'Mitch, what I'm about to tell you will certainly shock you. You won't
want to believe it. But it's all true, and with your help we can save you.'
Mitchell McDeere wants to succeed. Young, handsome and
intelligent, he wants it all: money, power, a big house and a fast car.
He's climbing — and he wants to climb fast.
So when he is offered a job at the super-rich law firm of Bendini,
Lambert and Locke he cannot believe his luck. With the kind of
money they offer him, all his dreams can come true.
But dreams come at a price. And the firm's price is high — very
high. As high as Mitch's life — unless he fights, and fights hard.
John Grisham is one of the world's best-selling authors. The Firm was
his second novel and was a number one US best-seller for over a year.
It was made into an exciting film in 1993 with Tom Cruise, Gene
Hackman and Holly Hunter.
Grisham was born in 1955 in Arkansas, in the US A, the son of a
building worker. ('We didn't have a lot of money,' he has said. 'But we
didn't know it.') He studied law and ran his own law firm for nine
years, and was also a local politician in Mississippi. In 1984 he
decided to write a novel and spent three years arriving at his office at
5 a.m. in order to write it. This was A Time to Kill. It did not sell well,
but success soon followed. With the money he made from The Firm,
Grisham was able to give up his law practice and concentrate on
He lives on a farm in Oxford, Mississippi with his wife and two
children. You can also read John Grisham's The Pelican Brief and The
Client in Penguin Readers.
Chapter 1 Mitchell McDeere
Mitchell Y. McDeere was twenty-five years old. He was about to
graduate in the top five from Harvard Law School. He had a beautiful
wife, Abby. He was white, handsome, tall and physically fit. He
didn't take drugs or drink too much. And he was hungry. He wanted it
all: money, power, a big house, a fast car . . . He urgently wanted to
In other words, he was perfect for the Memphis law firm of
Bendini, Lambert & Locke. Every one of the twenty partners in the
firm was given a thick file on him. They knew that he had been born
in poverty in Kentucky and brought up by his mother after his father's
death. They knew that she had wasted the money the army gave her
after her eldest son's death in Vietnam, and that only the other brother,
Ray, had cared for him. They knew that he had won a place at
Western Kentucky University because he was good at football, and
had graduated top of his class. They could see the poverty hurt, and
that he wanted to climb away from it.
Now he was about to leave Harvard. Two firms in New York and
one in Chicago were interested in him, according to the file. The
highest offer was $76,000 and the lowest was $68,000. All the
partners agreed that he was the one they wanted. They needed a new
associate this year and they wanted it to be him. The first interview, in
a hotel near Harvard, went well. Oliver Lambert took with him Lamar
Quin, an associate who had been with the firm for seven years, and
offered Mitch $80,000, a new BMW and help in buying a house.
Mitch was interested, of course. Lambert invited him down to
Memphis to visit the firm. He said he would send the air tickets.
The figure of $80,000 started Mitch and Abby dreaming.
'Eighty thousand in Memphis is the same as one hundred and twenty
thousand in New York,' Mitch said. 'We'll be able to afford almost
anything we want. And it's only the money I'll start at: in two years
I'll be into six figures. They say that on average an associate becomes
a partner in about ten years, and then I'll be earning about half a
million dollars a year! And what about the car and the house?'
'Who wants New York?' Abby said, smiling, and thinking about
their rusty Mazda and about new furniture in a big old house — and
dreaming of babies. 'What sort of work is it?'
'Taxes,' Mitch said, 'which is what I enjoy. And we both hate the
cold weather in the north-east. The firm specializes in international
tax law. Bendini started it in 1944. He had a lot of clients in the south,
so he moved down to Memphis. And obviously everyone who works
there loves it: they say that members very rarely leave the firm.'
'And you'd be closer to Ray.'
'If they're offering so much, why doesn't everybody know about
them and try to work there?'
'Lambert says they like to stay small. There are only forty-one
members in all. They get one new member every two years, and they
approach him rather than the other way round.'
'Why would they help us with a house?' Abby asked.
'It's important to the firm that their members stay happy and look
rich. It helps to bring business in.'
'Memphis, here we come,' said Abby. 'I like this firm already.'
Chapter 2 Bendini, Lambert and Locke
Bendini had loved the firm's office building; he had also loved
secrecy. Before his death in 1970 he had filled the 100-year-old
building with electronic surveillance equipment, as well as with every
luxury money could buy. Only a few special members could enter
certain parts of the building.
In twenty years Bendini built the richest law firm in Memphis. It
was also definitely the quietest. Every associate hired by the firm was
taught the evils of a loose tongue. Everything was secret — especially
clients' business. Young associates were warned that talking about the
firm's business outside the firm could delay the prize of a partnership.
Nothing left the building on Front Street. Wives were told not to ask
questions — or were lied to. The associates were expected to work
hard, keep quiet and spend their healthy incomes.
Lamar Quin met Mitch at the entrance to the building. After an
embarrassing speech by Oliver Lambert in front of all the other
associates in the second-floor library, Lamar took him on a tour of the
office. There were excellent libraries on the first four floors of the
five-floor building, so that no member needed to leave the office to
find out anything.
The first four floors were almost the same. The centre of each floor
was filled with secretaries, their desks and the necessary machines.
On one side of the open area was the library and on the other were
offices and smaller conference-rooms. Partners got the large corner
offices, with wonderful views over the river and the city.
'You won't see any pretty secretaries,' Lamar said softly as they
watched them work. 'These are the best legal secretaries in Memphis,
but they also have to be over a certain age. The firm likes its members
to have steady marriages. Babies are encouraged. Of course wives are
not forbidden to work.'
'I hope not,' said Mitch, puzzled by the word 'forbidden'. He
decided to change the subject. 'Does every lawyer get his own
'Yes, until you're a partner. Then you'll get another, and by
then you'll need one. Nathan Locke has three, all with twenty years'
experience, and he keeps them busy. You'll find that the work takes at
least eighty hours a week at first. And there's always more if you want
it. Everyone works a hundred hours a week during tax season. We get
well paid, all right, but we earn it, believe me.'
'What about holidays?'
'Two weeks a year for the first five years. I know that doesn't sound
like very much, but the firm does own a couple of beach houses in the
Cayman Islands, and you can usually get one for your holiday — as
long as a partner doesn't want it, of course. We do a lot of business in
the Caymans, as well, because the islands are tax-free. Nathan Locke's
there at the moment, in fact, which is why you can't meet him today.'
Mitch had lunch with the partners in their special dining-room on
the fifth floor. Again the generous public praise was embarrassing, but
pleasing. Mitch wanted a beer to help him feel comfortable, but
looking round he saw that no one had any alcohol, and he learned that
drinking at lunch-time was not liked by the firm. Nor was heavy
drinking at any time. They wanted members they could rely on. That
was all right with Mitch. He was determined to succeed.
By the time Mitch left the building in the evening, after a meeting
with Royce McKnight to discuss further details of his contract, he had
decided: there could be no better offer in the whole country.
Chapter 3 The Fifth Floor
There were no law offices on the fifth floor of the Bendini Building.
The partners' dining-room and kitchen filled the west end, then in the
centre there were some empty rooms, and then
there was a wall. In the centre of the wall was a small metal door with
a button beside it and a camera over it. This opened on to a small
room where an armed guard watched the door and studied a large
number of television surveillance screens. A hall went past the offices
and workrooms of a number of men whose job was to watch and to
gather information. The windows to the outside world were painted
over. DeVasher, the head of security, had the largest of these small,
On the Monday after Mitch McDeere's visit, Oliver Lambert stood
in front of the small metal door and stared at the camera over it. He
pushed the button, waited and was finally allowed in. He walked
quickly along the hall and entered DeVasher's office. They talked a bit
about McDeere. DeVasher reported that, as far as he and his men
could tell, Mitch would not be a security risk for the firm. He played
Lambert a tape of phone calls from Mitch's hotel room in Memphis to
Abby in Massachusetts.
'Very loving conversations, you see, Ollie,' DeVasher said with an
evil grin on his face. 'They're just like a newly married couple. I'll try
to get you some bedroom pictures later. I know how much you enjoy
those. She is lovely.'
'Shut up, DeVasher,' Lambert said, and then, after a pause, 'I wish
we could find his brother Ray. We know everything about his family,
and hers, but we just can't find this brother.'
'Don't worry, Ollie,' DeVasher said. 'We'll find him.' DeVasher
closed the McDeere file and opened another, much thicker one.
Lambert stared at the floor. 'What's the latest?' he asked softly.
'It's not good news, Ollie. Kozinski and Hodge are definitely
working together now. Last week the FBI checked Kozinski's house
and found our bugs.* Kozinski told Hodge when they were hiding in
the third-floor library. Now they think everything's bugged and they're
very careful where they talk.'
* Bug: a small hidden microphone.
DeVasher played Lambert a tape of phone calls from
Mitch's hotel room in Memphis to Abby in Massachusetts.
'Which FBI agent is involved?'
'Tarrance. He seems to be in charge.'
'How often has he talked to Kozinski?'
'There's no way to know. We know of four meetings in the last
month, but I suspect more. They're being real careful.'
'How much has he given them?'
'Not much, I hope. They're still trying to persuade him. He's
frightened. Hodge hasn't talked to the FBI yet, I don't think. He'll do
whatever Kozinski does.'
'What have you told Lazarov?'
'Everything. That's my job. They want you in Chicago the day
after tomorrow. They want answers, and plans.'
'Plans to get rid of Kozinski, Hodge and Tarrance, if it becomes
'Tarrance! Are you crazy? We can't get rid of an FBI agent!'
'Lazarov is stupid, Ollie, you know that. And that's what he wants
from you. Of course, if he does kill Tarrance, the FBI will be all over
the place, and all of you lawyers will suddenly have to leave the
'Try to argue with him, will you? And watch McDeere for another
'OK, Ollie. Don't worry.'
Chapter 4 Sad News
When the McDeeres moved down to Memphis they stayed with the
Quins. The two couples became good friends. It didn't take Mitch and
Abby long to find a house to buy, on a street called East
Meadowbrook. After they moved in they were completely
happy. The new house was everything they had dreamed about: large,
comfortable and in a good neighbourhood. Abby went mad buying
furniture, while Mitch drove the new black BMW all around town,
getting to know the area.
The Thursday before Mitch was due to start work they drove over
to the Quins' house for dinner.
'Now that you've spent next year's income on furniture,' Mitch said
on the way there, 'what next?'
'Oh, I don't know,' Abby said. 'How about babies?'
'Hey, slow down. Let me get settled first!'
Abby laughed and sat back in her seat. Mitch admired her legs.
'When did I last tell you you were beautiful?' he asked.
'About two hours ago.'
'Two whole hours! How thoughtless of me!'
'Right. Don't let it happen again.'
They parked behind the Quins' two Mercedes. Kay met them at the
front door. Her eyes were red from crying.
'Oh, Kay, what's the matter?' Abby asked.
'There's . . . there's been a tragedy,' she said.
'Who is it?' Mitch asked.
Kay 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 remembered them from his visit to the firm. 'What
happened?' he asked.
'No one's sure,' Kay said. 'They were on Grand Cayman, diving.
There was some kind of explosion on the boat and we think they
drowned. A boatman was also killed. There was a meeting in the firm
a few hours ago and they were all told about it. Lamar could hardly
'Where is he?' Mitch asked.
'By the swimming-pool. He's waiting for you.'
Lamar was just sitting there, deep in shock. Mitch sat down next to
him and waited. Lamar shook his head and tried to speak, but no
words came. His eyes were red and he looked hurt.
