Home > The Client(5)

The Client(5)
Author: John Grisham

Keep him talking. "Why does this Barry guy want to kill you?" "Another question. I'm floating. Are you float-ing?" "Yeah. It feels good." "Buncha reasons. Close your eyes, kid. Say your prayers." Mark watched the pistol and glanced at the door lock. He slowly touched each fingertip to each thumb, like counting in kindergarten, and the coordination was perfect.

"So where's the body?" Romey snorted and his head nodded. The voice was almost a whisper. "The body of Boyd Boyette. What a question. First U. S. senator murdered in office, did you know that? Murdered by my dear client Barry the Blade Muldanno, who shot him in the head four times, then hid the body. No body, no case. Do you understand, kid?" "Not really." "Why aren't you crying, kid? You were crying a few minutes ago. Aren't you scared?" "Yes, I'm scared. And I'd like to leave. I'm sorry you want to die and all, but I have to take care of my mother." "Touching, real touching. Now, shut up. You see, kid, the feds have to have a body to prove there was a murder. Barry is their suspect, their only suspect, because he really did it, you see, in fact they know he did it. But they need the body." "Where is it?" A dark cloud moved in front of the sun and the clearing was suddenly darker. Romey moved the gun gently along his leg as if to warn Mark against any sudden moves. "The Blade is not the smartest thug I've ever met, you know. Thinks he's a genius, but he's really quite stupid." You're the stupid one, Mark thought again. Sitting in a car with a hose running from the exhaust. He waited as still as could be.

"The body's under my boat." "Your boat?" "Yes, my boat. He was in a hurry. I was out of town, so my beloved client took the body to my house and buried it in fresh concrete under my garage. It's still there, can you believe it? The FBI has dug up half of New Orleans trying to find it, but they've never thought about my house. Maybe Barry ain't so stupid after all." "When did he tell you this?" "I'm sick of your questions, kid." "I'd really like to leave now." "Shut up. The gas is working. We're gone, kid. Gone." He dropped the pistol on the seat.

The engine hummed quietly. Mark glanced at the bullet hole in the window, at the millions of tiny crooked cracks running from it, then at the red face and heavy eyelids. A quick snort, almost a snore, and the head nodded downward.

He was passing out! Mark stared at him and watched his thick chest move. He'd seen his ex-father do this a hundred times.

Mark breathed deeply. The door lock would make noise. The gun was too close to Romey's hand. Mark's stomach cramped and his feet were numb.

The red face emitted a loud, sluggish noise, and Mark knew there would be no more chances. Slowly, ever so slowly, he inched his shaking finger to the door lock switch.

RICKY S EYES WERE ALMOST AS DRY AS HIS MOUTH, BUT HIS jeans were soaked. He was under the tree, in the darkness, away from the bushes and the tall grass and the car. Five minutes had passed since he had removed the hose. Five minutes since the gunshot. But he knew his brother was alive because he had darted behind trees for fifty feet until he caught a glimpse of the blond head sitting low and moving about in the huge car. So he stopped crying, and started praying.

He made his way back to the log, and as he crouched low and stared at the car and ached for his brother, the passenger door suddenly flew open, and there was Mark.

ROMEY S CHIN DROPPED ONTO HIS CHEST, AND JUST AS HE began his next snore Mark slapped the pistol onto the floor with his left hand while unlocking the door with his right. He yanked the handle and rammed his shoulder into the door, and the last thing he heard as he rolled out was another deep snore from the lawyer. He landed on his knees and grabbed at the weeds as he scratches and raced low through the grass and within seconds made it to the tree where Ricky watched in muted horror. He stopped at the stump and turned, expecting to see the lawyer lumbering after him with the gun. But the car appeared harmless. The passenger door was open. The engine was running. The exhaust pipe was free of devices. He breathed for the first time in a minute, then slowly looked at Ricky.

"I pulled the hose out," Ricky said in a shrill voice between rapid breaths. Mark nodded but said nothing. He was suddenly much calmer. The car was fifty feet away, and if Romey emerged, they could disappear through the woods in an instant. And hidden by the tree and the cover of the brush, they would never, be seen by Romey if he decided to jump out and start blasting away with the gun.

"I'm scared, Mark. Let's go," Ricky said, his voice still shrill, his hands shaking.

"Just a minute." Mark studied the car intently.

"Come on, Mark. Let's go." "I said just a minute." Ricky watched the car. "Is he dead?" "I don't think so." So the man was alive, and had the gun, and it was becoming obvious that his big brother was no longer scared and was thinking of something. Ricky took a step backward. "I'm leaving," he mumbled. "I want to go home." Mark did not move. He exhaled calmly and studied the car. "Just a second," he said without looking at Ricky. The voice had authority again.

Ricky grew still and leaned forward, placing both hands on both wet knees. He watched his brother, and shook his head slowly as Mark carefully picked a cigarette from his shirt pocket while staring at the car. He lit it, took a long draw, and blew smoke upward to the branches. It was at this point that Ricky first noticed the swelling.

"What happened to your eye?" Mark suddenly remembered. He rubbed it gently, then rubbe'd the knot on his forehead. ' "He slapped me a couple of times." "It looks bad." "It's okay. You know what I'm gonna do?" he said without expecting an answer. "I'm gonna sneak back up there and stick the hose into the exhaust pipe. I'm gonna plug it in for him, the bastard." "You're crazier than he is. You're kidding, right, Mark?" Mark puffed deliberately. Suddenly, the driver's door swung open, and Romey stumbled out with the pistol. He mumbled loudly as he faltered to the rear of the car, and once again found the garden hose lying harmlessly in the grass. He screamed obscenities at the sky.

Mark crouched low and held Ricky with him. Romey spun around and surveyed the trees around the clearing. He cursed more, and started crying loudly. Sweat dripped from his hair, and his black jacket was soaked and glued to him. He stomped around the rear of the car, sobbing and talking, screaming at the trees.

He stopped suddenly, wrestled his ponderous bulk onto the top of the trunk, then squirmed and slid backward like a drugged elephant until he hit the rear window. His stumpy legs stretched before him. One shoe was missing. He took the gun, neither slowly nor quickly, almost routinely, and stuck it deep in his mouth. His wild red eyes flashed around, and for a second paused at the trunk of the tree above the boys. He opened his lips and bit the barrel with his big, dirty teeth. He closed his eyes, and pulled the trigger with his right thumb.

Chapter 2

A HE SHOES WERE SHARK, AND THE VANILLA SILKS RAN ALL the way to the kneecaps, where they finally stopped and caressed the rather hairy calves of Barry Muldanno, or Barry the Blade, or simply the Blade, as he liked to be called. The dark green suit had a shine to it and appeared at first glance to be lizard or iguana or some other slimy reptile, but upon closer look it was not animal at all but polyester. Double-breasted with buttons all over the front. It hung handsomely on his well-built frame. And it rippled nicely as he strutted to the pay phone in the rear of the restaurant. The suit was not gaudy, just flashy. He could pass for a well-dressed drug importer or perhaps a hot Vegas bookie, and that was fine because he was the Blade and he expected people to notice, and when they looked at him they were supposed to see success. They were supposed to gawk in fear and get out of his way.

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