Feldman watched from his desk. "This could be the end of the slump," he said to Gray without looking at him. "What's it been, five, six years?"
"Try seven," Keen said.
"I've written some good stories," Gray said defensively.
"Sure," Feldman said, still watching the newsroom. "But you've been hitting doubles and triples. The last grand slam was a long time ago."
"There have been a lot of strikeouts too," Keen added helpfully.
"Happens to all of us," Gray said. "But this grand slam will be in the seventh game of the World Series." He opened the door.
Feldman glared at him. "Don't get hurt, and don't allow her to get hurt. Understand?"
Gray smiled and left the office.
HE WAS ALMOST to Thomas Circle when he saw the blue lights behind him. The cop did not pass, but stayed on his bumper. He was oblivious to both the speed limit and his speedometer. It would be his third ticket in sixteen months.
He parked in a small lot next to an apartment house. It was dark, and the blue lights flashed in his mirrors. He rubbed his temples.
"Step out," the cop demanded from the bumper.
Gray opened the door and did what he was told. The cop was black, and was suddenly smiling. It was Cleve. He pointed to the patrol car. "Get in."
They sat in the car under the blue lights and stared at the Volvo. "Why do you do this to me?" Gray asked.
"We have quotas, Grantham. We have to stop so many white people and harass them. Chief wants to even things out. The white cops pick on innocent poor black folks, so us black cops have to pick on innocent rich white folks."
"I suppose you're gonna handcuff me and beat the hell out of me."
"Only if you ask me to. Sarge can't talk anymore."
"He smells something around the place. He's caught a few strange looks, and he's heard a thing or two."
"Such as they're talking about you, and how much they need to know what you know. He thinks they might be listening."
"Come on, Cleve. Is he serious?"
"He's heard them talk about you and how you're asking questions about the pelican something or other. You've got 'em shook up."
"What has he heard about this pelican thing?"
"Just that you're hot on it, and they're serious about it. These are mean and paranoid people, Gray. Sarge says to be careful where you go and who you talk to."
"And we can't meet anymore?"
"Not for a while. He wants to lay low, and run things through me."
"We'll do that. I need his help, but tell him to be careful. This is very touchy."
"What is this pelican business?"
"I can't say. But tell Sarge it could get him killed."
"Not Sarge. He's smarter than all of them over there."
Gray opened the door and got out. "Thanks, Cleve."
He turned off the blue lights. "I'll be around. I'm working nights for the next six months, so I'll try and keep an eye on you."
RUPERT PAID for his cinnamon roll and sat on a bar stool overlooking the sidewalk. It was midnight, exactly midnight, and Georgetown was winding down. A few cars sped along M Street, and the remaining pedestrians headed for home. The coffee shop was busy, but not crowded. He sipped black coffee.
He recognized the face on the sidewalk, and moments later the man was sitting on the next bar stool. He was a flunkie of some sort. They had met a few days ago in New Orleans.
"So what's the score?" Rupert asked.
"We can't find her. And that worries us because we got some bad news today."
"Well, we heard voices, unconfirmed, that the bad guys have freaked out, and that the number one bad guy wants to start killing everybody. Money is no object, and these voices tell us he'll spend whatever it takes to snuff this thing out. He's sending in big boys with big guns. Of course, they say he's deranged, but he's mean as hell and money can kill a lot of people."
This killing talk did not faze Rupert. "Who's on the list?"
"The girl. And I guess anyone else on the outside who happens to know about that little paper."
"So what's my plan?"
"Hang around. We'll meet here tomorrow night, same time. If we find the girl, it'll be your show."
"How do you plan to find her?"
"We think she's in New York. We have ways."
Rupert pulled off a piece of cinnamon roll and stuffed it in his mouth. "Where would you be?"
The messenger thought of a dozen places he might go, but, dammit, they were like Paris and Rome and Monte Carlo, places he'd seen and places everyone went to. He couldn't think of that one exotic spot where he would go and hide for the rest of his life. "I don't know. Where would you be?"
"New York City. You can live there for years and never be seen. You speak the language and know the rules. It's the perfect hiding place for an American."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. You think she's there?"
