The Pelican Brief



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"I'd love to know."
"When did you first see it?"
"Tuesday of last week. It came over from the FBI in one of their daily reports."
"What'd the President say?"
"He was not that happy with it, but there was no cause for alarm. It's just another wild shot in the dark, we thought. He talked to Voyles about it, and Voyles agreed to leave it alone for a while. Now I'm not so sure."
"Did the President ask Voyles to back off?" Barr asked the question slowly.
"Yes."
"That's awfully close to obstruction of justice, assuming of course the brief turns out to be true."
"And what if it's true?"
"Then the President has problems. I've got one conviction for obstruction, so I've been there. It's like mail fraud. It's broad and wide and fairly easy to prove. Were you in on it?"
"What do you think?"
"Then I think you've got problems too."
They rode in silence and watched the traffic. Coal had thought through the obstruction angle, but he wanted Barr's opinion. He wasn't worried about criminal charges. The President had one brief little chat with Voyles, asked him to look elsewhere for the time being, and that was it. Hardly the work of felons. But Coal was terribly concerned with reelection, and a scandal involving a major contributor like Mattiece would be devastating. The thought was sickening-a man the President knew and took millions from paid money to have two Supreme Court Justices knocked off so his pal the President could appoint more reasonable men to the bench so that the oil could be harvested. The Democrats would fall in the streets howling with glee. Every subcommittee in Congress would hold hearings. Every newspaper would run it every day for a year. The Justice Department would be forced to investigate. Coal would be forced to take the blame and resign. Hell, everyone in the White House, except the President, would have to go.
It was a nightmare of horrific proportions.
"We've got to find out if the brief is true," Coal said to the window.
"If people are dying, then it's true. Give me a better reason for killing Callahan and Verheek."
There was no other reason, and Coal knew it. "I want you to do something."
"Find the girl."
"No. She's either dead or hiding in a cave somewhere. I want you to talk to Mattiece."
"I'm sure he's in the yellow pages."
"You can find him. We need to establish a link that the President knows nothing about. We need to first determine how much of this is true."
"And you think Victor will take me into his confidence and tell me his secrets."
"Yes, eventually. You're not a cop, remember. Assume it's true, and he thinks he's about to be exposed. He's desperate and he's killing people. What if you told him the press had the story and the end was near, and if he is inclined to disappear, then now's the time? You're coming to him from Washington, remember? From the inside. From the President, or so he thinks. He'll listen to you."
"Okay. What if he tells me it's true? What's in it for us?"
"I've got some ideas, all in the category of damage control. The first thing we'll do is immediately appoint two nature lovers to the Court. I mean, wild-eyed radical bird watchers. It would show that down deep we're good little environmentalists. And it would kill Mattiece and his oil field, etc. We could do this in a matter of hours. Almost simultaneously, the President will call in Voyles and the Attorney General and Justice and demand an immediate investigation into Mattiece. We'll leak copies of the brief to every reporter in town, then hunker down and ride out the storm."
Barr was smiling with admiration.
Coal continued. "It won't be pretty, but it's far better than sitting back and hoping the brief is a work of fiction."
"How do you explain that photograph?"
"You can't. It'll hurt for a while, but it was seven years ago, and people go crazy. We'll portray Mattiece as a good citizen back then, but now he's a madman."
"He is a madman."
"Yes, he is. And right now he's like a wounded dog backed in a corner. You must convince him to throw in the towel, and haul ass. I think he'll listen to you. And I think we'll find out from him if it's true."
"So how do I find him?"
"I've got a man working on that. I'll pull some strings, and make a contact. Be ready to go on Sunday."
Barr smiled to the window. He would like to meet Mattiece.
The traffic slowed. Coal slowly sipped his water. "Anything on Grantham?"
"Not really. We're listening and watching, but nothing exciting. He talks to his mother and a couple of gals, but nothing worth reporting. He works a lot. He left town Wednesday and returned Thursday."
"Where did he go?"
"New York. Probably working on some story."

