Home > The Client(15)

The Client(15)
Author: John Grisham

"I don't know, but as soon as possible. He needs the safety and familiarity of his bedroom and surroundings. Maybe a week. Maybe two. Depends on how quickly he responds." Dianne pulled her feet under her. "I, uh, I have a job. I don't know what to do." "I'll have my office contact your employer first 'thing in the morning." "My employer runs a sweatshop. It is not a nice, clean corporation with benefits and sympathy. They will not send flowers. I'm afraid they won't understand." "I'll do the best I can." "What about school?" Mark asked.

"Your mother has given me the name of the principal. I'll call first thing in the morning and talk to your teachers." Dianne was rubbing her temples again. A nurse, not the pretty one, knocked while entering. She handed Dianne two pills and a cup of water.

"It's Dalmane," Greenway said. "It should help you rest. If not, call the nurses' station and they'll bring something stronger." The nurse left and Greenway stood and felt Ricky's forehead. "See you guys in the morning. Get some sleep." He smiled for the first time, then closed the door behind him.

They were alone, the tiny Sway family, or what was left of it. Mark moved closer to his mother and leaned on her shoulder. They looked at the small head on the large pillow less than five feet away.

She patted his arm. "It'll be all right, Mark. We've been through worse." She held him tight and he closed his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Mom." His eyes watered, and he was ready for a cry. "I'm so sorry about all this." She squeezed him, and held him tight. He sobbed quietly with his face buried in her shirt.

She gently lay down with Mark still in her arms, and they curled together on the cheap foam mattress. Ricky's bed was two feet higher. The window was above them. The lights were low. Mark stopped the crying. It was something he was lousy at anyway.

The Dalmane was working, and she was exhausted. Nine hours of packing plastic lamps into cardboard boxes, five hours of a full-blown crisis, and now the Dalmane. She was ready for a deep sleep.

"Will you get fired, Mom?" Mark asked. He worried about the family finances as much as she did.

"I don't think so. We'll worry about it tomorrow." "We need to talk, Mom." "I know we do. But let's do it in the morning." "Why can't we talk now?" She relaxed her grip and breathed deeply, eyes already closed. "I'm very tired and sleepy, Mark. I promise we'll have a long talk first thing in the morning. You have some questions to answer, don't you? Now go brush your teeth and let's try and sleep." Mark was suddenly tired too. The hard line of a metal brace protruded through the cheap mattress, and he crept closer to the wall and pulled the lone sheet over him. His mother rubbed his arm. He stared at the wall, six inches away, and decided he could not sleep like this for a week.

Her breathing was much heavier and she was completely still. He thought of Romey. Where was he now? Where was the chubby little body with the bald head? He remembered the sweat and how it poured from his shiny scalp and ran down in all directions, some dripping from his eyebrows and some soaking his collar. Even his ears were wet. Who would get his car? Who would clean it up and wash the blood off? Who would get the gun? Mark realixed for the first time that his ears were no longer ringing from the gunfire in the car. Was Hardy still out there in the sitting room trying to sleep? Would the cops return tomorrow with more questions? What if they asked about the garden hose? What if they asked a thousand questions?

He was wide awake now, staring at the wall. Lights from the outside trickled through the blinds. The Dalmane worked well because his mother was breathing very slow and heavy. Ricky had not moved. He stared at the dim light above the table, and thought of Hardy and the police. Were they watching him? Was he under surveillance, like on television? Surely not.

He watched them sleep for twenty minutes, and got bored with it. It was time to explore. When he was a first-grader, his father came home drunk late one night and started raising hell with Dianne. They fought and the trailer shook, and Mark eased open the shoddy window in his room and slid to the ground. He went for a long walk around the neighborhood, then through the woods. It was a hot, sticky night with plenty of stars, and he rested on a hill overlooking the trailer park. He prayed for the safety of his mother. He asked God for a family in which everyone could sleep without fear of abuse. Why couldn't they just be normal? He rambled for two hours. All was quiet when he returned home, and thus began a habit of nighttime excursions that had brought him much pleasure and peace.

Mark was a thinker, a worrier, and when sleep came and went or wouldn't come at all, he went for long, secret walks. He learned much. He wore dark clothing and moved like a thief through the shadows of Tucker Wheel Estates. He witnessed petty crimes of theft and vandalism, but he never told. He saw lovers sneak from windows. He loved to sit on the hill above the park on clear nights and enjoy a quiet smoke. The fear of getting caught by his mother had vanished years earlier. She worked hard and slept sound.

He was not afraid of strange places. He pulled the sheet over his mother's shoulder, did the same for Ricky, and quietly closed the door behind him. The hall was dark and empty. Karen the gorgeous was busy at the nurses' desk. She smiled beautifully at him and stopped her writing. He wanted to go for some orange juice in the cafeteria, he said, and he knew how to get there. He'd be back in a minute. Karen grinned at him as he walked away, and Mark was in love.

Hardy was gone. The sitting room was empty but the television was on. "Hogan's Heroes." He took the empty elevator to the basement.

The cafeteria was deserted. A man with casts on both legs sat stiffly in a wheelchair at one table. The casts were shiny and clean. An arm was in a sling. A band of thick gauze covered the top of his head and it looked as though the hair had been shaven. He was terribly uncomfortable.

Mark paid for a pint of juice, and sat at a table near the man. He grimaced in pain, and shoved his soup away in frustration. He sipped juice through a straw, and noticed Mark. ( "What's up?" Mark asked with a smile. He could talk to anyone and felt sorry for the guy.

The man glared at him, then looked away. He grimaced again and tried to adjust his legs. Mark tried not to stare.

A man with a white shirt and tie appeared from nowhere with a tray of food and coffee, and sat at a table on the other side of the injured guy. He didn't appear to notice Mark. "Bad injury," he said with a large smile. "What happened?" "Car wreck" came the somewhat anguished reply. "Got hit by an Exxon truck. Nut ran a stop sign." The smile grew even larger and the food and coffee were ignored. "When did it happen?" "Three days ago." "Did you say Exxon truck?" The man was standing and moving quickly to the guy's table, pulling something out of his pocket. He took a chair and was suddenly sitting within inches of the casts.

"Yeah," the guy said warily.

The man handed him a white card. "My name's Gill Teal. I'm a lawyer, and I specialize in auto accidents, especially cases involving large trucks." Gill Teal said this very rapidly, as if he'd hooked a large fish and had to work quickly or it might get away. "That's my specialty. Big-truck cases. Eighteen wheelers. Dump trucks. Tankers. You name it, and I go after them." He thrust his hand across the table. "Name's Gill Teal." Luckily for the guy, his good arm was his right one, and he lamely slung it over the table to shake hands with this hustler. "Joe Farris." Gill pumped it furiously, and eagerly moved in for the kill. "What you got-two broke legs, concussion, coupla puncture wounds?" "And broken collarbone." "Great. Then we're looking at permanent disability. What type work you do?" Gill asked, rubbing his chin in careful analysis. The card was lying on the table, untouched by Joe. They were unaware of Mark.

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