"I don't know. At times she's clever. Then she has bad moments."
"The messenger was on his feet.Tomorrow night," he said.
Rupert waved him off. What a goofy little twerp, he thought. Running around whispering important messages in coffee shops and beer joints. Then running back to his boss and reliving it all in vivid detail.
He threw the coffee cup in the trash and was on the sidewalk.
BRIM, STEARNS, AND KIDLOW had a hundred and ninety lawyers, according to the latest edition of the Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory. And White and Blazevich had four hundred and twelve, so hopefully Garcia was only one of a possible six hundred and two. But if Mattiece used other D.C. firms, the number would be higher and they didn't have a chance.
As expected, White and Blazevich had no one named Garcia. Darby searched for another Hispanic name, but found none. It was one of those lily-white silk-stocking outfits filled with Ivy Leaguers with long names that ended in numerals. There were a few female names sprinkled about, but only two were partners. Most of the women had joined after 1980. If she lived long enough to finish law school, she would not consider working for a factory like White and Blazevich.
Grantham had suggested she check for Hispanics because Garcia was a bit unusual for an alias. Maybe the guy was Hispanic, and since Garcia is common for them, then maybe he just said it real quick. It didn't work. There were no Hispanics in this firm.
According to the directory, their clients were big and rich. Banks, Fortune 5005, and lots of oil companies. They listed four of the defendants in the lawsuit as clients, but not Mr. Mattiece. There were chemical companies and shipping lines, and White and Blazevich also represented the governments of South Korea, Libya, and Syria. Silly, she thought. Some of our enemies hire our lawyers to lobby our government. But then, you can hire lawyers to do anything.
Brim, Stearns, and Kidlow was a smaller version of White and Blazevich, but, gosh, there were four Hispanic names listed. She wrote them down. Two men and two women. She figured this firm must have been sued for race and sex discrimination. In the past ten years they had hired all kinds of people. The client list was predictable: oil and gas, insurance, banks, government relations. Pretty dull stuff.
She sat in a corner of the Fordham law library for an hour. It was Friday morning, ten in New York and nine in New Orleans, and instead of hiding in a library she'd never seen before, she was supposed to be sitting in Federal Procedure under Alleck, a professor she never liked but now missed sorely. Alice Stark would be sitting next to her. One of her favorite law nerds, D. Ronald Petrie, would be sitting behind her asking for a date and making lewd comments. She missed him too. She missed the quiet mornings on Thomas' balcony, sipping coffee and waiting for the French Quarter to shake its cobwebs and come to life. She missed the smell of cologne on his bathrobe.
She thanked the librarian, and left the building. On Sixty-second, she headed east toward the park. It was a brilliant October morning with a perfect sky and cool wind. A pleasant change from New Orleans, but difficult to appreciate under the circumstances. She wore new Ray-Bans and a muffler up to her chin. The hair was still dark, but she would cut no more. She was determined to walk without looking over her shoulder. They probably weren't back there, but she knew it would be years before she could stroll along a street without a doubt.
The trees in the park were a magnificent display of yellow and orange and red. The leaves fell gently in the breeze. She turned south on Central Park West. She would leave tomorrow, and spend a few days in Washington. If she survived, she would then leave the country, go maybe to the Caribbean. She'd been there twice, and there were a thousand little islands where most people spoke some form of English.
Now was the time to leave the country. They'd lost her trail, and she'd already checked on flights to Nassau and Jamaica. She could be there by dark.
She found a pay phone in the rear of a bagel shop on Sixth, and punched Gray's number at the Post. "It's me," she said.
"Well, well. I was afraid you had skipped the country."
"Thinking about it."
"Can you wait a week?"
"Probably. I'll be there tomorrow. What do you know?"
"I'm just gathering junk. I've got copies of the annual statements for the seven public corporations involved in the suit."
"It's lawsuit, not suit. A suit is something you wear."
"How can you ever forgive me? Mattiece is neither an officer nor director of any."
"Just the thousand phone calls routine. I spent three hours yesterday hanging around courthouses looking for Garcia."
"You won't find him at a courthouse, Gray. He's not that kind of lawyer. He's in a corporate firm."