Finally, Mitch said, 'Lamar, I'm so sorry. I wish I could say
'There's nothing to say. Marty Kozinski was one of my best
friends. He was going to be the next partner. He was a great lawyer,
one we all admired. Our . . . our children always played together.'
Mitch and Abby drove home in silence. Four days later, instead of
starting behind his desk at the office, Mitch and his lovely wife joined
the remaining thirty-nine members of the firm, and their lovely wives,
and said goodbye to Marty Kozinski and Joe Hodge. Oliver Lambert
gave such a beautiful speech that even Mitchell McDeere, who had
buried a father and a brother, was moved close to tears. Abby's eyes
watered at the sight of the widows and children.
Chapter 5 Long Hours
Mitch learned fast. He was appointed to work with one of the
partners, Avery Tolleson, and helped him with several of his clients.
He learned to respect Avery's talent for hard work. Avery taught
Mitch all about billing clients for his time. As an associate he could
bill $100 an hour. His future progress at the firm, he was warned,
depended on how much income he made for the firm. He learned that
it was acceptable to bill clients more than he actually worked. 'If you
think about a client while you're driving over to the office in the
morning,' Avery told him, 'add on another hour.' He could bill clients
for twelve hours a day, even if he never worked twelve hours a day.
Mitch also learned that Avery liked to bend the firm's rules. His
marriage was breaking
up and his eyes followed every good-looking woman he saw on the
streets. He also drank at lunch-times.
From Avery and the other partners Mitch learned the way things
were done at Bendini, Lambert & Locke. He learned that secrecy was
valued highly; he learned to talk to no one outside the firm, not even
Mitch was determined to become a partner in less time than anyone
else ever had before. He was determined to earn the firm more money
than any associate ever had before. He had heard the stories about
how many hours people worked; even sixteen hours a day was not
unknown in the firm.
It was said that Nathan Locke started work at six a.m. every day.
On his first full day Mitch arrived at the office at 5.30. No one else
He climbed the stairs to his office on the second floor, made
himself a cup of coffee and began to work. After a while he got up
from his desk and went over to the window. It was still dark outside.
He didn't notice the figure suddenly appear at his door.
Mitch turned round from the window. 'You frightened me,' he said.
'I'm sorry. I'm Nathan Locke. I don't believe we've met.'
'I'm Mitch McDeere, the new man.' They shook hands.
'Yes, I know.'
Mitch could not stop himself staring at the man's eyes. Nathan
Locke's eyes were cold and knowing. They were the most evil eyes he
had ever seen.
'I see you're an early riser,' Locke was saying.
'Well, it's good to have you in the firm.'
After a few days DeVasher, Lambert and Locke had a meeting.
They were sure Mitch could not keep going: nobody could work a
hundred hours a week for more than a few months.
'How's his wife taking it?' Lambert asked.
'This will change, but at the moment I can only hear his side of the
conversations,' DeVasher said. 'She's not delighted. She's practising
her cooking for the first time and he's getting sandwiches from the
shops, because he's never home in time for dinner.'
'What do you mean, "This will change"?' asked Locke.
'I mean Chicago is still worried, you know? We don't think
Kozinski and Hodge told the FBI anything important, but Lazarov
wants to be safe. He wants the homes of all associates bugged.'
'Don't you think that's going a bit too far?' asked Lambert.
'Chicago doesn't think so.'
'All of them, even McDeere?'
'Yes. I think Tarrance will try again. Oh, and before I forget, we've
found McDeere's brother Ray — or rather, McDeere led us to him.
He's in Brushy Mountain Prison, near Nashville. He accidentally
killed someone in a bar fight and the court gave him fifteen years.
He's done four of them. McDeere went to visit him last Sunday. I
wonder if we could use this as a lever against McDeere, if we ever
Chapter 6 A Tiny Microphone
Mitch didn't slow down: he became a machine. He had never needed
as much sleep as other people and now this was to his advantage.
However much work Avery Tolleson threw at him, he managed to get
through it. Sometimes he worked all through the night, and found an
unsmiling Abby waiting for him when he came home at dawn for a
quick shower before returning to the office.
Oliver Lambert invited the McDeeres, the Quins and two other
associates and their wives to dinner one Saturday at Justine's, his
Not long after Mitch and Abby entered the restaurant, two men
with the correct key entered the shiny black BMW in the car park of
Justine's. They drove away from the restaurant to the new home of Mr
and Mrs McDeere. They parked the BMW in its usual place. The
driver got another key out of his pocket and the two men entered the
They worked quickly and quietly. A tiny microphone, no bigger
than a fingernail, was stuck into the mouthpiece of each phone in the
house. The signals from these microphones would go to a receiver in
the space under the roof of the house.
Then the men turned their attention to each room. A small hole was
made in the corner of every room, high up where no one would notice
it. A tiny microphone was placed inside each hole. A wire, no thicker
than a human hair and completely invisible, ran from each
microphone to the receiver. The receiver looked exactly like an old,
broken radio, and it joined other old objects that were already there in
a corner under the roof. It would not be noticed for months, maybe
years. And if it was noticed, it would simply be thrown away as
rubbish. The receiver, of course, would also send signals from the
house back to the fifth floor at Bendini, Lambert & Locke.
Just as the fish was served at Justine's, the BMW parked quietly
next to the restaurant. The driver locked the car door. It was the
Mahans next. At least they lived closer to the restaurant than the
McDeeres, and had a smaller house, so the work would be easier.
On the fifth floor of the Bendini Building, DeVasher stared at rows of
lights and waited for some signal from 1231 East
Meadowbrook. The dinner party had finished thirty minutes earlier
and it was time to listen. A tiny yellow light shone weakly and he put
a pair of headphones on. He pushed a button to record. He waited. A
green light marked 'McD-6' began to shine. It was the bedroom. The
voices started to come in loud and clear.
'I don't like Jill Mahan,' the female voice, Mrs McDeere, was
saying. 'Her husband's OK, but she's really unpleasant.'
'Are you drunk?' asked Mr McDeere.
'Almost. I'm ready for sex.'
DeVasher bent his head closer towards his surveillance equipment,
to listen better.
'Take your clothes off,' Mrs McDeere demanded.
'We haven't done this for a while,' said Mr McDeere.
'And whose fault is that?' she asked.
'I haven't forgotten how. You're beautiful.'
'Get in the bed,' she said.
DeVasher closed his eyes and watched them.
Chapter 7 Tarrance
On the first Monday in August a general meeting was called in the
main library on the first floor. Every member was there. The mood
was quiet and sad. Beth Kozinski and Laura Hodge were politely
brought in by Oliver Lambert. They were seated at the front of the
room. In front of them, on the wall, were pictures of their husbands.
Oliver Lambert stood with his back to the wall and gave a speech.
He almost whispered at first, but the power of his voice made every
sound clear throughout the room. He looked at the two widows and
told of the deep sadness the firm felt, and how they would always be
taken care of as long as there was a firm. He talked of Marty and Joe,
of their first few years with the firm, of
their importance to the firm. He spoke of their love for their families.
The widows held hands and cried softly. Kozinski's and Hodge's
closest friends, like Lamar Quin and Doug Turney, were wiping their
After the speech Mitch went over to look at the pictures. There
were three other pictures on the wall as well. One was of a woman;
underneath the picture were the words 'Alice Knauss, 1948-1977'. He
had heard about her: the only woman ever to become a member of the
firm, she was killed in a car crash just three years after joining. The
other two pictures were of Robert Lamm and John Mickel. He asked
Avery about them. Lamm was out hunting in Arkansas one day in
1970 and didn't return. He was found eventually with a bullet in his
head. Everyone supposed it was a hunting accident. Mickel shot
himself in 1984. Five dead lawyers in fifteen years. It was a dangerous
place to work.
Mitch was always the first to arrive at the office and often the last to
leave as well. The partners were delighted with his progress and
rewarded him with extra money. Abby got a job as a teacher at a local
school, so that she wasn't just sitting around the house, bored. Mitch's
ability to work long hours was already a legend, but she didn't want to
be married to a legend; she wanted a flesh-and-blood person next to
Recently Mitch had started having his lunch sometimes in a small
cafe about half a mile from the Bendini Building. It was a dark hole in
the wall with few customers and bad food. He liked it because no one
else from the firm went there, so he could sit quietly and read legal
documents while he ate. He could always bill the client for his time.
One day while he was there a stranger approached his table
The widows held hands and cried softly.
and stood next to it. Mitch put down his document. 'Can I help you?'
The stranger said, 'You're McDeere, aren't you?'
Mitch studied him. Judging by his accent, he was from New York.
He was about forty, with short hair, and was wearing a cheap suit.
'Yeah,' he said. 'Who are you?'
In reply the man pulled a badge out of his pocket. 'Wayne
Tarrance, FBI.' He waited for a reaction.
'Sit down,' Mitch said.
'Thanks.' After he sat down, Tarrance said, 'I heard you were the
new man at Bendini, Lambert & Locke.'
'Why would that interest the FBI?'
'We watch that firm quite closely.'
'I can't tell you at the moment. We have our reasons, but I didn't
come here to talk about them. I came here to meet you, and to warn
you about the firm.'
'I'm listening,' Mitch said.
'Three things. First, don't trust anyone. Second, every word you
say, at home or in the office, is probably being recorded.'
Mitch watched and listened carefully; Tarrance was enjoying this.
'And the third thing?' he asked.
'Money doesn't grow on trees.'
'What do you mean by that?'
'I can't say more at the moment. I think you and I will become very
close. I want you to trust me, and I know I'll have to earn your trust.
So I don't want to move too fast. We can't meet at your office or at my
office, and we can't talk on the phone. So from time to time I'll come
and find you. For now, just remember those three things, and be
careful. Here's my home phone number. You won't want to call me
yet, but you'll
need it sometime. But call me only from a pay phone. If I'm
not in, leave a message on the machine.'
Mitch put it in his shirt pocket.
'There's one other thing,' Tarrance said as he stood up. 'You had
better know that Hodge's and Kozinski's deaths weren't accidental.'
He looked down at Mitch with both hands in his pockets, smiled, and
left before Mitch could ask any more questions.
The next day Mitch had an opportunity to go and see Lamar. He
walked into his office and closed the door. 'We need to talk,' he said.
If he believed Tarrance the office was bugged and the conversation
would be recorded. He was not sure whom to believe.
'You sound serious,' Lamar said.
'Did you ever hear of someone called Wayne Tarrance?'
Lamar closed his eyes. 'FBI,' he whispered.
'That's right. He had a badge and everything.'
'Where did you meet him?'
'He found me in Lansky's Cafe on Union Street. He knew who I
'Have you told Avery?'
'No. No one except you. I'm not sure what to do.'
Lamar picked up the phone and spoke to Avery Tolleson. Within a
few minutes Mitch and Lamar were up in Lambert's office. Avery,
Lambert, Royce McKnight, Harold O'Kane and Nathan Locke were
there, sitting around a conference table.
'Have a seat,' said Locke with a false smile.
'What's that?' Mitch pointed to a tape recorder in the centre of the
'We don't want to miss anything,' Locke said.
'OK,' Mitch said. He repeated his conversation with Tarrance.
Locke stared at Mitch with his dark eyes while he was speaking,
and as soon as he had finished he asked, 'Have you ever seen this man
'Whom did you tell?'
'Did he leave you a phone number to call?'
The tape recorder was switched off. Locke walked to the window.
