Home > The Client(4)

The Client(4)
Author: John Grisham

"Now pull the trigger, kid," he said with a smile, his wet face glowing and dancing with delightful anticipation. "Pull the trigger, and I'll be dead and you go free." Mark curled a finger around the trigger. The man nodded, then leaned even closer and bit the tip of the barrel with flashing teeth. "Pull the trigger!" he shouted.

Mark closed his eyes and pressed the handle of the gun with the palms of his hands. He held his breath, and was about to squeeze the trigger when the man jerked it from him. He waved it wildly in front of Mark's face, and pulled the trigger. Mark screamed as the window behind his head cracked into a thousand pieces but did not shatter. "It works! It works!" he yelled as Mark ducked and covered his ears.

RICKY BURIED HIS FACE IN THE GRASS WHEN HE HEARD THE shot. He was ten feet from the car when something popped and Mark yelled. The fat man was yelling, and Ricky peed on himself again. He closed his eyes and clutched the weeds. His stomach cramped and-his heart pounded, and for a minute after the gunshot he did not move. He cried for his brother, who was dead now, shot by a crazy man.

"STOP CRYING, DAMMIT! I'M SICK OF YOUR CRYING!" Mark clutched his knees and tried to stop crying. His head pounded and his mouth was dry. He stuck his hands between his knees and bent over. He had to stop crying and think of something. On a television show once some nut was about to jump off a building, and this cool cop just kept talking to him and talking to him, and finally the nut started talking back and of course did not jump. Mark quickly smelled for gas, and asked, "Why are you doing this?" "Because I want to die," the man said calmly.

"Why?" he asked again, glancing at the neat little round hole in his window.

"Why do kids ask so many questions?" "Because we're kids. Why do you want to die?" He could barely hear his own words.

"Look, kid, we'll be dead in five minutes, okay? Just you and me, pal, off to see the wizard." He took a long drink from the bottle, now almost empty. "I feel the gas, kid. Do you feel it? Finally." In the side mirror, through the cracks in the window, Mark saw the weeds move and caught a glimpse of Ricky as he slithered through the weeds and ducked into the bushes near the tree. He closed his eyes and said a prayer.

"I gotta tell you, kid, it's nice having you here. No one wants to die alone. What's your name?" "Mark." "Mark who?" "Mark Sway." Keep talking, and maybe the nut won't jump. "What's your name?" "Jerome. But you can call me Romey. That's what my friends call me, and since you and I are pretty tight now you can call me Romey. No more questions, okay, kid?" "Why do you want to die, Romey?" "I said no more questions. Do you feel the gas, Mark?" "I don't know." "You will soon enough. Better say your prayers." Romey sank low into the seat with his beefy head straight back and eyes closed, completely at ease. "We've got about five minutes, Mark, any last words?" The whiskey bottle was in his right hand, the gun in his left.

"Yeah, why are you doing this?" Mark asked, glancing at the mirror for another sign of his brother. He took short, quick breaths through the nose, and neither smeiled nor teit anytnmg. ourciy moved the hose.

"Because I'm crazy, just another crazy lawyer, right. I've been driven crazy, Mark, and how old are you?" "Eleven." "Ever tasted whiskey?" "No," Mark answered truthfully.

Suddenly, the whiskey bottle was in his face, and he took it.

"Take a shot," Romey said without opening his eyes.

Mark tried to read the label, but his left eye was virtually closed and his ears were ringing from the gunshot, and he couldn't concentrate. He set the bottle on the seat where Romey took it without a word.

"We're dying, Mark," he said almost to himself. "I guess that's tough at age eleven, but so be it. Nothing I can do about it. Any last words, big boy?" Mark told himself that Ricky had done the trick, that the hose was now harmless, that his new friend Romey here was drunk and crazy, and that if he survived he would have to do so by thinking and talking. The air was clean. He breathed deeply and told himself that he could make it. "What made you crazy?" Romey thought for a second and decided this was humorous. He snorted and actually chuckled a little. "Oh, this is great. Perfect. For weeks now, I've known something no one else in the entire world knows, except my client, -who's a real piece of scum, by the way. You see, Mark, lawyers hear all sorts of private stuff that we can never repeat. Strictly confidential, you understand. No way we can ever tell what happened to the money or who's sleeping with who or where the He inhaled mightily, and exhaled with enormous pleasure. He sank lower in the seat, eyes still closed. "Sorry I had to slap you." He curled his finger around the trigger.

Mark closed his eyes and felt nothing.

"How old are you, Mark?" "Eleven." "You told me that. Eleven. And I'm forty-four. We're both too young to die, aren't we, Mark?" "Yes sir." "But it's happening, pal. Do you feel it?" "Yes sir." "My client killed a man and hid the body, and now my client wants to kill me. That's the whole story. They've made me crazy. Ha! Ha! This is great, Mark. This is wonderful. I, the trusted lawyer, can now tell you, literally seconds before we float away, where the body is. The body, Mark, the most notorious undiscovered corpse of our time. Unbelievable. I can finally tell!" His eyes were open and glowing down at Mark. "This is funny as hell, Mark!" Mark missed the humor. He glanced at the mirror, then at the door lock switch a foot away. The handle was even closer.

Romey relaxed again and closed his eyes as if trying desperately to take a nap. "I'm sorry about this, kid, really sorry, but, like I said, it's nice to have you here." He slowly placed the bottle on the dash next to the note and moved the pistol from his left hand to his right, caressing it softly and stroking the trigger with his index finger. Mark tried not to look. "I'm really sorry about this, kid. How old are you?" "Eleven. You've asked me three times." "Shut up! I feel the gas now, don't you? Quit sniffing, dammit! It's odorless, you little dumbass. YOU can't smell it. I'd be dead now and you'd be off playing GI Joe if you hadn't been so cute. You're pretty stupid, you know." Not as stupid as you, thought Mark. "Who did your client kill?" Romey grinned but did not open his eyes. "A United States senator. I'm telling. I'm telling. I'm spilling my guts. Do you read newspapers?" "No." "I'm not surprised. Senator Boyette from New Orleans. That's where I'm from." "Why did you come to Memphis?" "Dammit, kid! Full of questions, aren't you?" "Yeah. Why'd your client kill Senator Boyette?" "Why, why, why, who, who, who. You're a real pain in the ass, Mark." "I know. Why don't you just let me go?" Mark glanced at the mirror, then at the hose running into the backseat.

"I might just shoot you in the head if you don't shut up." His bearded chin dropped and almost touched his chest. "My client has killed a lot of people. That's how he makes money, by killing people. He's a member of the Mafia in New Orleans, and now he's trying to kill me. Too bad, ain't it, kid. We beat him to it. Joke's on him." Romey took a long drink from the bottle and stared at Mark.

"just think about it, kid, right now, Barry, or Barry the Blade as he's known, these Mafia guys all have cute nicknames, you know, is waiting for me in a dirty restaurant in New Orleans. He's probably got a couple of his pals nearby, and after a quiet dinner he'll want me to get in the car and take a little drive, talk about his case and all, and then he'll pull out a knife, that's why they call him the Blade, and I'm history. They'll dispose of my chubby little body somewhere, just like they did Senator Boyette, and, bam!, just like that, New Orleans has another unsolved murder. But we showed them, didn't we, kid? We showed them." His speech was slower and his tongue thicker. He moved the pistol up and down on his thigh when he talked. The finger stayed on the trigger.

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