"I take it you have a better idea."
"I've got several ideas."
"Well, then, I'm just sitting here waiting on you."
"I'll call you when I get there."
"Don't call me at home."
She paused for a second. "May I ask why not?"
"There's a chance someone is listening, and maybe following. One of my best sources thinks I've ruffled enough feathers to get myself placed under surveillance."
"Fabulous. And you want me to rush down there and team up with you?"
"We'll be safe, Darby. We just have to be careful."
She gripped the phone and clenched her teeth. "How dare you talk to me about being careful! I've been dodging bombs and bullets for ten days now, and you're smug enough to tell me to be careful. Kiss my ass, Grantham! Maybe I should stay away from you."
There was a pause as she looked around the tiny cafe. Two men at the nearest table looked at her. She was much too loud. She turned away and breathed deeply.
Grantham spoke slowly. "I'm sorry. I"
"Forget it. Just forget it."
He waited a moment. "Are you okay?"
"I'm terrific. Never felt better."
"Are you coming to D.C.?"
"I don't know. I'm safe here, and I'll be much safer when I get on a plane and leave the country."
"Sure, but I thought you had this wonderful idea about finding Garcia, then hopefully nailing Mattiece. I thought you were outraged and morally indignant and motivated by revenge. What's happened to you?"
"Well, for one, I have this burning desire to see my twenty-fifth birthday. I'm not selfish, but perhaps I'd like to see my thirtieth too. That would be nice."
"I'm not sure you understand. I think you're more concerned with Pulitzers and glory than my pretty little neck."
"I assure you that's not true. Trust me, Darby. You'll be safe. You've told me the story of your life. You must trust me."
"I'll think about it."
"That's not definite."
"No, it's not. Give me some time."
She hung up, and ordered a bagel. A dozen languages rattled around her as the cafe was suddenly packed. Run, baby, run, her good sense told her. Take a cab to the airport. Pay cash for a ticket to Miami. Find the nearest flight south, and get on the plane. Let Grantham dig and wish him the best. He was very good, and he'd find a way to break the story. And she would read about it one day while lying on a sun-drenched beach sipping a pina colada and watching the windsurfers.
Stump limped by on the sidewalk. She caught a glimpse of him through the crowd and through the window. Her mouth was suddenly dry and she was dizzy. He didn't look inside. He just ambled by, looking rather lost. She ran through the tables and watched him through the door. He limped slightly to the corner of Sixth and Fifty-eighth and waited for the light. He started to cross Sixth, then changed his mind and crossed Fifty-eighth. A taxi almost smeared him.
He was going nowhere, just strolling along with a slight limp.
CROFT SAW THE KID as he stepped from an elevator into the atrium. He was with another young lawyer, and they didn't have their briefcases so it was obvious they were headed for a late lunch. After five days of watching lawyers, Croft had learned their habits.
The building was on Pennsylvania, and Brim, Stearns, and Kidlow covered floors three through eleven. Garcia left the building with his buddy, and they laughed their way down the sidewalk. Something was very funny. Croft followed as closely as possible. They walked and laughed for five blocks, then, just as he figured, they ducked into a yuppie corporate fern bar for a quick bite.
Croft called Grantham three times before he got him. It was almost two, and the lunch was winding down by now, and if Grantham wanted to catch the guy, then stay close to the damned phone. Gray slammed it down. They would meet back at the building.
Garcia and his friend walked a bit slower on the return. It was a beautiful day, and it was Friday, and they enjoyed this brief respite from the grind of suing people or whatever they did for two hundred bucks an hour. Croft hid behind his sunshades and kept his distance.
Gray was waiting in the lobby near the elevators. Croft was close behind them as they spun through the revolving door. He pointed quickly to their man. Gray caught the signal and punched the elevator button. It opened and he stepped in just before Garcia and his friend. Croft stayed behind.