'Mitch,' he said, 'we've had trouble with the FBI and the tax people for
several years now. Some of our clients like us to take risks for them.
We do things for them which are not quite illegal, but which are close
to the edge. And like any firm of tax lawyers with clients as rich as
ours, the FBI occasionally has to investigate some of our clients.
Naturally, they investigate us at the same time. Tarrance is new down
here, and he's trying to score a big win. He's dangerous. You are not to
speak to him again.'
'How many of our clients have the courts found guilty?' Mitch
'Not a single one.'
'What about Marty and Joe? What did happen?'
'That's a good question. We don't know. It's true that it was
possibly not an accident. The boatman who was with them seems to
have been a drug smuggler, according to the police there.'
'I don't think we'll ever know,' McKnight added. 'We're trying to
protect their families, so we're calling it an accident.'
'Don't mention any of this to anyone,' Locke said. 'Not even your
wife. If Tarrance contacts you again, let us know immediately.
'Yes, sir.' Mitch nodded.
The grandfatherly warmth returned to Oliver Lambert's face. He
smiled and said, 'Mitch, we know this is frightening, but we're used to
it. We can look after it. Leave it to us, and don't worry. And stay
away from Tarrance.'
'Further contact with Tarrance will put your future in the firm at
risk,' Locke said.
'I understand,' Mitch said.
'That's all, Mitch,' Lambert said. 'You and Lamar can go back to
As soon as they were out of the room Lambert called DeVasher on
the phone. Within two minutes Lambert and Locke were sitting in
'Did you listen?' Locke asked.
'Yeah, of course. We heard every word the boy said. You handled
it very well. I think he's frightened and will run from Tarrance. But
I've got to tell Lazarov: he's the boss. I hope I can still persuade him
not to kill Tarrance.'
'God, yes,' Lambert said. 'But why did they choose McDeere, do
'Because he's young and because he's a good person — the kind of
person who wouldn't like what's going on here. I suggest you keep
McDeere so busy he doesn't have time to think. And it would be a
good idea for Quin to get closer to him, too, so that if McDeere does
want to tell anyone anything he'll naturally turn to Quin.'
'Did he tell his wife last night?' asked Locke.
'We're checking the tapes now,' DeVasher said. 'It'll take about an
hour. We've got so many bugs in this city, it takes six computers to
find anything. I'll let you know if I find anything. But he and his wife
don't talk that much any more. McDeere had better visit the Caymans,
though. Can you arrange it?'
'Of course,' said Lambert. 'But why?'
'I'll tell you later.'
Chapter 8 Four People, Three of them Dead
That Sunday, Mitch went to visit his brother Ray in prison again.
There was some information he wanted. They chatted for a while and
then Mitch said, 'You once told me in a letter that you knew a prisoner
who used to be a cop in Memphis and now works there as a private
investigator. I can't remember his name.'
'Eddie Lomax. Yeah. Cops are hated in here. I helped him out once
in a fight; they were killing him. We became friends. He still writes to
me. He's been out about three years now.'
'Why do you need him?'
'A lawyer friend's wife is cheating on him. Is Lomax good?'
'Yeah, I think so. He's made some money, anyway. You'll find him
in the phone book.'
A guard walked by and reminded them that it was nearly time for
visitors to leave.
'Is there anything I can send you?' asked Mitch. 'Any language
tapes?' Ray had learned several languages while he was in prison.
'Yeah, something on Greek, please. And a picture of Abby and of
your house. You're the first McDeere in a hundred years to own a
'OK. I'll see you next month.'
Lomax's secretary, Tammy, was blonde, about forty years old but still
sexy. She wore short skirts and a low-cut blouse. She kept crossing
and uncrossing her legs while Mitch was waiting for Lomax to get off
When Mitch eventually got into the office Lomax stood up behind
his desk and held out his hand. 'So you're Mitchell McDeere. It's good
to meet you.'
'My pleasure,' Mitch said. 'I saw Ray on Sunday.'
'I feel like I've known you for years. He talked about you all the
time. You look just like him too. Now, what can I do for you? Have
you got trouble with your wife?'
'No, nothing like that. I need some information about four people.
Three of them are dead.' Mitch told him about the three dead lawyers
from Bendini, Lambert & Locke. 'I want to know if there's anything
odd about their deaths,' he said.
'Sounds interesting. What about the fourth person?'
'He's called Wayne Tarrance. He's an FBI agent here in Memphis.'
'FBI! That'll cost you more.'
'OK. This must all be absolutely secret, Eddie. I'm trusting you.
And don't call me at home or at the office. I suspect I'm being
watched very closely.'
'I wish I knew.'
Chapter 9 Grand Cayman
A week later Avery Tolleson and Mitch left for the Cayman Islands
to do some tax work for a client. It was the first time in his life that
Mitch had left the country.
They landed on Grand Cayman, a jewel of land surrounded by
clear blue sea. Hardly anyone lived on the other two islands, Little
Cayman and Cayman Brac, Avery told him. And on Grand Cayman
there were only 18,000 people, but 12,000 businesses had their head
offices there on paper, and there were 300 banks.
They settled into the firm's apartments on Seven Mile Beach and
Avery suggested they go to Rumheads, an open-air bar on the beach.
As night fell, Avery was drinking heavily and a
pair of sisters joined them at their table. They were dressed only in
bikinis. Soon one of them was sitting on Avery's knees and the other
one was trying to persuade Mitch to dance with her.
He pushed her away roughly and went for a walk along the beach.
In the darkness, all alone on the beach, with only the stars in the sky
and the lights of a few boats far away out on the water, another
beautiful woman approached him. She reminded him of Abby. They
lay on the sand and talked. She quietly took off her bikini — not that
there was much of it — and asked Mitch to look after it while she
went for a swim. When she came back, rising out of the water and
brushing her long wet hair off her face and body, they made love.
'Who will ever know?' Mitch thought. 'I'm not doing anyone any
In the morning neither of them felt like doing business. In the taxi to
the Royal Bank of Montreal, where they had an appointment, Avery
cheerfully explained that he was different from the rest of the partners
in the firm, because he liked drinking and women. After they had
completed their business at the bank Avery went off to meet the
woman he had spent the night with, leaving Mitch to wander around
the town. They had another appointment at three in the afternoon.
Mitch went to the library and found a newspaper for 27 June of that
year. He sat down beside a window to read it. He looked out of the
window and saw a man getting out of a car and crossing the street
towards the library. He recognized the car: he had also seen it near the
bank in the morning. Mitch got up from the table and pretended to be
looking at a business magazine in another part of the room.
The man, who was small and dark, came into the library. In a
few minutes he appeared in the room where Mitch was. He walked
past Mitch, paused as if to check what he was reading, and left the
room. When Mitch returned to the window he was back in the car,
smoking a cigarette.
Mitch read the newspaper story about the explosion on the boat
which had killed two American lawyers and their diving guide. He
left the library and, without looking back, walked quickly along
narrow, crowded streets, and in and out of shops, until he was sure no
one could be following him. Then he caught a taxi to Abanks Diving
School. The newspaper had said that the guide who was killed was
Philip Abanks, the son of Barry Abanks, who owned the diving
Abanks agreed to speak to Mitch. He was certain Philip had
nothing to do with drugs. The accident had surprised him because the
boat was found a long way from where it was supposed to be, but
Philip hadn't used the radio to tell the school about their new position,
as an experienced boatman like himself would. He also hadn't radioed
about any engine trouble. The boat's engine exploded, but the three
bodies were found unharmed, in full diving clothes; they had just
drowned, although all three were experienced divers.
A few days later, in Memphis, DeVasher studied the photographs on
the desk in front of him. They were of a very high quality. The longdistance
night-sight camera had worked well. And the girl was
excellent. He would use her again. 'Mitchell McDeere,' he said to
himself with a smile, 'now you are ours. Now you'll do anything for
Chapter 10 Dangerous Waters
Two weeks before Christmas, Mitch and Eddie Lomax met on a
bridge in a park in the freezing rain. They had both made sure that
they were not followed. Lomax's news was very interesting. All three
of the dead lawyers had died in mysterious circumstances. The lorry
which killed Alice Knauss had been stolen in St Louis three days
earlier. The driver drove straight into her car and then ran away. He
was never found. The hunter, Robert Lamm, was almost certainly
murdered. It didn't look like a hunting accident, because his body was
found in a part of the forest where there were few animals and the
hunters didn't usually go. There were two strange things about
Mickel's death: first, the letter to his wife was typed, not handwritten;
second, he had never bought a gun in his life, and yet the gun that
killed him was an old gun, which the police thought criminals had
used in the past. Where did a respectable lawyer get such a gun?
'Your firm has lost five lawyers in fifteen years,' Lomax ended.
'And you're acting as if you're going to be the next. I'd say you've got
'What about Tarrance?'
'I don't have very much. He's one of their best men; he came down
here from New York about two years ago.'
'I'll do anything I can to help Ray McDeere's little brother. It seems
to me that you're swimming in dangerous waters.'
Mitch nodded slightly, but said nothing.
Mitch sat in the corner of Paulette's, a French restaurant in the middle
of Memphis. At seven o'clock Abby rushed in from the cold and
joined him at his table.
'What's the special event?' she asked. Mitch had said hardly
anything on the phone when he invited her to meet him here. He was
very careful about what he said on the phone these days.
'Do I need a reason to have dinner with my wife?'
'Yes. It's seven o'clock on a Monday night and you're not at the
office. That's very unusual.'
A waiter came to their table and they ordered two white wines. As
the waiter went away Mitch noticed the face of a man at another table
that looked familiar. Before Mitch could think about it the man hid
his face behind a menu.
'What's the matter, Mitch?'
He put his hand on hers and said, 'Abby, we've got to talk.'
'What about?' she asked, worried.
'About something very serious,' he said quietly. 'But we can't talk
here. There's a back door near the washrooms. I want you to go to the
washroom and then leave by the back door. I'll meet you there. I'll
bring your coat. Trust me, please.'
Abby left. Mitch waited until the man with the menu was busy
talking to a waiter and then he followed her. Outside they walked to a
bar and sat down in a dark corner inside.
'What's this all about?' demanded Abby, when they had their
'I met an FBI agent today, a man called Tarrance. It's the second
time he's spoken to me.'
'Yes. With badges and everything.' He told her about the first
meeting with Tarrance and what the partners had said about it.
'What do the FBI want?'
'I don't know, Abby. I'm just eating lunch when someone comes up
and tells me that my phones are bugged, my home is bugged, and
someone at Bendini, Lambert & Locke knows
everything I do. I don't know what they want, Abby, but they've
chosen me for some reason.'
'Did you tell anyone at the office?'
'No, I haven't told anyone except you. And I don't intend to tell
Abby drank from her glass of wine. 'Our phones are bugged?'
'According to the FBI.But how do they know?'
'They're not stupid, Mitch. If the FBI told me my phones were
bugged I'd believe them.'
'I don't know who to believe. Locke and Lambert were very
believable when they explained how the firm fights with the tax
people and the FBI. But if the firm did have a rich client whom the
FBI was investigating, why would they choose me, the new man in
the firm, to talk to? What do I know? I've seen no signs of any
criminal acts. All the files I work on are clean.'
'But someone is bugging you.'
'Even the car, Tarrance said.'
'Mitch, this is amazing. Why would a law firm do that?'
'I've no idea. I feel much better now that I've told you. From now
on I'll tell you everything. I didn't tell you sooner because I kept
hoping it would all go away. And there's more to tell you.' He told her
about Eddie Lomax and the five dead lawyers, and how he suspected
that none of their deaths was quite what it seemed to be.