CLEVE WAS SUPPOSED to be at the corner of Rhode Island and Sixth at exactly 10 P.M., but he wasn't. Gray was supposed to race down Rhode Island until Cleve caught him, so that if anyone was indeed following him they would think he was simply a dangerous driver. He raced down Rhode Island, through Sixth at fifty miles per hour, and watched for blue lights. There were none. He looped around, and fifteen minutes later barreled down Rhode Island again. There! He saw blue lights and pulled to the curb.


It was not Cleve. It was a white cop who was very agitated. He jerked Gray's license, examined it, and asked if he'd been drinking. No sir, he said. The cop wrote the ticket, and proudly handed it to Gray, who sat behind the wheel staring at the ticket until he heard voices coming from the rear bumper.
Another cop was on the scene, and they were arguing. It was Cleve, and he wanted the white cop to forget the ticket, but the white cop explained it had already been written and besides the idiot was doing fifty-six miles an hour through the intersection. He's a friend, Cleve said. Then teach him how to drive before he kills somebody, the white cop said as he got in his patrol car and drove away.
Cleve was snickering as he looked in Gray's window. "Sorry about that," he said with a smile.
"It's all your fault."
"Slow it down next time."
Gray threw the ticket on the floorboard. "Let's talk quick. You said Sarge said the boys in the West Wing are talking about me. Right?"
"Right."
"Okay, I need to know from Sarge if they're talking about any other reporters, especially from the New York Times. I need to know if they think anybody else is hot on the story."
"Is that all?"
"Yes. I need it quick."
"Slow it down," Cleve said loudly and walked to his car.

DARBY PAID for the room for the next seven days, in part because she wanted a familiar place to return to if necessary, and in part because she wanted to leave some new clothes she had purchased. It was sinful, this running and leaving everything behind. The clothes were nothing fancy, sort of upscale safari law school, but they cost even more in New York, and it would be nice to keep them. She would not take risks over clothes, but she liked the room and she liked the city and she wanted the clothes.


It was time to run again, and she would travel light. She carried a small canvas bag when she darted from the St. Moritz into a waiting cab. It was almost 11 P.M., Friday, and Central Park South was busy. Across the street, a line of horses and carriages waited for customers and brief excursions through the park.
The cab took ten minutes to get to Seventy-second and Broadway, which was the wrong direction, but this entire journey should be hard to follow. She walked thirty feet, and disappeared into the subway. She had studied a map and a book of the system, and she hoped it would be easy. The subway was not appealing because she'd never used it and she'd heard the stories. But this was the Broadway line, the most commonly used train in Manhattan, and it was rumored to be safe, at times. And things weren't so swell above the ground. The subway could hardly be worse.
She waited in the correct spot with a group of drunk but well-dressed teenagers, and the train arrived in a couple of minutes. It wasn't crowded, and she took a seat near the center doors. Stare at the floor and hold the bag, she kept telling herself. She looked at the floor, but from behind the dark shades, she studied the people. It was her lucky night. No street punks with knives. No beggars. No perverts, at least none she could spot. But for a novice, it was nerve-racking anyway.
The drunk kids exited at Times Square, and she got off quickly at the next stop. She had never seen Penn Station, but this was not the time to sightsee. Maybe one day she could return and spend a month and admire the city without watching for Stump and Thin Man and who knows who else who was out there. But not now.
She had five minutes, and found her train as it was boarding. Again, she sat in the rear and watched every passenger. There were no familiar faces. Surely, please, surely, they had not stuck to her on this jagged escape. Once again, her mistake had been credit cards. She had bought four tickets at O'Hare with American Express, and somehow they knew she was in New York. She was certain Stump had not seen her, but he was in the city, and of course he had friends. There could be twenty of them. But then, she was not certain of anything.
The train left six minutes late. It was half empty. She pulled a paperback from the bag and pretended to read it.
Fifteen minutes later, they stopped in Newark, and she got off. She was a lucky girl. There were cabs lined up outside the station, and ten minutes later she was at the airport.