Garcia punched number six a split second before Gray punched it too. Gray read the paper and listened as the two lawyers talked football. The kid was no more than twenty-seven or twenty-eight. The voice maybe had a vague familiarity to it, but it had been on the phone and there was nothing distinctive about it. The face was close, but he couldn't study it. The odds said go for it. He looked very similar to the man in the photograph, and he worked for Brim, Stearns, and Kidlow, and one of its countless clients was Mr. Mattiece. He would give it a shot, but be cautious. He was a reporter. It was his job to go barging in with questions.
They left the elevator on six still yakking about the Redskins, and Gray loitered behind them, casually reading the paper. The firm's lobby was rich and opulent, with chandeliers and Oriental rugs, and on one wall thick gold letters with the firm's name. The lawyers stopped at the front desk and picked up their phone messages. Gray strolled purposefully in front of the receptionist, who eyed him carefully.
"May I help you, sir?" she asked in the tone that meant, "What the hell do you want?"
Gray did not miss a step. "I'm in a meeting with Roger Martin." He'd found the name in the phone book, and he'd called from the lobby a minute earlier to make sure lawyer Martin was in today. The building directory listed the firm on floors three through eleven, but did not list all one hundred and ninety lawyers. Using the yellow pages listing, he made a dozen quick calls to find a lawyer on each floor. Roger Martin was the man on the sixth floor.
He frowned at the receptionist. "I've been meeting with him for two hours."
This puzzled her, and she could think of nothing to say. Gray was around the corner and into a hallway. He caught a glimpse of Garcia entering his office four doors down.
The name beside the door was David M. Underwood. Gray did not knock on it. He wanted to strike quickly, and perhaps exit quickly. Mr. Underwood was hanging his jacket on a rack.
"Hi. I'm Gray Grantham with the Washington Post. I'm looking for a man named Garcia."
Underwood froze and looked puzzled. "How'd you get in here?" he asked.
The voice was suddenly familiar. "I walked. You are Garcia, aren't you?"
He pointed to a desk plate with his name in gold letters.
David M. Underwood. There's no one on this floor named Garcia. I don't know of a Garcia in this firm."
Gray smiled as if to play along. Underwood was scared. Or irritated.
"How's your daughter?" Gray asked.
Underwood was coming around the desk, staring and getting very perturbed. "Which one?"
This didn't fit. Garcia had been quite concerned about his daughter, a baby, and if there had been more than one, he would have mentioned it.
"The youngest. And your wife?"
Underwood was now within striking distance, and inching closer. It was obvious he was a man unafraid of physical contact.
"I don't have a wife. I'm divorced." He held up his left fist, and for a split second Gray thought he'd gone wild. Then he saw the four ringless fingers. No wife. No ring. Garcia adored his wife, and there would be a ring. It was now time to leave.
"What do you want?" Underwood demanded.
"I thought Garcia was on this floor," he said, easing away.
"Is your pal Garcia a lawyer?"
Underwood relaxed a bit. "Not in this firm. We have a Perez and a Hernandez, and maybe one other. But I don't know a Garcia."
Well, it's a big firm," Gray said by the door. "Sorry to bother."
Underwood was following. "Look, Mr. Grantham, we're not accustomed to reporters barging in around here. I'll call security, and maybe they can help you."
"Won't be necessary. Thanks." Grantham was in the hall and gone. Underwood reported to security.
Grantham cursed himself in the elevator. It was empty except for him, and he cursed out loud. Then he thought of Croft, and was cursing him when the elevator landed and opened, and there was Croft in the lobby near the pay phones. Cool it, he told himself.
They left the building together. "Didn't work," Gray said.
"Did you talk to him?"
"Yep. Wrong man."
Dammit. I knew it was him. It was the kid in the photos, wasn't it?"
"No. Close but no cigar. Keep trying."
"I'm really tired of this, Grantham. I've"
"You're getting paid, aren't you? Do it for one more week, okay? I can think of harder work."
"Croft stopped on the sidewalk, and Gray kept walking.One more week, and I'm through," Croft yelled to him. Grantham waved him off.
He unlocked the illegally parked Volvo and sped back to the Post. It was not a smart move. It was quite stupid, and he was much too experienced for such a mistake. He would omit it from his daily chat with Jackson Feldman and Smith Keen.