'I feel weak.'
'Abby, we have to be careful. We must continue to live as if we
'This is unreal, Mitch. I can't believe I'm sitting here listening to
you saying all this. Do you expect me to live in a house where
'Do you have a better idea?'
'Yeah. Let's hire this Eddie Lomax to inspect our house.'
'This is unreal, Mitch. Do you expect me to live in a
house where everything's bugged?'
'I've thought of that. But what if he finds something? Think about
it. What if we know for sure that the house is bugged? What then?
What if he breaks one of the bugs? Then whoever put them there will
know that we know, and that could be dangerous.'
'You're right. Anyway, you're hardly home for me to talk to.
They'll only hear me talking to myself a lot these days.'
Chapter 11 A Professional Job
A day or two after Christmas, Eddie Lomax was called out on an
urgent job. A man calling himself Al Kilbury said that his wife was
about to meet a man in a hotel in south Memphis and that he needed
Lomax to take photographs. He tempted him with an offer of
generous payment. They drove to the hotel together and waited in the
car park. Another man silently opened the back door of the car and
put three bullets into the back of Lomax's head. It was a professional
job. The killer and the man calling himself Al Kilbury left together.
Mitch found the bar near the airport where Tammy had asked him to
meet her. He looked again at the letter she had pinned to the back
door of his house: 'Dear Mr McDeere, Please meet me at Ernie's Bar
on Winchester Avenue late tonight. It's about Eddie Lomax. Very
important. Tammy Hemphill, his secretary.'
Tammy arrived soon after he had ordered a beer. 'Thanks for
coming,' she said.
'What's the matter?'
She looked round. 'We need to talk, but not here.'
'Where do you suggest?'
'Why don't we drive around? We'll take my car.'
In the car she took a long time to say what she wanted to say.
Eventually it started to come out.
'You heard about Eddie?' she asked.
'When did you last meet him?'
'A couple of weeks before Christmas.'
'I thought so. He didn't keep any file about the work he was doing
for you.' There was a pause. 'Eddie and I were ... we were lovers. My
marriage isn't so great, and my husband has other women friends.
Anyway, Eddie told me a little about you and he said that lawyers
from your firm kept dying.'
So much for secrecy, Mitch thought.
'Anyway, just before Christmas he told me he thought he was
being followed and that he thought it was connected to the work he
was doing for you. Eddie was good at his job. It wouldn't be easy to
follow him. They were professionals, whoever they were — as
professional as the killer. I'm frightened, Mitch. Can I call you
'I haven't been back to the office since his death. They probably
think I know whatever it is that he knew.'
'You're right not to take any chances,' Mitch said.
'We can disappear for a while, my husband and I. He works as a
singer in nightclubs and he can always get work somewhere else.'
'That sounds like a good idea. Where will you go?'
'Here and there,' she said. 'They've killed all those lawyers, and
they've killed Eddie, and next they want you and me.'
'We need to keep in touch, Tammy,' Mitch said, 'but you can't talk
to me on the phone and we shouldn't meet. Write to me once a week
from wherever you are. What's your mother's name?'
'Fine. Sign your letters Doris.'
'Do they read your mail, too?'
'Probably, Doris, probably.'
Chapter 12 Denton Voyles
Mitch flew into Washington on the firm's private jet. DeVasher didn't
want him to go. Chicago had given orders that McDeere was not to
leave Memphis on firm business except with at least two partners.
But the firm had arranged months ago for Mitch to go to this
conference on taxes in Washington. DeVasher couldn't argue against
it, because as far as he knew Tarrance had only met Mitch that one
time, and Mitch had immediately reported it. So Mitch seemed to be
a loyal member of the firm.
His first morning at the conference, surrounded by strangers, a
man whispered, 'Harbison, FBI,' and passed him a note. The
Dear Mr McDeere
I would like to speak to you for a few minutes during lunch. Please
follow Grant Harbison's instructions. Thank you for your co-operation.
Voyles was the almost legendary boss of the FBI. Harbison arranged
a meeting in the men's room. He went first and Mitch followed after
'What does Voyles want?' he asked.
'Something important. It's not my job to tell you,' said Harbison.
'When the conference breaks for lunch you'll find a taxi, number
8667, outside the hotel. It will take you to the meeting. Be careful:
two of the boys from Memphis followed you here. They're in the
bedroom next to you in the hotel.'
Mitch followed his instructions. The driver of the taxi spoke to others
constantly on his radio. When he was certain that no one was
following them he stopped acting like a tour guide and took Mitch
directly to his meeting with Voyles in another hotel. Tarrance was
waiting in the hotel room.
After a few minutes Voyles walked in with another agent. Voyles
offered his hand and Mitch stood up to shake it.
'Thank you for coming,' Voyles said. 'This is very important
Mitch breathed deeply. 'Sir, do you have any idea how confused
and frightened I am? I really need an explanation. What's happening?'
'Mitch, what I'm about to tell you will certainly shock you. You
won't want to believe it. But it's all true, and with your help we can
save your life.'
'No lawyer has ever left your firm alive,' Voyles went on. 'Three
have tried, and they were killed. Two others were about to leave, and
they died last summer. When a lawyer joins Bendini, Lambert &
Locke, he never leaves, unless he retires and keeps his mouth shut.
And by the time they retire they are part of it all and cannot talk. The
firm has a major surveillance operation on the fifth floor. Your house,
car and phones are bugged. Your desk and office are bugged. Almost
every word you speak is heard and recorded on the fifth floor. They
follow you, and sometimes your wife. You see, Mitch, the firm is not
what it seems. It is not owned by the partners. It is part of a very large
and very illegal business. The firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke is
owned by the Morolto crime family in Chicago. The Mafia.'
'I don't believe it,' Mitch said, frozen with fear. His voice was
Voyles smiled. 'Yes, you do, Mitch. You've suspected something
for some time. That's why you talked to Abanks in the Caymans.
That's why you hired that investigator and got him killed by those
boys on the fifth floor. You know the firm is rotten, Mitch.'
Mitch rested his head in his hands and stared at the floor.
'As far as we can see,' Voyles said, 'about a quarter of the firm's
clients and businesses are legal. There are some very good lawyers in
the firm, doing tax work for rich clients. It's a very good cover. Most
of the files you've worked on so far are OK. That's how they operate.
They bring in a new man, throw money at him, buy the car and house,
take him to the Caymans and put him to work on their legal clients.
Then after five or six years, when the money is really good, when you
and your family have become completely used to this rich way of
living, they tell the truth. By then you can't get out even if you want
to. They'll kill your wife, or one of your children; they don't care. So
you stay. You can't leave. If you stay, you make a million dollars and
retire young with your family safe. If you try to leave, your picture
will hang in the first-floor library.'
'You mean that every partner . . .?' Mitch couldn't finish.
'Yes, they all know and they all do what they're told. We suspect
that most of the associates know as well. We don't think the wives do.
We really want these people. We could destroy the Morolto family.
We could arrest hundreds of them.'
'How do they help the Moroltos?' Mitch asked.
'To be honest,' Voyles said, 'we don't know everything. We've only
been watching them for about seven years, and very little information
gets out. But here's an example. A partner takes several million
dollars in "dirty" money to the Caymans on the firm's private jet.'
Mitch thought of all the journeys the partners kept making to the
Caymans. Voyles continued his story.
'Then the same partner, or one of the others, forms a legal
company back in the States, to buy some land perhaps. The money
is wired through from the Caymans to . . . what's the name of that
bank in St Louis with whom the firm does a lot of business?'
'That's the one. The Mafia own it. So the money arrives back in the
States and is used legally. Suddenly, "dirty" money is "clean". That's
why Bendini was sent down there in 1944. Locke grew up working
for the Moroltos. He's a criminal first and a lawyer second. Lambert
is the perfect cover for the firm. He looks and sounds like everyone's
idea of a lawyer. But the next time you see him in the office, Mitch,
remember that he's a killer.'
'What about the secretaries and support staff?'
'Good question. We think some of them are part of it too. But some
of them don't know anything. That's how they operate as two firms at
once: a lot of the people there really are doing legal business. But
Hodge told Tarrance that there's a group of support staff who work
only for the main partners of the firm. They probably do all their legal
work, so that the partners are free to do the Moroltos' dirty business.'
'If you know so much, why don't you just go in there and arrest
them all?' asked Mitch.
'We need evidence,' Voyles said. 'That's where you come in. We
want you to photocopy files, bank records, all those documents which
we can't reach from the outside but you can. We need the names of all
the staff; we need to know who works on which files; we need all the
information you can give us, about every part of Bendini, Lambert &
Locke. And then eventually we'll want you to appear in court and be a
witness — our most important witness. You must decide whether or
not you'll co-operate, Mitch. Tell us soon. If you decide not to help
we'll find someone else who will, sooner or later, and we'll put you in
prison along with the rest of them. If you choose to help us, we can
negotiate a price. And then we'll look after you, send you and your
wife anywhere in the world you want to go.'
'But the Mafia never forgets,' Mitch said. 'I've heard stories of
witnesses hidden by the FBI whose car suddenly explodes. You
people are capable of mistakes; one day, in ten years' time, one of you
will talk to the wrong person. If I help you I'll always live in fear. I'll
never be able to practise law again; Abby and I will have to change
our faces and become Mr and Mrs Ordinary in Nowheretown.'
'It's true, Mitch,' Voyles said. 'They never forget. But I promise
you, we will look after you and your wife. We have about two
thousand witnesses living all over the country under new names, with
new homes and new jobs. Now you had better get back to your hotel.
Tarrance will make contact with you soon.'
Chapter 13 Shopping for Shoes
Abby met him at the airport and in the bar he told her everything that
had happened. She was frightened and close to tears, but neither of
them could see any way out. They couldn't just run away and they
couldn't do nothing. Even while they were talking Mitch saw a tall,
fair-haired man with a moustache at the bar whom he remembered
from the hotel in Washington. They were following him all the time.
Tarrance didn't wait long. A week after Mitch returned to
Memphis, about the same time that 'Doris' got in contact, Tarrance
met him as he was walking back from a meeting and suggested they
turn into a shoe shop together, to get off the street. He started to say
that it was time for Mitch to decide what to do, but he suddenly
Tarrance started to say that it was time for Mitch to
decide what to do, but he suddenly stopped.
'What is it?' Mitch demanded.
'I just saw someone walk by the shop and look in at us. Listen
carefully, Mitch. We'll walk out together, and as soon as we're
outside, you push me away and shout at me. Then run in the direction
of the office.'
Mitch did exactly as Tarrance suggested. As soon as he got back to
the Bendini Building he went to Avery Tolleson's office and reported
that the same FBI agent had contacted him again. By the time they got
to Locke's office, Lambert and McKnight were there as well.
He pretended to be frightened and upset, and demanded to know
why the FBI had now contacted him twice. Lambert told him the same
story as before. Mitch hardly heard him; he watched his lips moving
and thought of Kozinski and Hodge and their families. Then Locke
asked him what had happened today.
'Tarrance pushed me into the shoe shop. I tried to run away, but
Tarrance followed me and grabbed me. I pushed him away and ran
back here. That's all that happened. What shall I do?'
'Nothing, Mitch,' said Lambert. 'Just stay away from this Tarrance.
If he even looks at you, report it to us immediately.'
'That's what he did,' said Avery.
Mitch tried to look as pitiful as possible.
'You can go, Mitch,' Lambert said.