IT WAS SATURDAY MORNING, and the Queen was in Florida taking money from the rich, and it was clear and cool outside. He wanted to sleep late, then play golf whenever he woke up. But it was seven, and he was sitting at his desk wearing a tie, listening to Fletcher Coal suggest what they ought to do about this and about that. Richard Horton, the Attorney General, had talked to Coal, and now Coal was alarmed.


Someone opened the door and Horton entered alone. They shook hands and Horton sat across the desk. Coal stood nearby, and this really irritated the President.
Horton was dull but sincere. He was not dumb or slow, he just thought carefully about everything before he acted. He thought about each word before he said it. He was loyal to the President, and could be trusted for sound judgment.
"We are seriously considering a formal grand jury investigation into the deaths of Rosenberg and Jensen," he announced gravely.In light of what's happened in New Orleans, we think this should be pursued immediately."
"The FBI is investigating," the President said. "They've got three hundred agents on the case. Why should we get involved?"
"Are they investigating the pelican brief?" Horton asked. He knew the answer. He knew Voyles was in New Orleans at this moment with hundreds of agents. He knew they had talked to hundreds of people, collected a pile of useless evidence. He knew the President had asked Voyles to back off, and he knew Voyles was not telling the President everything.
Horton had never mentioned the pelican brief to the President, and the fact that he even knew about the damned thing was exasperating. How many more knew about it? Probably thousands.
"They are pursuing all leads," Coal said. "They gave us a copy of it almost two weeks ago, so we assume they're pursuing it."
Exactly what Horton expected out of Coal. "I feel strongly that the Administration should investigate this matter at once." He spoke as though this was all memorized, and this irritated the President.
"Why?" asked the President.
"What if the brief is on target? If we do nothing, and the truth eventually surfaces, the damage will be irreparable."
"Do you honestly believe there's any truth to it?" the President asked.
"It's awfully suspicious. The first two men who saw it are dead, and the person who wrote it has disappeared. It is perfectly logical, if one is so inclined to kill Supreme Court Justices. There are no other compelling suspects. From what I hear, the FBI is baffled. Yes, it needs to be pursued."
Horton's investigations leaked worse than the White House basement, and Coal was terrified of this clown impaneling a grand jury and calling witnesses. Horton was an honorable man, but the Justice Department was filled with lawyers who talked too much.
"Don't you think it's a bit premature?" Coal asked.
"I don't think so."
"Have you seen the papers this morning?" Coal asked.
Horton had glanced at the front page of the Post, and read the sports section. It was Saturday, after all. He had heard that Coal read eight newspapers before dawn, so he didn't like this question.
"I've read a couple of them," he said.
"I've looked at several," Coal said modestly.And there's not a word anywhere about those two dead lawyers or the girl or Mattiece or anything related to the brief. If you start a formal investigation at this point, it'll be front-page news for a month."
"Do you think it will simply go away?" Horton asked Coal.
"It might. For obvious reasons, we hope so."
"I think you're optimistic, Mr. Coal. We don't normally sit back and wait for the press to do our investigating."
Coal grinned and almost laughed at this one. He smiled at the President, who shot him a quick look, and Horton started a slow burn.
"What's wrong with waiting a week?" asked the President.
"Nothing," shot Coal.
Just that quick the decision was made to wait a week, and Horton knew it. "Things could blow up in a week," he said without conviction.
"Wait a week," the President ordered. "We'll meet here next Friday, and go from there. I'm not saying no, Richard, just wait seven days."
Horton shrugged. This was more than he expected. He'd covered his rear. He would go straight to his office and dictate a lengthy memo detailing everything he could remember about this meeting, and his neck would be protected.
Coal stepped forward and handed him a sheet of paper.
"What's this?"
"More names. Do you know them?"
It was the bird-watcher list: four judges who were much too liberal for comfort, but Plan B called for radical environmentalists on the Court.
Horton blinked several times and studied it hard. "You must be kidding."
"Check 'em out," said the President.
"These guys are off-the-wall liberals," Horton mumbled.
"Yes, but they worship the sun and moon, and trees and birds," Coal explained helpfully.
Horton caught on, and suddenly smiled. "I see. Pelican lovers."
"They're almost extinct, you know," the President said.
Coal headed for the door. "I wish they'd been wiped out ten years ago."

