay emerged and attempted to smile. Her eyes were puffy and glazed, with mascara leaking from the corners. Tears flowed freely down her cheeks, and she held a handkerchief over her mouth. She hugged Abby and sat next to her on the sofa. She bit the handkerchief and cried louder.

Mitch knelt before her. "Kay, what's happened?"

She bit harder and shook her head. Abby squeezed her knee, and Mitch patted the other one. They watched her fearfully, expecting the worst. Was it Lamar or one of the kids?

"There's been a tragedy," she said through the quiet sobbing.

"Who is it?" Mitch asked.

She wiped her eyes and breathed deeply. "Two members of The Firm, Marty Kozinski and Joe Hodge, were killed today. We were very close to them."

Mitch sat on the coffee table. He remembered Marty Kozinski from the second visit in April. He had joined Lamar and Mitch for lunch at a deli on Front Street. He was next in line for a partnership, but had seemed less than enthused. Mitch could not place Joe Hodge.

"What happened?" he asked.

She had stopped crying, but the tears continued. She wiped her face again and looked at him. "We're not sure. They were on Grand Cayman, scuba diving. There was some kind of an explosion on a boat, and we think they drowned. Lamar said details were sketchy. There was a firm meeting a few hours ago, and they were all told about it. Lamar barely made it home."

"Where is he?"

"By the pool. He's waiting for you."

He sat in a white metal lawn chair next to a small table with a small umbrella, a few feet from the edge of the pool. Near a flower bed, a circular lawn sprinkler rattled and hissed and spewed forth water in a perfect arc which included the table, umbrella, chair and Lamar Quin. He was soaked. Water dripped from his nose, ears and hair. The blue cotton shirt and wool pants were saturated. He wore no socks or shoes.

He sat motionless, never flinching with each additional dousing. He had lost touch. Some distant object on the side fence attracted and held his attention. An unopened bottle of Heineken sat in a puddle on the concrete beside his chair.

Mitch surveyed the back lawn, in part to make sure the neighbors could not see. They could not. An eight-foot cypress fence ensured complete privacy. He walked around the pool and stopped at the edge of the dry area. Lamar noticed him, nodded, attempted a weak smile and motioned to a wet chair. Mitch pulled it a few feet away and sat down, just as the next barrage of water landed.

His stare returned to the fence, or whatever it was in the distance. For an eternity they sat and listened to the thrashing sound of the sprinkler. Lamar would sometimes shake his head and attempt to mumble. Mitch smiled awkwardly, unsure of what, if anything, needed to be said.

"Lamar, I'm very sorry," he finally offered.

He acknowledged this and looked at Mitch. "Me too."

"I wish I could say something."

His eyes left the fence, and he cocked his head sideways in Mitch's direction. His dark hair was soaked and hung in his eyes. The eyes were red and pained. He stared, and waited until the next round of water passed over.

"I know. But there's nothing to say. I'm sorry it had to happen now, today. We didn't feel like cooking."

"That should be the least of your concerns. I lost my appetite a moment ago."

"Do you remember them?" he asked, blowing water from his lips.

"I remember Kozinski, but not Hodge,"

"Marty Kozinski was one of my best friends. From Chicago. He joined three years ahead of me and was next in line for a partnership. A great lawyer, one we all admired and turned to. Probably the best negotiator in. Very cool and dry under pressure."

He wiped his eyebrows and stared at the ground. When he talked the water dripped from his nose and interfered with his enunciation. "Three kids. His twin girls are a month older than our son, and they've always played together." He closed his eyes, bit his lip and started crying.

Mitch wanted to leave. He tried not to look at his friend. "I'm very sorry, Lamar. Very sorry."

After a few minutes, the crying stopped, but the water continued. Mitch surveyed the spacious lawn in search of the outside faucet. Twice he summoned the courage to ask if he could turn off the sprinkler, and twice he decided he could last if Lamar could. Maybe it helped. He checked his watch. Darkness was an hour and a half away.

"What about the accident?" Mitch finally asked.

"We weren't told much. They were scuba diving and there was an explosion on the boat. The dive captain was also killed. A native of the islands. They're trying to get the bodies home now."

"Where were their wives?"

"At home, thankfully. It was a business trip."

"I can't picture Hodge."

"Joe was a tall blond-headed guy who didn't say much. The kind you meet but don't remember. He was a Harvard man like yourself."

"How old was he?"

"He and Marty were both thirty-four. He would've made partner after Marty. They were very close. I guess we're all close, especially now."

With all ten fingernails he combed his hair straight back. He stood and walked to dry ground. Water poured from his shirttail and the cuffs of his pants. He stopped near Mitch and looked blankly at the treetops next door. "How's the BMW?"

"It's great. A fine car. Thanks for delivering it."

"When did you arrive?"

"This morning. I've already put three hundred miles on it."

"Did the interior woman show up?"

Tags: John Grisham Suspense