'He's lying. I'm sure he's lying,' DeVasher said. They were all in
'What did your man see?' asked Locke.
'Something slightly different, but at the same time very different,
you know? He says McDeere and Tarrance walked together into the
shoe shop. He didn't see Tarrance grab
McDeere. They're in the shop for a couple of minutes. Our man walks
by and looks inside. Next minute they're fighting on the street.
Something isn't right, I tell you.'
The partners thought for a while. Finally, Oliver Lambert said,
'Look, DeVasher, it's possible that McDeere is telling the truth and
that your man got the wrong signals. You don't know of any contact
since last August.'
'No, but we can't watch anybody absolutely all the time. We didn't
know about those other two until it was almost too late.'
'But because you don't know of any recent contact, you shouldn't
doubt what McDeere's saying.'
'I'm not sure,' said DeVasher. 'I think McDeere and I should have a
'About what?' Lambert asked nervously.
'Just leave it to me. If you fools were in charge of security we'd all
be in prison by now. Lazarov is getting really worried, but he thinks
he can get someone in the FBI to talk. Then we'll know whether
McDeere is lying.'
Mitch was alone in his office late that night when a short, fat man
walked in. 'My name's DeVasher,' he said.
'What can I do for you?' Mitch asked.
'You can listen for a while. I'm in charge of security for the firm . .
'Why does the firm need security?' Mitch asked.
'Bendini was crazy about security. Anyway, we believe the FBI are
trying to get a man inside the firm to help in their investigations of
some of our clients. It's important that you tell us whenever they
attempt to make contact with you.'
'Yes, I already know that.'
Suddenly DeVasher was smiling evilly. 'I brought something with
me to show you,' he said. 'Something that will keep
you honest.' He reached inside his jacket and pulled out an envelope.
Mitch opened it nervously. Inside were four photographs, black
and white, very clear. On the beach. The girl.
'Oh, my God! Who took these?' Mitch shouted at him.
'What difference does that make?'
Mitch tore the photographs up and let the pieces fall on to his desk.
'We've got plenty more upstairs,' DeVasher said calmly. 'We don't
want to use them, but if we catch you talking to Mr Tarrance or some
other FBI agent, we'll send them to your wife. How would you like
that, Mitch? The next time you and Tarrance decide to shop for shoes,
think about us, Mitch. Because we'll be watching.'
Chapter 14 Two Black Briefcases
'So you want to rent a small office?' the agent said as they rode up in
the lift. He was admiring the tight jeans on the blonde.
She smiled and nodded.
The lift stopped and they got out. He showed her the small tworoom
office. She liked it. They negotiated a price — a good price for
even a small office on the ninth floor of the famous Cotton Shipping
Building. She signed the forms 'Doris Greenwood'.
By noon the next day the furniture was in place. There was a knock
at the door. 'Who is it?' she asked.
'It's your photocopier,' a voice answered.
She unlocked the door and opened it. Two men wheeled in a big
machine and she pointed them towards the spare second room.
'It's a big copier for such a small office,' one of them
remarked. 'This is the most modern machine we've got. It does ninety
copies a minute.'
She smiled and said it would do fine and signed the documents.
After they had gone she locked the door behind them and walked to
the window. She looked north, along Front Street. A quarter of a mile
away, on the opposite side, the 3endini Building was visible.
On a Tuesday morning Mitch's secretary checked that he had
everything for his meeting with Frank Mulholland in fifteen minutes.
Mitch, sitting at his desk, pointed at a large black briefcase. He
finished signing the letters on the desk in front of him, picked up the
briefcase and a thin document case and left the building. He checked
that the briefcase was in his right hand and the document case in his
left. That was the signal.
On the ninth floor of the Cotton Shipping Building, Tammy moved
away from the window, put on her coat and left the office.
Mitch entered the building and went straight to the lifts.
Mulholland's office was on the seventh floor. Mitch pushed the
button. He was not alone in the lift, but he didn't think they had
followed him here. He put the briefcase down on the floor by his foot.
Tammy got into the lift on the fourth floor. She had brought with
her exactly the same kind of briefcase that Mitch had. She didn't look
at Mitch but stood next to him and put her briefcase down on the
floor next to his. On the seventh floor Mitch picked up her briefcase
and left the lift; on the ninth floor Tammy picked up his briefcase and
went to her office.
The briefcase was full of files from Bendini, Lambert & Locke.
Tammy locked the door behind her. There were seven thick files. She
laid them on the table next to the copier. She took the
papers out of the first file and put them into the copier. She pushed
the 'Print' button and watched the machine make two perfect copies of
Mitch's meeting with Mulholland went well. They shook hands at
the end and arranged another meeting next week.
The lift stopped on the fifth floor and Tammy walked in. It was
empty except for Mitch. When the door closed he said, 'Any
'No. Two copies are locked away.'
'How long did it take?'
The lift stopped on the fourth floor and she picked up the empty
briefcase. 'Midday tomorrow?' she asked.
'Yes,' he replied. The door opened and she disappeared on to the
fourth floor. He rode alone down to the ground floor and walked, with
a briefcase in each hand, looking just as a lawyer should, back to his
Chapter 15 Secret Talks
A week later Mitch was having lunch with the partners in their fifthfloor
dining-room. Each year every associate member was invited
twice. Throughout lunch Mitch knew that he was being watched very
closely. They were looking for any signs that he was a less keen
member of the firm than he used to be. So he forced himself to smile
and to eat the food they offered him. It was impossible for him to
forget the pictures of him and the girl in the sand. Had they all seen
the pictures? Had they passed them around this table?
Oliver Lambert had never been so charming. He told stories about
past members of the firm, congratulated Mitch on the hours he was
working and the amount of money he was earning
the firm, and said he deserved the holiday he was taking next week.
'You and your wife are off to the Caymans, I hear,' Royce
McKnight said. 'You'll love it there.'
'Do you dive?' asked Lambert.
'No, but we plan to do plenty of swimming,' Mitch said.
'If you want to learn to dive,' Lambert went on, 'there's a man
called Adrian Bench who has an excellent diving school on the north
end of the island. It's worth a visit.'
In other words, stay away from Abanks, Mitch thought. 'Thanks.
I'll remember that,' he said.
'But be careful, Mitch,' Lambert said. 'It brings back memories of
Marty and Joe.'
The partners looked down sadly at their plates. Mitch felt sick.
They had killed Marty and Joe for doing exactly what he was doing.
He wanted two million from the FBI. There were a couple of other
things he wanted too.
At the same time that Mitch was having lunch with the partners,
Tammy Greenwood Hemphill parked her dirty brown Volkswagen
behind the shiny Peugeot in the school car park. She left the engine
running. She got out of the car, pulled a key from her pocket, opened
the back of the Peugeot and took the heavy black briefcase out. Then
she drove away in her own car.
At a small window in the teachers' lounge Abby drank coffee and
stared through the trees into the car park. She smiled and checked her
watch. Twelve-thirty, as planned.
Tammy drove back to her office. No one followed her; no one
knew of her existence. There were nine files this time. He had said
there would eventually be about forty. She copied them all. On the
way back to the school she took all the copied files to the small
storage room she had rented in her name.
At three o'clock in the morning Mitch got quietly out of bed and got
dressed. Without a word he kissed Abby, who was awake, and left the
house. He had a meeting at an all-night cafe twenty-five miles out of
town. At this time of night no one would follow him.
Tarrance and he completed their negotiations. They agreed on two
'I want a million now and a million later,' Mitch said. 'I'm already
copying all my files. No lawyer is allowed to do that: as soon as I
give them to you, it's the end of my career. So when I give them to
you I want the first million. We'll discuss the details later.'
'How are you going to get the files to us?' Tarrance asked. 'You
can't just walk around with them.'
'That's right,' Mitch said. 'When I hear that the first million has
gone where I want it to go, then I'll give you the key to a storage
room somewhere in the Memphis area.'
'And the second million?' Tarrance asked.
'When you and I and Voyles decide that I've given you enough
documents to make the arrests you want, then I get half. After I
appear in court as a witness for the last time, I get the other half.'
'Agreed,' Tarrance said.
'And there's one other thing I want, Tarrance.'
'I want my brother Ray out of Brushy Mountain Prison.'
'That's ridiculous, Mitch. We can't do that.'
'You can find a way. If you can't do it by bending the rules, then
you can help him escape. But you can do it. The FBI can do anything,
'I'll see what I can do,' Tarrance said helplessly. 'But Voyles isn't
going to like it.'
'Tell him that he doesn't get to see anything — not a single file —
unless he promises to get my brother out. Not even a file on one of
my clean clients. I don't know why you want those files anyway.'
'Because when we've got them,' Tarrance said, 'we've got you.
Actually, you're probably already working with criminal clients
without knowing it. It makes it easier for the firm to persuade you
later to do whatever they say, because they'll tell you that you've
already done enough to go to prison.'
Chapter 16 No Kiss
At eight o'clock on the morning after Mitch and Abby returned from
the Caymans, Oliver Lambert and Nathan Locke were allowed
through the metal door on the fifth floor. They went to DeVasher's
'I talked to Lazarov yesterday in Las Vegas. He's still worried. He
wants you to make sure that any associates who don't know about our
real business here work only on clean files.'
'OK. What about McDeere?' Lambert asked.
'He had a wonderful week with his wife. They stayed in the other
house, of course. You should see her in a string bikini! We took
some pictures, just for fun.'
'I didn't come here to look at pictures,' Locke said angrily.
'All right, all right. They spent a whole day with our friend Abanks.
We don't know what they talked about. Whenever we got someone
close to them, they were only talking about fishing or something. But
I don't like it at all.'
'What can they talk about?' said Lambert. 'Of course they'll talk about
Hodge and Kozinski, but there's no harm in that. They can't find
anything out, can they?.'
'No,' DeVasher admitted, 'but I still don't like it. I know
McDeere tells lies. I know he lied about that shoe shop. And Chicago
is worried, so I'm worried. That's my job. As long as the FBI are
around, I'll be worried.'
It was very unusual for wives to appear at the Bendini Building Abby
arrived there unexpectedly. The receptionist phoned up to Mitch's
office and his secretary came down to explain that Mitch was in a
'He's always in a meeting,' Abby replied. 'Get him out of it!'
She waited in Mitch's office. He was on the third floor, in Avery's
office, helping him prepare for another visit to the Caymans. Probably
taking cash for the Moroltos, Mitch thought. His secretary found him
there and told him about Abby.
He walked down to his office, where Abby was walking up and
'Mitch, I have to go and see my parents,' she said. 'My father just
called me at school. My mother's ill. She's got to have an operation
'I'm sorry,' Mitch said. He didn't touch her. She wasn't crying.
'I've told the school I'll be away for a while,' she said.
'I don't know. Mitch, we need some time away from each other. I
think it will be good for both of us.'
'Let's talk about it.'
'You're always too busy to talk. I've been trying to talk to you for
six months, but you can't hear me. I'll be back, I promise. I just don't
know when. I love you, Mitch.'
He watched her open the door. There was no kiss.
On the fifth floor an engineer pushed the emergency button for
Vasher's office. He came immediately and put headphones
on. He listened.
'When did this happen?' "Two minutes ago. In his office, second
floor.' 'She's leaving him, isn't she? Hell! She's our best lever. What
good are those photographs if she's leaving him anyway?'
Abby started for Kentucky but didn't arrive there. She made sure that
she wasn't being followed and then went to Nashville Airport. From
there she flew to the Caymans.