FELDMAN WAS LOOKING for him, another reporter said, and he walked quickly to his office. He smiled sweetly to the secretary, who was poised to attack. Keen and Howard Krauthammer, the managing editor, were waiting with Feldman. Keen closed the door and handed Gray a newspaper.Have you seen this?"
It was the New Orleans paper, the Times-Picayune, and the front-page story was about the deaths of Verheek and Callahan, along with big photos. He read it quickly while they watched him. It talked about their friendship, and their strange deaths just six days apart. And it mentioned Darby Shaw, who had disappeared. But no link to the brief.
"I guess the cat's out of the bag," Feldman said.
"It's nothing but the basics," Gray said. "We could've run this three days ago."
"Why didn't we?" asked Krauthammer.
"There's nothing here. It's two dead bodies, the name of the girl, and a thousand questions, none of which they answered. They've found a cop who'll talk, but he knows nothing beyond the blood and gore."
"But they're digging, Gray," Keen said.
"You want me to stop them?"
"The Times has picked it up," Feldman said.They're run ning something tomorrow or Sunday. How much can they know?"
"Why ask me? Look, it's possible they have a copy of the brief. Very unlikely, but possible. But they haven't talked to the girl. We've got the girl, okay. She's ours."
"We hope," said Krauthammer.
Feldman rubbed his eyes and stared at the ceiling. "Let's say they have a copy of the brief, and that they know she wrote it, and now she's vanished. They can't verify it right now, but they're not afraid to mention the brief without naming Mattiece. Let's say they know Callahan was her professor, among other things, and that he brought the brief here and gave it to his good friend Verheek. And now they're dead and she's on the run. That's a pretty damned good story, wouldn't you say, Gray?"
"It's a big story," Krauthammer said.
"It's peanuts compared to what's coming," Gray said. "I don't want to run it because it's the tip of the iceberg, and it'll attract every paper in the country. We don't need a thousand reporters bumping into each other."
"I say we run it," Krauthammer said. "If not, the Times will beat our ass with it."
"We can't run the story," Gray said.
"Why not?" asked Krauthammer.
"Because I'm not going to write it, and if it's written by someone else here, then we lose the girl. It's that simple. She's debating right now about whether to jump on a plane and leave the country, and one mistake by us and she's gone."
"But she's already spilled her guts," Keen said.
"I gave her my word, okay. I will not write the story until it's pieced together and Mattiece can be named. It's very simple."
"You're using her, aren't you?" Keen asked.
"She's a source. But she's not in the city."
"If the Times has the brief, then they know about Mattiece," Feldman said. "And if they know about Mattiece, you can bet they'ie digging like hell to verify it. What if they beat us?"
Krauthammer grunted in disgust. "We're going to sit on our asses and lose the biggest story I've seen in twenty years. I say we run what we've got. It's just the surface, but it's a helluva story right now."
"No," Gray said.I won't write it until I have all of it."
"And how long might that take?" Feldman asked.
"A week, maybe."
"We don't have a week," Krauthammer said.
Gray was desperate. "I can find out how much the Times knows. Give me forty-eight hours."
"They're running something tomorrow or Sunday," Feldman said again.
"Let 'em run it. I'll bet money it'll be the same story with probably the same mug shots. You guys are assuming a hell of a lot. You're assuming they've got a copy of the brief, but its author doesn't have a copy of it. We don't have a copy of it. Let's wait, and read their little story, then go from there."
The editors studied each other. Krauthammer was frustrated. Keen was anxious. But the boss was Feldman, and he said, "Okay. If they run something in the morning, we'll meet here at noon and look at it."
"Fine," Gray said quickly and reached for the door.
"You'd better move fast, Grantham," Feldman said. "We can't sit on this much longer."
Grantham was gone.
THE LIMOUSINE moved patiently in the Beltway rush hour. It was dark, and Matthew Barr read with the aid of a reading light in the ceiling. Coal sipped Perrier and watched the traffic. He had the brief memorized, and could have simply explained it to Barr, but he wanted to watch his reaction.
Barr had no reaction until he got to the photograph, then slowly shook his head. He laid it on the seat, and thought about it for a moment. "Very nasty," he said.
"How true is it?" Barr asked.