SHE HADN'T CALLED by nine when Gray arrived at his desk in the newsroom. He'd read the Times and there was nothing in it. He spread the New Orleans paper over the clutter and skimmed it. Nothing. They had reported all they knew. Calla-han, Verheek, Darby, and a thousand unanswered questions. He had to assume the Times and maybe the Times-Picayune in New Orleans had seen the brief or heard about it, and thus knew of Mattiece. And he had to assume they were clawing like cats to verify it. But he had Darby, and they would find Garcia, and if Mattiece could be verified, they would do it.


At the moment, there was no alternative plan. If Garcia was gone or refused to help, they would be forced to explore the dark and murky world of Victor Mattiece. Darby would not last long at that, and he didn't blame her. He was uncertain how long he would last.
Smith Keen appeared with a cup of coffee and sat on the desk. "If the Times had it, would they hold off until tomorrow?"
Gray shook his head. "No. If they had more than the Times-Picayune, it would've run today."
"Krauthammer wants to run what we've got. He thinks we can name Mattiece."
"I don't follow."
"He's leaning on Feldman. His angle is that we can run the whole story about Callahan and Verheek getting killed over this brief, which happens to name Mattiece who happens to be a friend of the President's, without directly accusing Mattiece. He says we can be extremely cautious and make sure the story says Mattiece is named in the brief, but not named by us. And since the brief is causing all this death, then it has been verified to some extent."
"He wants to hide behind the brief."
"Exactly."
"But it's all speculation until it's confirmed. Krauthammer's losing it. Assume for a second that Mr. Mattiece is in no way involved with this. Completely innocent. We run the story with his name in it, and then what? We look like fools, and we get sued for the next ten years. I'm not writing the story."
"He wants someone else to write it."
"If this paper runs a pelican story not written by me, the girl is gone, okay. I thought I explained that yesterday."
"You did. And Feldman heard you. He's on your side, Gray, and I am too. But if this thing's true, it'll blow up in a matter of days. We all believe that. You know how Krauthammer hates the Times, and he's afraid those bastards'll run it."
"They can't run it, Smith. They may have a few more facts than the Times-Picayune, but they can't name Mattiece. Look, we'll verify before anyone. And when it's nailed down, I'll write the story with everyone's name along with that cute little picture of Mattiece and his friend in the White House, and the fat lady will sing."
"We? You said it again. You said, 'We'll verify it.'
"My source and I, okay." Gray opened a drawer and found the photo of Darby and the Diet Coke. He handed it to Keen, who admired it.
"Where is she?" he asked.
"I'm not sure. I think she's on her way here from New York."
"Don't get her killed."
"We're being very cautious." Gray looked over both shoulders and leaned closer. "In fact, Smith, I think I'm being followed. I just wanted you to know."
"Who might they be?"
"It came from a source at the White House. I'm not using my phones."
"I'd better tell Feldman."
"Okay. I don't think it's dangerous, yet."
"He needs to know." Keen jumped to his feet and disappeared.
She called within minutes. "I'm here," she said. "I don't know how many I've brought with me, but I'm here, and alive, for the moment."
Where are you?"
"Tabard Inn on N Street. I saw an old friend on Sixth Avenue yesterday. Remember Stump, who was grievously wounded on Bourbon Street? Did I tell you that story?"
"Yes."
"Well, he's walking again. A slight limp, but he was wandering around Manhattan yesterday. I don't think he saw me."
"Are you serious! That's scary, Darby."
"It's worse than scary. I left six trails when I left last night, and if I see him in this city, limping along a sidewalk somewhere, I intend to surrender. I'll walk up to him and turn myself in."
"I don't know what to say."
"Say as little as possible, because these people have radar. I'll play private eye for three days, and I'm out of here. If I live to see Wednesday morning, I'm on a plane to Aruba or Trinidad or some place with a beach. When I die, I want to be on a beach."
"When do we meet?"
"I'm thinking about that. I want you to do two things."
"I'm listening."
"Where do you park your car?"
"Close to my apartment."
"Leave it there, and go rent another one. Nothing fancy, just a generic Ford or something. Pretend someone's watching you through a rifle scope. Go to the Marbury Hotel in Georgetown and get a room for three nights. They'll take cashI've already checked. Do it under another name."
Grantham took notes and shook his head.
"Can you sneak out of your apartment after dark?" she asked.
"I think so."
"Do it, and take a cab to the Marbury. Have them deliver the rental car to you there. Take two cabs to the Tabard Inn, and walk into the restaurant at exactly nine tonight."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Bring clothes. Plan to be away from your apartment for at least three days. And plan to stay away from the office."
"Really, Darby, I think the office is safe."
"I'm not in the mood to argue. If you're going to be difficult, Gray, I'll simply disappear. I'm convinced I'll live longer the sooner I get out of the country."
"Yes, ma'am."
"That's a good boy."
"I assume there's a master plan rattling around somewhere in your brain."
"Maybe. We'll talk about it over dinner."
"Is this sort of like a date?"
"Let's eat a bite and call it business."
"Yes, ma'am."
"I'm hanging up now. Be cautious, Gray. They're watching." She was gone.