Avery finished his business at the Royal Bank of Montreal and, after
changing his clothes, made his way to Rumheads Bar. Just after he
arrived Tammy nervously entered the crowd and sat at the bar. She
was wearing a bikini which hardly covered her body. She was forty,
but twenty pairs of hungry eyes followed her to the bar, where she
ordered a soft drink and lit a cigarette.
She went over to Avery's table and asked if she could sit down. He
couldn't believe his luck; of all the men in the bar she had picked him.
'I'm Avery Tolleson. From Memphis.'
'Nice to meet you. I'm Libby.'
'What brings you here?' Avery asked.
'Just looking for fun,' she said, with a suggestive look in her eyes.
For three hours they dined, drank and danced, each time a little
more closely. She got him drunk. At ten o'clock she led him from the
bar to the firm's beach house where he was staying. He attacked her at
the front door and they kissed long and deeply.
When they were inside she suggested that they should have
She took a small plastic packet from her bag and dropped some
sleeping-powder into his drink.
one more drink. He left the room to go to the washroom. She took a
small plastic packet from her bag and dropped some sleeping-powder
into his drink. Mitch had told her it was enough to put him to sleep
for ten hours. When he returned, she watched closely as he
swallowed his drink. He was too drunk to taste a thing. Within
minutes he was in a deep sleep.
She pushed him off the chair and pulled him into the bedroom. She
laid him on the bed and took his clothes off. She kissed him
In his jacket pocket she found two key-rings, with eleven keys on
them. Downstairs, in the hall between the kitchen and the sittingroom,
she found the mysterious metal door which Mitch had noticed
when he stayed in this house with Avery last year. From the
arrangement of the upstairs rooms Mitch guessed that there was a
small room behind the door.
She opened the door, waited a full ten minutes for any alarm and
then turned on the light. Inside the room were twelve cupboards for
files, a desk and three large briefcases.
She checked that Avery was still deeply asleep. Then she went
back downstairs, grabbed the three briefcases, turned off the lights
and left through the front door. It was a short walk across the car park
to where the neighbouring hotel started. She was sweating from the
weight of the briefcases by the time she reached Room 188 and
knocked on the door.
Abby opened the door. 'Any problems?' she asked.
'No.' Tammy put the briefcases on the bed and went to get a Coke.
'Where is he?'
'In bed. I think we've got until six in the morning. There are a hell
of a lot of files in that room. We'll be lucky to finish by six.'
Room 188 was a single hotel room. All the furniture had been
pushed against the walls to make room for the photocopier Abby had
Tammy began to photocopy the files from the briefcases while
Abby went out in her car and had the keys copied by a man she had
found earlier. When she came back she continued with the
photocopying, while Tammy went back to the beach house. She filled
two suitcases with files from the cupboards. By the time she got back
to the hotel Abby had finished with the briefcases, and Tammy took
them back. Her arms soon ached from carrying the suitcases full of
files from one place to the other.
They managed to copy the files from ten of the cupboards before
Avery showed any signs of beginning to wake up. She left the files
they were copying with Abby, went back to the beach house, locked
the metal door and returned the keys. Then she took off her bikini top,
got into bed beside him and waited.
Avery finally woke up a few minutes after nine. He felt terrible. He
was late for an appointment.
'Hello, big boy,' Tammy said. 'You were wonderful.'
Avery tried to remember something about last night. He failed.
'Was I?' he said.
'Yeah, the best,' she said. He began to believe her.
'Listen,' he said. 'I have to take a shower and then go to work. Shall
we meet tonight at the bar?'
'I'll be there, lover,' she said.
He went off to the shower. She slid across the bed to the phone and
'He's in the shower.'
'Are you OK?'
'Yeah. He couldn't do it if he had to.'
'Does he suspect anything?'
'I don't think so. He's in pain.'
'How long will you be?' 'About ten
or fifteen minutes.' 'OK. Hurry.'
They put their phones down. Under the roof, a recorder witched
itself off and was ready for the next phone call.
Chapter 17 Tarry Ross
While Avery was at work the two women finished the last two
cupboards of files. They had a mountain of photocopied pieces of
paper. By two-thirty in the afternoon it was all in boxes in a storage
room in Georgetown. Over the next few days Tammy flew in and out
of the Caymans and carried the papers to a one-room apartment in
Brentwood, near Nashville. There she started the long job of listing
and describing all the contents. Mitch had told her it was urgent.
Tarrance was surprised when Abby came to the meeting instead of
Mitch. But she was no less efficient. She gave him the instructions for
wiring the first million dollars to a bank in Freeport, in the Bahamas.
'And when do we get the files?' Tarrance asked.
'As soon as we hear the money's in Freeport, we'll send you a key
to a storage room somewhere in Memphis. Any questions?'
'Yes. Are you making progress in getting the dirty files?'
She smiled. 'We already have most of what we need. By the time
we finish we'll have ten thousand dirty files for you.'
Tarrance was excited. 'Where are they?'
'Not with the clean files, I promise you.'
'But you have them?'
'Yes. Would you like to see a couple?'
'You can — as soon as Ray is out of prison.'
Tarry Ross was known to the Palumbo family as 'Alfred'. The fewer
people who knew his real name, the better; then his employers, the
FBI, would never hear about his profitable extra work. The Palumbo
family decided to help the Morolto family. Lazarov told them he
wanted some information out of the FBI. The Palumbos said they
would do it for half a million. Lazarov agreed, and Vinnie Cozzo from
the Palumbo family met Ross.
'Make it quick, Cozzo,' Ross said nervously.
'Did you ever hear of the Bendini firm in Memphis?' Cozzo asked.
'No.' The rule was always to say no at first. And always make them
wait: that way the price went up. Of course he'd heard of Bendini,
Lambert & Locke.
Vinnie went on, 'There's someone down there named Mitchell
McDeere, who works for this Bendini firm. We want to know if he's
been talking to your people. We think he's selling information to the
FBI. We just want to know if we're right, you know? That's all.'
Ross listened with a straight face, though it wasn't easy. He knew
everything about McDeere. He knew that McDeere had met Tarrance
half a dozen times now. He knew that tomorrow McDeere was
suddenly going to get a million dollars.
'I'll see what I can do,' he said. 'How much?'
'Two hundred thousand.'
'In cash?' Ross said in amazement.
'Yeah. You can see we're real serious about this. Can you do it?'
'Give me two weeks.'
Chapter 18 Fitting the Pieces Together
In the weeks before the end of the tax year everyone in the firm was
especially busy. With no wife to go home to, Mitch worked later than
anyone else. Besides, he had extra work to do. One night, at three in
the morning, he unlocked Avery's office on the fourth floor with one
of the keys Abby had given him. He remembered a lot of the names of
the files on Tammy's list. He unlocked the file cupboards and found
what he was looking for.
He carried the papers over to the photocopier near Avery's office.
Every file in the firm had a number, and none of the copiers in the
building would start until they were programmed with a file number.
Mitch programmed the machine with the number of an innocent file
which was sitting on his desk downstairs, and copied all 128 pieces of
paper. He returned this file to Avery's office and came back with
another one. He programmed in a different number. That night he
used eighteen file numbers from his own files and three he borrowed
from Lamar Quin's files.
A wire led from the copier through a hole in the wall and down the
inside of a cupboard, where it joined wires from three other copiers on
the fourth floor. This new, larger wire ran down to the third floor,
where a computer recorded every copy made within the firm, so that
they could bill the proper client. An innocent-looking grey wire ran
from this computer up through the fourth floor to the fifth, where
another computer recorded the same information, and added the
details of which machine was used to make the copies.
DeVasher was trying to fit the pieces together. Something was wrong,
but he couldn't work out what it was. He voiced his thoughts to
Lambert and Locke.
'His wife leaves, saying her mother's got to have an operation and
that she's tired of him. Right? But from the conversations we've
recorded, things weren't that bad between them. And why can't we
find a hospital that's heard of Maxine Sutherland? We've checked
every hospital in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. Doesn't that seem
odd to you?'
'Not really,' Lambert said. 'People often use hospitals on the other
side of the country if that's where the specialist doctor is. And her
parents are rich people. They'd find the best medical help, wherever it
Locke nodded and agreed. 'How much has he talked to her?'
'She calls about once a day. All they talk about is her mother and
his work and stuff like that.'
'Hasn't she mentioned the name of the hospital?' asked Locke.
'Not once. Sometimes I think it's a trick to get her out of town, to
'I can't believe that,' Lambert said. 'There's no proof of that.'
DeVasher looked angrily at them and walked nervously up and
down behind his desk. 'About ten days ago, someone made a lot of
unusual copies on the fourth floor. At three o'clock in the morning. At
the time, only McDeere and Scott Kimble were in the building.
Neither of them has any business on the fourth floor. Twenty-one file
numbers were used. Three belong to Lamar Quin's files and the other
eighteen all belong to McDeere's files. None belong to Kimble. The
copier used was
the one nearest to Avery's office, and McDeere works closely with
Avery. Who do you think made the copies?'
'Just over two thousand.'
'His own tax clients. At this time of year that seems fine, doesn't it?
But five days later his secretary used the same eighteen file numbers
to make three hundred copies. It seems to me that three hundred
copies is what you'd expect for tax clients at this time of year. But two
Locke and Lambert were listening closely now.
'So what was he copying?' DeVasher continued. 'I don't know. But
Avery's got cupboards in his office where the real files are kept.'
'He couldn't copy those files,' Lambert said.
'What else was he copying, Ollie? If he and Tarrance are talking,
what else would he want from Avery's office?'
'How could he get Avery's keys?' Locke asked.
'That's the question, isn't it?' DeVasher said. 'Avery says he keeps
them with him all the time. He also says that, when he was on the
Caymans three weeks ago, he slept alone both nights. But he's lying.
Listen to this.'
He played them the recorded phone conversation between Tammy
'Who are those women?' Locke demanded.
'We don't know. The one in his house must be someone he brought
home from a bar. But why is she calling a friend? It's too much to
think that these women took his keys and managed to copy them in
the middle of the night without his knowing anything about it. And
that they are friends of McDeere's.'
'I agree,' said Lambert.
'What about all the secret files in the beach house?' asked Locke.
'I've thought about that, Nat. Let's say she had the keys -though
that's unlikely — and let's say she opened the room and found the
files. What's she going to do with them in the middle of the night with
Avery asleep upstairs?'
'She could read them.'
'I don't think so. There are too many of them.'
'She could be working for the FBI.'
'No, definitely not,' DeVasher said. 'She's no professional. No
professional would make a phone call like that. I can only think that
she and her friend were after his wallet, and something went wrong.'
Locke and Lambert agreed.
'But we've got to be safe,' DeVasher said. 'I want all the locks
changed on the third and fourth floors, and in the beach house. I want
everyone on Grand Cayman who can copy keys questioned. And
Avery's a risk. I want him to leave for a while. Pretend he's ill or
something and has to take time off work.'
On Saturday, Mitch went to visit Ray in prison. By talking in Spanish,
and when the guards were nowhere near them, Mitch warned him to
be ready to escape in a few days' time.
When he got back to Memphis he parked his BMW in the centre of
The fair-haired man with a moustache, whose name was Aaron
Rimmer, called DeVasher. 'He's only gone shopping,' he said. 'I'll stay
with the car until he comes back for it.'
Mitch walked into a shop and used a pay phone to call for a taxi to
meet him at the side entrance in ten minutes. The taxi took him to the
apartment at Brentwood. He knocked on the door.
'Who is it?' a nervous female voice asked from inside. He heard the
voice and felt weak.
'Barry Abanks,' he said.
