Home > The Client(3)

The Client(3)
Author: John Grisham

He cried and talked to himself as he waited for the gas to hurry, dammit!, before he'd give up and use the gun. He was a coward, but a very determined one, and he much preferred this sniffing and floating away to sticking a gun in his mouth.

He sipped the whiskey, and hissed as it burned on its descent. Yes, it was finally working. Soon, it would all be over, and he smiled at himself in the mirror because it was working and he was dying and he was not a coward after all. It took guts to do this.

He cried and muttered as he removed the cap of the whiskey bottle for one last swallow. He gulped, and it ran from his lips and trickled into his beard.

He would not be missed. And although this thought should have been painful, the lawyer was calmed by the knowledge that no one would grieve. His mother was the only person in the world who loved him, and she'd been dead four years so this would not hurt her. There was a child from the first disastrous marriage, a daughter he'd not seen in eleven years, but he'd been told she had joined a cult and was as crazy as her mother.

It would be a small funeral. A few lawyer buddies and perhaps a judge or two would be there all dressed up in dark suits and whispering importantly as the piped-in organ music drifted around the near-empty chapel. No tears. The lawyers would sit and glance at their watches while the minister, a stranger, sped through the standard comments used for dear departed ones who never went to church.

It would be a ten-minute job with no frills. The note on the dash required the body to be cremated.

"Wow," he said softly as he took another sip. He turned the bottle up, and while gulping glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the weeds move behind the car.

RICKY SAW THE DOOR OPEN BEFORE MARK HEARD IT. IT flew open, as if kicked, and suddenly the large, heavy man with the red face was running through the weeds, holding on to the car and growling. Ricky stood, in shock and fear, and wet his pants.

Mark had just touched the bumper when he heard the door. He froze for a second, gave a quick thought to crawling under the car, and the hesitation nailed him. His foot slipped as he tried to stand and run, and the man grabbed him. "You! You little bastard!" he screamed as he grabbed Mark's hair and flung him onto the trunk of the car. "You little bastard!" Mark kicked and squirmed, and a fat hand slapped him in the face. He kicked once more, not as violently, and he got slapped again.

Mark stared at the wild, glowing face just inches away. The eyes were red and wet. Fluids dripped from" the nose and chin. "You little bastard," he growled through clenched, dirty teeth.

When he had him pinned and still and subdued, the lawyer stuck the hose back into the exhaust pipe, then yanked Mark off the trunk by his collar and dragged him through the weeds to the driver's door, which was open. He threw the kid through the door and shoved him across the black leather seat.

Mark was grabbing at the door handle and searching for the door lock switch when the man fell behind the steering wheel. He slammed the door behind him, pointed at the door handle, and screamed, "Don't touch that!" Then he backhanded Mark in the left eye with a vicious slap.

Mark shrieked in pain, grabbed his eyes and bent over, stunned, crying now. His nose hurt like hell and his mouth hurt worse. He was dizzy. He tasted blood. He could hear the man crying and growling. He could smell the whiskey and see the knees of his dirty, blue jeans with his right eye. The left was beginning to swell. Things were blurred.

The fat lawyer gulped his whiskey and stared at Mark, who was all bent over and shaking at every joint. "Stop crying," he snarled.

Mark licked his lips and swallowed blood. He rubbed the knot above his eye and tried to breathe deeply, still staring at his jeans. Again, the man said, "Stop crying," so he tried to stop.

The engine was running. It was a big, heavy, quiet car, but Mark could hear the engine humming very softly ~ somewhere far away. He turned slowly and glanced at the hose winding through the rear window behind the driver like an angry snake sneaking toward them for the kill. The fat man laughed.

"I think we should die together," he announced, all of a sudden very composed.

Mark's left eye was swelling fast. He turned his shoulders and looked squarely at the man, who was even larger now. His face was chubby, the beard was bushy, the eyes were still red and glowed at him like a demon in the dark. Mark was crying. "Please let me out of here," he said, lip quivering, voice cracking. • The driver stuck the whiskey bottle in his mouth and turned it up. He grimaced and smacked his lips. "Sorry, kid. You had to be a cute ass, had to stick your dirty little nose into my business, didn't you? So I think we should die together. Okay? Just you and me, pal. Off to la-la land. Off to see the wizard. Sweet dreams, kid." Mark sniffed the air, then noticed the pistol lying between them. He glanced away, then stared at it when the man took another drink from the bottle.

"You want the gun?" the man asked.

"No sir." "So why are you looking at it?" "I wasn't." "Don't lie to me, kid, because if you do, I'll kill you. I'm crazy as hell, okay, and I'll kill you." Though tears flowed freely from his eyes, his voice was very calm. He breathed deeply as he spoke. "And besides, kid, if we're gonna be pals, you've got to be honest with me. Honesty's very important, you know? Now, do you want the gun?" "No sir." "Would you like to pick up the gun and shoot me with it?" "No sir." "I'm not afraid of dying, kid, you understand?" "Yes sir, but I don't want to die. I take care of my mother and my little brother." "Aw, ain't that sweet. A real man of the house." He screwed the cap onto the whiskey bottle, then suddenly grabbed the pistol, stuck it deep into his mouth, curled his lips around it, and looked at Mark, who watched every move, hoping he would pull the trigger and hoping he wouldn't. Slowly, he withdrew the barrel from his mouth, kissed the end of it, then pointed it at Mark.

"I've never shot this thing, you know," he said almost in a whisper. "Just bought it an hour ago at a pawnshop in Memphis. Do you think it'll work?" "Please let me out of here." "You have a choice, kid," he said, inhaling the invisible fumes. "I'll blow your brains out, and it's over now, or the gas'll get you. Your choice." Mark did not look at the pistol. He sniffed the air and thought for an instant that maybe he smelled something. The gun was close to his head. "Why are you doing this?" he asked.

"None of your damned business, okay, kid. I'm nuts, okay. Over the edge. I planned a nice little private suicide, you know, just me and my hose and maybe a icw pius and some whiskey. Nobody looking for me. But, no, you have to get cute. You little bastard!" He lowered the pistol and carefully placed it on the seat. Mark rubbed the knot on his forehead and bit his lip. His hands were shaking and he pressed them between his legs.

"We'll be dead in five minutes," he announced officially as he raised the bottle to his lips. "Just you and me, pal, off to see the wizard."

RICKY FINALLY MOVED. HIS TEETH CHATTERED AND HIS jeans were wet, but he was thinking now, moving from his crouch onto his hands and knees and sinking into the grass. He crawled toward the car, crying and gritting his teeth as he slid on his stomach. The door was about to fly open. The crazy man, who was large but quick, would leap from nowhere and grab him by the neck, just like Mark, and they'd all die in the long black car. Slowly, inch by inch, he pushed his way through the weeds.

MARK SLOWLY LIFTED THE PISTOL WITH BOTH HANDS. IT WAS as heavy as a brick. It shook as he raised it and pointed it at the fat man, who leaned toward it until the barrel was an inch from his nose.

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