SHE WAS SITTING at table thirty-seven, in a dark corner of the tiny restaurant when he found her at exactly nine. The first thing he noticed was the dress, and as he walked to the table he knew the legs were under it but he couldn't see them. Maybe later when she stood. He wore a coat and tie, and they were an attractive couple.


He sat close to her in the darkness so they could both watch the small crowd. The Tabard Inn appeared old enough to have served food to Thomas Jefferson. A rowdy crowd of Germans laughed and talked on the patio outside the restaurant. The windows were open and the air was cool, and for one brief moment it was easy to forget why they were hiding.
"Where'd you get the dress?"
"You like it?"
"It's very nice."
"I shopped a little this afternoon. Like most of my recent wardrobe, it's disposable. I'll probably leave it in the room the next time I flee for my life."
The waiter was before them with menus. They ordered drinks. The restaurant was quiet and harmless.
"How'd you get here?" he asked.
"Around the world."
"I'd like to know."
"I took a train to Newark, a plane to Boston, a plane to Detroit, and a plane to Dulles. I was up all night, and twice I forgot where I was."
"How could they follow that?"
"They couldn't. I paid with cash, something I'm running out of."
"How much do you need?"
"I'd like to wire some from my bank in New Orleans."
"We'll do it Monday. I think you're safe, Darby."
"I've thought that before. In fact, I felt very safe when I was getting on the boat with Verheek, except it wasn't Verheek. And I felt very safe in New York. Then Stump waddled down the sidewalk, and I haven't eaten since."
"You look thin."
"Thanks. I guess. Have you eaten here?" She looked at her menu.
He looked at his. "No, but I hear the food is great. You changed your hair again." It was light brown, and there was a trace of mascara and blush. And lipstick.
"It's going to fall out if I keep seeing these people."
The drinks arrived, and they ordered.
"We expect something in the Times in the morning." He would not mention the New Orleans paper because it had pictures of Callahan and Verheek. He assumed she'd seen it.
This didn't seem to interest her. "Such as?" she asked, looking around.
"We're not sure. We hate to get beat by the Times. It's an old rivalry."
"I'm not interested in that. I know nothing about journalism, and don't care to learn. I'm here because I have one, and only one, idea about finding Garcia. And if it doesn't work, and quickly, I'm out of here."
"Forgive me. What would you like to talk about?"
"Europe. What's your favorite place in Europe?"
"I hate Europe, and I hate Europeans. I go to Canada and Australia, and New Zealand occasionally. Why do you like Europe?"
"My grandfather was a Scottish immigrant, and I've got a bunch of cousins over there. I've visited twice."
Gray squeezed the lime in his gin and tonic. A party of six entered from the bar and she watched them carefully. When she talked her eyes darted quickly around the room.
"I think you need a couple of drinks to relax," Gray said.
She nodded but said nothing. The six were seated at a nearby table and began speaking in French. It was pleasant to hear.



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