Abby opened the door and rushed into his arms.
After an hour on the bed the pain of loneliness was forgotten.
"They walked through the small apartment holding hands and kissing.
Mitch saw for the first time the enormous amounts of paper. He had
seen Tammy's notes and lists but not the actual papers. One day soon
he would spend hours here, studying the papers and preparing his
Chapter 19 Avery's Illness
On Monday morning Mitch's secretary told him that Lambert wanted
to see him. 'But don't forget that you're due at Mulhol-land's office in
the Cotton Shipping Building soon,' she added.
Up in Lambert's office they talked for a while about Avery's
illness. Lambert sounded worried about him.
'I visited him in hospital yesterday,' Mitch said. 'He seemed OK.
It's his heart, the doctors said.'
'Anyway,' Lambert said, 'he's going to be away for two months.
While he's away, I want you to work with Victor Milligan. But before
you start, Avery's got some unfinished business in the Caymans. I
want you to go down there tomorrow on the private jet. Tomorrow
morning I'll give you a file about the clients to read on the jet. OK?'
'Of course. No problem.'
But he was thinking: something is wrong here.
He met Tammy in her office in the Cotton Shipping Building.
'I want you to call Tarrance,' he said. 'Ask him to investigate
Avery Tolleson's illness. I'm not sure it's real.'
'Did you talk to Abanks?'
'Did he get the money?'
'Yes. It was wired on Friday.'
'Is he ready?'
'He said he was.'
'Good. What about the man who's making us new documents?'
'They call him the Doctor. I'm meeting him this afternoon. He's an
old friend of Eddie's. Eddie said he was the best in the country.'
'I hope so. We need new names. Are you OK for money?'
'I've nearly finished the fifty thousand you gave me.'
'How about another fifty thousand?'
They smiled at each other as he left.
Late that night Ray McDeere walked out of prison. It was as easy as
that. A guard came to fetch him. 'I don't know who your friends are,'
he said, 'but they must be important.' He took him out to the prison
walls. 'The lights are going to go off for a while,' he said. 'You'll find a
rope ladder on the wall. All you have to do is climb over the wall.
Someone will meet you on the other side. I don't believe this. Your
face will be all over the papers tomorrow, but tonight you can do what
you want.' Twelve hours later Ray was in Mobile, Alabama.
Chapter 20 Major Trouble
On Wednesday morning Tarry Ross climbed the stairs to the fourth
floor of the hotel. Vinnie Cozzo opened the door at his knock.
'Good morning, Alfred,' he said warmly. 'Would you like some
'I didn't come here for coffee,' said Ross. 'Where's the money?'
'First you have to talk to me,' Cozzo said.
'OK. We've given McDeere a million dollars already. We paid it into
a bank in the Bahamas, but he's already moved it out of there, and we
don't know where. Another million is on the way. He's delivered one
lot of Bendini documents and says he has ten thousand more. He's
talked to our agents many times in the last six months. He'll give
evidence at the trials and then disappear as a protected witness.'
'Where are the other documents?'
'He isn't saying. But he's ready to deliver them.'
As soon as Ross had left, Vinnie Cozzo called Lazarov.
Tarry Ross walked hurriedly down the hall. He had almost reached
the lift when a hand reached out of nowhere and pulled him into a
room. He was thrown to the floor and his briefcase full of money was
emptied on to the bed.
‘You disgust me, Ross,’ said Voyles. ‘I can’t believe it’s you. What
did you tell Cozzo?’
Ross began to talk.
DeVasher ran down the staris to the fourth floor and burst into
Locke´s office. Half the partners were there and the rest were on their
He quickly told them what Cozzo had told Lazarov. ‘the FBI have
had plenty of our files for about a week already. They haven’t
moved. That must mean that this first lot of files is clean. McDeere
was just warning them up. He’s in it for the money. But we have to
suppose that the next lot of files will destroy us. Where is McDeere?’
Milligan spoke. 'In his office. I just talked to him. He suspects
'Good. He's due to leave in three hours for Grand Cayman isn't he,
'Yes. Around midday.'
'The jet will never arrive. There'll be an explosion.'
'The jet?' asked one of the partners.
'Yeah, the jet. Don't worry, we'll buy you another toy. Lazarov is
on his way. As soon as we've got rid of McDeere, we're going to look
long and hard at this operation, and make whatever changes are
Locke stood up and said to Lambert, 'Just make sure McDeere's on
Mitch's secretary picked up the phone. 'Mr McDeere's office,' she
'I need to speak to him,' the man's voice said.
'I'm sorry, he's busy at the moment.'
'Listen, young lady, this is Judge Henry Hugo, and he was
supposed to be in my courtroom fifteen minutes ago. We're waiting
for him. It's an emergency.'
'There's nothing in his diary for this morning.'
'That's your fault. Now let me speak to him.'
She ran to Mitch's office and said, 'There's a Judge Hugo on the
phone. He says you're supposed to be in his court.'
Mitch jumped to his feet and grabbed the phone. He was pale.
'Yes?' he said.
'Mr McDeere,' Tarrance said. 'Judge Hugo. You're late for my
court. Get over here.'
'Yes, sir.' He dropped the phone and grabbed his coat and briefcase.
He was out of the office in two minutes. 'Judge Hugo' was the name
Tarrance had told Mitch he would use if
something went •wrong and the boys on the fifth floor were after him.
He ran east for about half a mile. He made sure that no one was
following him and then called Tarrance from a pay phone.
'What's happening, Tarrance?'
'Voyles just called me from Washington. One of our men has
'God! I knew this would happen. I knew I should never trust you!
You people are inefficient fools,' Mitch shouted.
'Don't worry, Mitch. We can protect you.'
'Yeah? I've heard that before. For some funny reason I just don't
trust you at the moment, Tarrance. You tell me you're going to protect
me for the rest of my life, then I'm nearly gunned down in my own
office! That's great! From now on, I go my own way, Tarrance.'
'What about the documents? We paid you.'
'Wrong, Tarrance. You paid me for what you've already got.
Remember? Goodbye, Wayne.'
He put the phone down. At the other end Tarrance threw his phone
against the wall.
Mitch had another call to make. 'Hi, Tammy,' he said when she
picked up the phone.
'Hi. What's the matter?'
'Major trouble. No time to explain. I'm running and they're right
behind me. Call Abby at her parents' house. Tell her to drop
everything and get out. She doesn't have time to pack a suitcase. Tell
her to catch a plane to Mobile. There she signs in at the Perdido
Beach Hilton under the name of Rachel James.'
'OK. Anything else?'
'Yeah. Get the documents from the Doctor, then fly to Nashville
and stay in the Brentwood apartment. Do not leave the phone. Then
'OK. What about you?'
'I'll be coming to Nashville, but I'm not sure when. Listen, Tammy,
tell Abby she could be dead within the hour if she doesn't run. Move.'
At the airport Mitch bought several tickets in his own name for
various destinations around the country. In the name of Sam Fortune,
and in cash, he bought a ticket for Cincinnati.
Lazarov entered the corner office on the fourth floor and no one could
meet his eyes.
'We can't find him,' DeVasher said.
'You mean he just got up and walked out of here?' Lazarov asked.
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 car park.'
'He walked out of here on foot? Joey's going to love this. How many
partners have we got?'
'Sixteen who are here.'
'Divide them up in pairs and send them to all the major airports in the
country. Go and get his wife. Don't hurt her yet; just bring her in.
Voyles had also come down to Memphis. At that moment he was in
Tarrance's office, giving very similar instructions to his men as
Lazarov was giving to his.
Chapter 21 On the Run
From Cincinnati, Mitch flew to Nashville. He hired a van and drove
to the apartment. On the way he bought some equipment from a
When he arrived Tammy gave him some food. At ten he called the
Perdido Hilton. He asked for Rachel James, but she hadn't arrived.
He asked for Lee Stevens. After a few moments someone picked up
'This is Mitch. Congratulations.'
Ray fell on the bed and closed his eyes. 'It was so easy, Mitch.
How did you do it?'
'I'll tell you when we have time. But at the moment there are a lot
of people trying to kill Abby and me. We're on the run. Don't ask me
about it now. It's the Mafia and the FBI.'
'Is that all?'
Mitch laughed. 'Abby will be arriving at your hotel soon. Check
that she isn't being followed, OK? She's calling herself Rachel James.'
He gave Ray the number of the Brentwood apartment. 'Remember that
number, Ray. If I'm not here, someone called Tammy will be. You
can trust her. Take care of my wife and call me when she gets there.'
'OK, Mitch. And thanks.'
Abby arrived an hour later in a hired car. She parked and walked
towards the front door of the hotel. She stopped for a second and
looked behind her.
Two minutes later a yellow taxi from Mobile also parked. Ray
watched the taxi. A woman got out of the back and walked into the
hotel. Ray followed her.
The woman approached the counter and asked for a room.
Then she said, 'What's the name of that lady who just signed in here?
She seemed familiar. I think she's an old friend.'
The clerk looked through his cards. 'Rachel James,' he said. ,
'Yeah, that's her. What room is she in? I'd like to say hello.'
'I can't give room numbers,' said the clerk.
The woman pulled two twenties from her purse and slid them
across the counter. 'I only want to say hello.'
The clerk took the money. 'Room 622.'
'Where are the phones?' the woman asked.
'Around the corner,' said the clerk, and pointed.
Ray got there first. He grabbed a phone and pretended to be talking
to someone. He heard only a few words of the woman's
conversation:'. . . Mobile . . . Room 622 . . . send some help . . . an
Ten minutes later there was a knock at the door of her room. The
woman jumped up from the bed, grabbed her gun and stuck it into her
trousers under her shirt. She cautiously opened the door.
Ray burst in and knocked her against the wall. He jumped at her,
took her gun and pinned her to the floor. With her face in the carpet,
he pushed the gun into her ear. 'If you move or make a sound,' he said,
'I'll kill you.'
He opened her suitcase. 'Open your mouth,' he said, and pushed a
pair of socks in. He tied her up tightly with clothes from her case and
slid her under the bed. Then he left with her gun.
The phone went at 1 a.m., and Mitch was not asleep. He was studying
'Hello,'he answered cautiously.
'Where are you, Ray? I can hear music'
'In a bar. We had to move out of the hotel; Abby was followed.'
'Abby's there? She's safe?'
Ray hurst in and knocked her against the wall. He jumped at her, took
her gun and pinned her to the floor.
'Yeah. Now what?'
'Drive to Panama City Beach and get two rooms at the Holiday Hotel.
Call me when you're there.' 'I hope you know what you're doing.'
'Trust me, Ray.'
'I do, but I'm beginning to wish I was back in prison.' 'You can't go
back, Ray. We either disappear or we're dead.'
Chapter 22 The Hunt Gets Closer
The taxi stopped in the middle of Nashville and Mitch got out. He
entered the Southeastern Bank Building and asked to see Mr Laycook.
He had learned a lot over the last few weeks. He knew all the right
dates and numbers to pass the bank's tests. They let him wire ten
million dollars out of the Royal Bank of Montreal in Grand Cayman
into their bank. As soon as it arrived he moved a million to his
mother's bank, a million to Abby's parents' bank and a million for
Tammy. The other seven million joined what was left of the FBI
money in his bank in Zurich.
On the top floor of the Royal Bank of Montreal in Grand Cayman,
Randolph Osgood was informed, as was proper, of the movement of a
large amount of money. He picked up the phone and called Memphis.
A receptionist told him that Mr Tolleson was not available. Then
Nathan Locke? he asked. Mr Locke is out of town. Victor Milligan?
