Home > The Client(14)

The Client(14)
Author: John Grisham

"Has he said anything?" Mark asked first. The past three hours with Hardy had been nothing but quick questions, and the habit was hard to break.

"No." "How sick is he?" "Very sick," Greenway answered, his tiny, dark eyes glowing at Mark. "What did he see this afternoon?" "Is this in secret?" "Yes. Anything you tell me is strictly confidential." "What if the cops want to know what I tell you?" "I can't tell them. I promise. This is all very secret and confidential. Just you and me and your mother. We're all trying to help Ricky, and I've got to know what happened." Maybe a good dose of the truth would help everyone, especially Ricky. Mark looked at the small blond head with hair sticking in all directions on the pillow. Why oh why didn't they just run when the black car pulled up and parked? He was suddenly hit with guilt, and it terrified him. All of this was his fault. He should have known better than to mess with a crazy man.

His lip quivered and his eyes watered. He was cold. It was time to tell all. He was running out of lies and Ricky needed help. Greenway watched every move.

And then Hardy walked slowly by the door. He paused for a second in the hall and locked eyes with Mark, then disappeared. Mark knew he wasn't far away. Greenway had not seen him.

Mark started with the cigarettes. His mother looked at him hard, but if she was angry she didn't convey it. She shook her head once or twice, but never said a word. He spoke in a low voice, his eyes alternating quickly between Greenway vand the door, and described the tree with the rope and the woods and the clearing. Then the car. He left out a good chunk of the story, but did admit to Greenway, in a soft voice and in extreme confidence, that he once crawled to the car and removed the hose. And when he did so, Ricky cried and peed in his pants. Ricky begged him not to do it. He could tell Greenway liked this part. Dianne listened without expression.

Hardy walked by again, but Mark pretended not to see him. He paused in his story for a few seconds, then told how the man stormed out of the car, saw the garden hose lying harmlessly in the weeds, and crawled on the trunk and shot himself.

"How far away was Ricky?" Greenway asked.

Mark looked around the room. "You see that door across the hall?" he isked, pointing. "From here to there." Greenway looked and rubbed his beard. "About forty feet. That's not very far." "It was very close." "What exactly did Ricky do when the shot was fired?" Dianne was listening now. It apparently had just occurred to her that this was a different version from the earlier one. She wrinkled her forehead and looked hard at her eldest.

"I'm sorry, Mom. I was too scared to think. Don't be angry with me." "You actually saw the man shoot himself?" she asked in disbelief.

"Yes." She looked at Ricky. "No wonder." "What did Ricky do when the shot was fired?" "I wasn't looking at Ricky. I was watching the man with the gun." "Poor baby," Dianne mumbled in the background. Greenway held up a hand to cut her off.

"Was Ricky close to you?" Mark glanced at the door, and explained faintly how Ricky had frozen, then started away in an awkward jog, arms straight down, a dull moaning sound coming from his mouth. He told it all with dead accuracy from the point of the shooting to the point of the ambulance, and he left out nothing. He closed his eyes and relived each step, each movement. It felt wonderful to be so truthful.

"Why didn't you tell me you watched the man kill himself?" Dianne asked.

This irritated Greenway. "Please, Ms. Sway, you can discuss it with him later," he said without taking his eyes off Mark.

"What was the last word Ricky said?" Greenway asked.

He thought and watched the door. The hall was empty. "I really can't remember."

SERGEANT HARDY HUDDLED WITH HIS LIEUTENANT AND Special Agent Jason McThune of the FBI. They chatted in the sitting area next to the soft drink machines. Another FBI agent loitered suspiciously near the elevator. The hospital security guard glared at him.

The lieutenant explained hurriedly to Hardy that it was now an FBI matter, that the dead man's car and all other physical evidence had been turned over by the Memphis PD, that print experts had finished dusting the car and found lots of fingerprints too small for an adult, and they needed to know if Mark had dropped any clues or changed his story.

"No, but I'm not convinced he's telling the truth," Hardy said.

"Has he touched anything we can take?" Mc-Thune asked quickly, unconcerned about Hardy's theories or convictions.

"What do you mean?" "We have a strong suspicion the kid was in the car at some point before Clifford died. We need to lift the kid's prints from something and see if they match." "What makes you think he was in the car?" Hardy asked with great anticipation.

"I'll explain later," his lieutenant said.

Hardy looked around the sitting area, and suddenly pointed to a trash basket by the chair Mark had sat in. "There. The Sprite can. He drank a Sprite while sitting right there." McThune looked up and down the hall, and carefully wrapped a handkerchief around the Sprite can. He placed it in the pocket of his coat.

"It's definitely his," Hardy said. "This is the only trash basket, and that's the only Sprite can." "I'll run this to our fingerprint men," McThune said. "Is the kid, Mark, staying here tonight?" "I think so," Hardy said. "They've moved a portable bed into his brother's room. Looks like they'll all sleep in there. Why is the FBI concerned with Clifford?" "I'll explain later," said his lieutenant. "Stay here for another hour." "I'm supposed to be off in ten minutes." "You need the overtime."

DR. GREENWAY SAT IN THE PLASTIC CHAIR NEAR THE BED and studied his notes. "I'm gonna leave in a minute, but I'll be back early in the morning. He's stable, and I expect little change through the night. The nurses will check in every so often. Call them if he wakes up." He flipped a page of notes and read the chicken scratch, then looked at Dianne. "It's a severe case of acute post-traumatic stress disorder." "What does that mean?" Mark asked. Dianne rubbed her temples and kept her eyes closed.

"Sometimes a person sees a terrible event and cannot cope with it. Ricky was badly scared when you removed the garden hose from the tail pipe, and when he saw the man shoot himself he was suddenly exposed to a terrifying experience that he couldn't handle. It triggered a response in him. He sort of snapped. It shocked his mind and body. He was able to run home, which is quite remarkable because normally a person traumatized like Ricky would immediately become numb and paralyzed." He paused and placed his notes on the bed. "There's not a lot we can do right now. I expect him to come around tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, and we'll start talking about things. It may take some time. He'll have nightmares of the shooting, and flashbacks. He'll deny it happened, then he'll blame himself for it. He'll feel isolated, betrayed, bewildered, maybe even depressed. You just never know." "How will you treat him?" Dianne asked.

"We have to make him feel safe. You must stay here at all times. Now, you said the father is of no use." "Keep him away from Ricky," Mark said sternly. Dianne nodded.

"Fine. And there are no grandparents or relatives nearby." "No." "Very well. It's imperative that both of you stay in this room as much as possible for the next several days. Ricky must feel safe and secure. He'll need emotional and physical support from you. He and I will talk several times a day. It will be important for Mark and Ricky to talk about the shooting. They need to share and compare their reactions." "When do you think we might go home?" Di-anne asked.

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