Mr Milligan is away too.
Osgood decided to try again tomorrow.
Next day the hunt got closer. The police were looking for a man who
had attacked a woman in the Perdido Beach Hilton. When Ray
McDeere's picture appeared in the papers as an escaped murderer, the
hotel clerk connected him with the attack and told the police that he
was with a woman called Rachel James. The
victim of the attack, Karen Adair, supported by her boyfriend Aaron
Rimmer, agreed that the criminal was Ray McDeere. Then the clerk
remembered that Rachel James was driving a white Cutlass. The
police began to search for the car.
It took seventeen trips from the apartment to the van with all the
boxes. Then Mitch sat in the apartment and wrote down instructions
for Tammy. He also told her that there was a million dollars waiting
for her in her bank.
He spoke to Abby at the Holiday Hotel in Panama City Beach. She
told him about the police hunt for Ray, which was in all the
'Where's Ray now?'
'On the beach, trying to brown his face. I've told him everything.
He's also had a haircut.'
'Good idea. Abby, you must cut your hair and colour it blonde. But
first you must get out of there. Just walk out. Make it look as if you're
going for a walk on the beach. But a mile east along the beach is a
small hotel called the Blue Tide. Sign in there as Jackie Nagel. I'll be
there soon. Don't worry; there are so many hotels and buildings along
the beach there that it'll take them a year to search them all.'
Twelve hours later the three of them were together.
Chapter 23 Panama City Beach
Joey Morolto flew down with forty of his men. He settled himself in
the Sandpiper Hotel. The first thing he did was get all the available
partners and associates from Memphis to come to Alabama. These
people knew McDeere; they could recognize him.
Three miles along the beach, F. Denton Voyles and Tarrance were
sitting in their hotel, waiting for news. They had sixty FBI agents and
hundreds of local cops searching for the car.
The white Cutlass was found at nine in the morning in the car park
of an apartment building in Panama City Beach. Voyles immediately
moved all his men down there.
A local cop phoned that nice Mr Rimmer to tell him the news, so
that he and his pretty girlfriend would feel better. Mr Rimmer called
Lazarov at the Sandpiper. Rimmer and Lazarov immediately moved
all their men down to Panama City Beach.
It took only a few minutes for the van to become hot news. The man
who had rented it to Mitch was reading his morning paper and he
remembered the name 'McDeere'. He looked through his records and
phoned the police. A short while later Voyles and Tarrance got the
news. They realized that the van must be for carrying the files.
At nine, Mitch called Tammy. She had the new documents and
passports. Mitch told her to send them to Sam Fortune at the Blue
Tide Hotel and gave her the address. He told her to make sure they
arrived the next day. Finally he told her to leave Nashville, drive to
Knoxville and call him from there.
By midday, all the roads to the coast around Panama City Beach
were closed by the police. Lazarov and Morolto were in the Best
Western Hotel, while their men were out searching.
At four in the afternoon, a clerk in the Holiday Hotel told the police
that Abby McDeere was probably the woman who had paid cash for
two rooms for three nights but hadn't really used either of them.
At 4.58, a police car stopped in the car park of a cheap hotel and
found the van Mitch had rented. It was empty.
Andy Patrick had first gone to prison, for four months, when he was
nineteen. Since then he had committed plenty of minor crimes. He
hated violence. He hated cops. A cop had once beaten him so badly
that he lost one eye.
Six months ago he found himself in Panama City Beach and got a
job as a clerk at the Blue Tide Hotel. Around nine on Friday night he
was watching TV when the cop walked in.
'We're looking for some people,' said the cop, and laid pictures on
the counter. 'Seen any of them?'
Andy studied the pictures. He thought he recognized the one of
Mitchell Y. McDeere. His criminal's mind began to work.
'I haven't seen them,' he said. 'I'll tell you if I do.'
'They're dangerous,' said the cop.
You're the dangerous one, Andy thought.
As soon as the cop had left, Andy went and knocked on the door of
Room 38. He could see the red lights of police cars passing on the
road behind the hotel.
'Who's there?' a woman's voice said.
'The manager,' Andy replied.
Mitch opened the door. Andy could see he was nervous. 'What is
it?' he asked.
'The police were just here,' Andy explained. 'They showed me
some pictures. I said I couldn't recognize them. Do you know what I
mean? They said one of these people had been in prison. I've been in
prison too, and I think everyone should escape. Am I making myself
'Yes,' Mitch said. 'What's your name?'
'Andy, I'll give you a thousand dollars now, and another thousand
tomorrow, if you're still unable to recognize any of the faces in the
'Five thousand a day,' Andy said.
'OK. And I'll give you another five thousand to bring me a small
packet that will arrive tomorrow morning.'
'Good.' Andy went back to his counter.
Back in the room, Mitch said, 'I think our luck has just changed for
Chapter 24 On the Floor Among the Boxes
'Why here?' Lazarov asked. 'Why did they choose Panama City
Beach? They're trapped here. The cops have got the whole place
covered. There are only about sixty of our men, and the cops have got
hundreds. So the chances are that they'll find them before we do.'
Morolto nodded. 'So we've got to improve our chances.'
'Leave that to me,' DeVasher said. 'But why here? It's good for
them that there are a lot of small hotels, but we can still send our
people to search them, room by room. It'll take time, but we can do it.'
'The water!' Morolto suddenly shouted. 'They're going to try to
escape by sea, in the dark!'
'That makes sense to me,' DeVasher said.
'So where are our boats?' Morolto said.
Lazarov jumped from his seat and began shouting orders down the
phone. He wanted his men to hire every available boat and stay out at
DeVasher gave his own orders to Rimmer and his men. Rim-mer
drove up to Tallahassee and phoned the police from there. 'Listen!' he
said excitedly. 'I just saw those three people you're after. They're
driving a green Ford van! They're going south!'
Five minutes later Fat Tony Verkler did exactly the same from a
few miles further south.
Within a couple of hours nearly all the local cops had returned to
their stations, and all the FBI agents were travelling south.
Mitch, Abby and Ray watched the news on TV. Now that the police
search had moved away from Panama City Beach it was more
dangerous for them. The police only wanted to arrest them; Morolto's
men wanted to kill them.
Early the next morning Mitch sat back down on the floor among all
the boxes. He nodded at Abby, who was operating the camera. He
continued giving evidence. After sixteen hours he had nearly finished.
With the help of Tammy's lists he told the court where they could find
nine hundred million dollars of Mafia money in banks. He then
explained how the whole system worked and who the most important
figures were. For six hours he explained the various methods the
Moroltos and their lawyers used to turn dirty money into clean. He
knew that the evidence was incomplete, but when the FBI had these
films they could easily get permission to search the whole Bendini
Building and all its computer records.
At 10.35 Andy Patrick received the envelope addressed to Sam
Fortune. He started to take it over to Room 38 but stopped when he
saw two men knocking at the doors to the rooms. He went back to the
reception desk and phoned Room 38.
'Mr Fortune? I think you should know there are two men coming
your way. They're knocking on all the doors.'
'Are they cops?'
'I don't think so. They didn't come and see me first.'
'Thanks. We'll switch the lights off and not answer the door.
They'll think the room's empty. What about the packet?'
'OK. Can you bring it over as soon as it's safe?'
In Room 38 they admired the new documents and passports. The
Doctor certainly knew his work.
'We have to celebrate,' Ray said. 'Besides, I'm going crazy in here.
I'm going to get us some beers.'
'Ray, no,' Mitch said. 'There's no need to take chances.'
But Ray wasn't listening. He stayed close to the walls until he
reached the end of the hotel. There was a row of shops next to the
hotel. He waited until he was sure no one was looking and then went
into the supermarket.
In the car park in front of the shops Lamar Quin saw Ray enter the
shop. The way the man moved was familiar. He walked over to the
shop and went inside. He took a Coke and waited to pay for it until he
came face to face with the man. It wasn't Mitch McDeere, but he
looked just like him.
It was Ray. It had to be. The face was darker than his prison
photograph, and he was wearing sunglasses, but this was definitely a
'How's it going?' Lamar said to the man.
'Fine. You?' Even the voice was similar.
Lamar paid for his drink and returned to the car park. He calmly
put the Coke in his car. Then he went to the next shop to continue his
search for the McDeeres.
Chapter 25 The Pier
The Dan Russell Pier was the one which was furthest west of the three
piers on Panama City Beach. It was about half a mile east of
the Blue Tide. At eleven-thirty Abby left Room 38 and began walking
east along the beach. Five minutes later Mitch left. While Abby was
dressed to look like a tourist, Mitch was dressed all in black. So was
Ray, who left five minutes after Mitch, locking the door behind him.
At midnight Abby stood at the end of the pier. Mitch sat on a chair
at the beach end of the pier. Ray was standing on the sand about fifty
Abby hid as much of her torch as possible in her coat and pointed
it out to sea. She switched it on and off, on and off. There was no
reply. She tried again. Again there was no reply.
From the corner of his eye Mitch saw someone jump on to the pier
and walk quickly towards Abby. It was Rimmer. Mitch was up and
running silently after him.
Rimmer walked up behind Abby and called her name. She turned
round and started to scream. Rimmer jumped at her and at the same
time Mitch dived head first into his legs. All three fell down on to the
hard surface of the pier. Rimmer hit Mitch hard in the eye and
reached for his gun. He never found it. Ray charged into him and hit
him again and again until he was unconscious.
'Switch on the torch again, Abby,' Ray said as he unwrapped the
rope from his waist. She turned out to sea and did as he said.
'What are you going to do?' Mitch whispered, watching Ray and
'We can either shoot him or drown him,' Ray said. 'We have to do
one or the other.'
'Oh, my God!'said Abby.
'Don't fire the gun,' Mitch whispered.
'I agree,' Ray said. He twisted the rope around Rimmer's neck and
tightened it. Rimmer didn't move. After three minutes Ray slid the
body at the end of the rope down into the water.
Abanks was late, but he found a way through the small boats
Ray twisted the rope around Rimmer's neck and tightened it.
Rimmer didn't move.
which were waiting out at sea. None of Morolto's men even saw him
come, and none of them saw him go with his three new passengers.
At six in the morning Tammy phoned Tarrance, just as Mitch had said
'You can have the files now, Wayne,' she said. 'They're in Room 38,
Blue Tide Hotel, Panama City Beach. The clerk is called Andy and
he'll let you into the room. Be careful with the files, Wayne, we've
taken a lot of time and trouble getting them all neat for you. And
you'll find sixteen hours of film there too.' 'I have just one question,'
Tarrance said tiredly. 'Where is he?' 'By now,' said Tammy, 'they're
on a plane to South America. I've got to go. Goodbye.'
The boat Abanks had bought them was perfect. With it and the money
they could spend the rest of their lives sailing in luxury among the
thousands of islands in the West Indies. They could have homes on
two or three of the smaller ones, like Little Cayman, where no one
ever came. Abanks taught them all he knew about boating and about
They knew from newspapers that the firm and the Morolto family
were finished. Fifty-one present and past members of the firm were
arrested, and the Morolto family trials would go on for years. The
Memphis newspapers listed the names of all the arrested lawyers. As
Mitch read their names he saw their faces. He almost felt sorry for
some of them, and he pitied their wives and children. What a waste of
'I love you, Mitch.' Abby was standing behind him. 'We'll be OK.
As long as we're together we can handle anything.'
'I never really wanted to be a lawyer, anyway,' Mitch said. 'I
always wanted to be a sailor.