The Pelican Brief

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Darby was waiting in the small room when he laid the computer printouts on the table. "According to these, Akers and Kaas should be in class right now," he said.
Darby looked at the schedules. "Akers has criminal procedure. Kaas has administrative law; both from nine to ten. I'll try to find them." She showed Gray her notes.Maylor, Reinhart, and Wilson were at home. I couldn't get Ratliff and Linney."
"Maylor's the closest. I can be there in a few minutes."
"What about a car?" Darby asked.
"I called Hertz. It's supposed to be delivered to the Post parking lot in fifteen minutes."

MAYLOR'S APARTMENT was on the third floor of a warehouse converted for students and others on very low budgets. He answered the door shortly after the first knock. He spoke through the chain.

"Looking for James Maylor," Gray said like an old pal.
"That's me."
"I'm Gray Grantham with the Washington Post. I'd like to ask you a couple of very quick questions."
The door was unchained and opened. Gray stepped inside the two-room apartment. A bicycle was parked in the center, and took up most of the space.
"What's up?" Maylor asked. He was intrigued by this, and appeared eager to answer questions.
"I understand you clerked for White and Blazevich last summer."
"That's correct. For three months."
Gray scribbled on his notepad. "What section were you in?"
"International. Mostly grunt work. Nothing glamorous. A lot of research and rough drafting of agreements."
"Who was your supervisor?"
"No single person. There were three associates who kept me busy. The partner above them was Stanley Coopman."
Gray pulled a photograph from his coat pocket. It was Garcia on the sidewalk. "Do you recognize this face?"
Maylor held the picture and studied it. He shook his head. "I don't think so. Who is he?"
"He's a lawyer, I think with White and Blazevich."
"It's a big firm. I was stuck in the corner of one section. It's over four hundred lawyers, you know."
"Yeah, so I've heard. You're sure you haven't seen him?"
"Positive. They cover twelve floors, most of which I never went on."
Gray placed the photo in his pocket. "Did you meet any other clerks?"
"Oh. Sure. A couple from Georgetown that I already knew, Laura Kaas and JoAnne Ratliff. Two guys from George Washington, Patrick Franks and a guy named Vanlandingham; a girl from Harvard named Elizabeth Larson; a girl from Michigan named Amy MacGregor; and a guy from Emory named Moke, but I think they fired him. There are always a lot of clerks in the summer."
"You plan to work there when you finish?"
"I don't know. I'm not sure I'm cut out for the big firms."
Gray smiled and stuck the notepad in his rear pocket. "Look, you've been in the firm. How would I find this guy?"
Maylor pondered this for a second. "I assume you can't go there and start asking around."
"Good assumption."
"And all you've got is the picture?"
"Then I guess you're doing the right thing. One of the clerks will recognize him."
"Is the guy in trouble?"
"Oh no. He may have witnessed something. It's probably a long shot." Gray opened the door. "Thanks again."

DARBY STUDIED the fall listing of classes on the bulletin board across the lobby from the phones. She wasn't exactly sure what she'd do when the nine o'clock classes were over, but she was trying like hell to think of something. The bulletin board was exactly like the one at Tulane: class listings tacked neatly in a row; notices for assignments; ads for books, bikes, rooms, roommates, and a hundred other necessities stuck haphazardly about; announcements of parties, intramural games, and club meetings. A young woman with a backpack and hiking books stopped nearby and looked at the board. She was undoubtedly a student.

Darby smiled at her. "Excuse me. Would you happen to know Laura Kaas?"
"I need to give her a message. Could you point her out?"
"Is she in class?"
"Yeah, she's in administrative law under Ship, room 207."
They walked and chatted in the direction of Ship's admin law. The lobby was suddenly busy as four classrooms emptied. The hiker pointed to a tall, heavyset girl walking toward them. Darby thanked her, and followed Laura Kaas until the crowd thinned and scattered.
"Excuse me, Laura. Are you Laura Kaas?" The big girl stopped and stared. "Yes."
This was the part she didn't like; the lying. "I'm Sara Jacobs, and I'm working on a story for the Washington Post. Can I ask you a few questions?" She selected Laura Kaas first because she did not have a class at ten. Michael Akers did. She would try him at eleven.
"What about?"
"It'll just take a minute. Could we step in here?" Darby was nodding and walking to an empty classroom. Laura followed slowly.
"You clerked for White and Blazevich last summer."
"I did." She spoke slowly, suspiciously.
Sara Jacobs fought to control her nerves. This was awful. "What section?"
"You like tax, huh?" It was a weak effort at small talk.
"I did. Now I hate it."
Darby smiled like this was the funniest thing she'd heard in years. She pulled a photo from her pocket, and handed it to Laura Kaas.
"Do you recognize this man?"
"I think he's a lawyer with White and Blazevich."
"There are plenty of them."
"Are you certain?"
She handed it back. "Yep. I never left the fifth floor. It would take years to meet everyone, and they come and go so fast. You know how lawyers are."
Laura glanced around, and the conversation was over. "I really appreciate this," Darby said.
"No problem," Laura said on her way out the door.

AT EXACTLY TEN-THIRTY, they met again in room 336. Gray had caught Ellen Reinhart in the driveway as she was leaving for class. She had worked in the litigation section under a partner by the name of Daniel O'Malley, and spent most of the summer in a class action trial in Miami. She was gone for two months, and spent little time in the Washington office. White and Blazevich had offices in four cities, including Tampa. She did not recognize Garcia, and she was in a hurry.

Judith Wilson was not at her apartment, but her roommate said she would return around one.
They scratched off Maylor, Kaas, and Reinhart. They whispered their plans, and split again. Gray left to find Edward Linney, who according to the list had clerked the past two summers at White and Blazevich. He was not in the phone book, but his address was in Wesley Heights, north of Georgetown's main campus.
At ten forty-five, Darby found herself loitering again in front of the bulletin board, hoping for another miracle. Akers was a male, and there were different ways to approach him. She hoped he was where he was supposed to bein room 201 studying criminal procedure. She eased that way and waited a moment or two until the door opened and fifty law students emptied into the hall. She could never be a reporter. She could never walk up to strangers and start asking a bunch of questions. It was awkward and uncomfortable. But she walked up to a shy-looking young man with sad eyes and thick glasses, and said, "Excuse me. Do you happen to know Michael Akers? I think he's in this class."
The guy smiled. It was nice to be noticed. He pointed at a group of men walking toward the front entrance. "That's him, in the gray sweater."
"Thanks." She left him standing there. The group disassembled as it left the building, and Akers and a friend were on the sidewalk.
"Mr. Akers," she called after him.
They both stopped and turned around, then smiled as she nervously approached them. "Are you Michael Akers?" she asked.
"That's me. Who are you?"
"My name is Sara Jacobs, and I'm working on a story for the Washington Post. Can I speak to you alone?"
"Sure." The friend took the hint and left.
"What about?" Akers asked.
"Did you clerk for White and Blazevich last summer?"
"Yes." Akers was friendly and enjoying this.
"What section?"
"Real estate. Boring as hell, but it was a job. Why do you want to know?"
"She handed him the photo.Do you recognize this man? He works for White and Blazevich."
Akers wanted to recognize him. He wanted to be helpful and have a long conversation with her, but the face did not register.
"Kind of a suspicious picture, isn't it?" he said.
"I guess. Do you know him?"
No. I've never seen him. It's an awfully big firm. The partners wear name badges to their meetings. Can you believe it? The guys who own the firm don't know each other. There must be a hundred partners."
"Eighty-one, to be exact.Did you have a supervisor?"
"Yeah, a partner named Walter Welch. A real snot. I didn't like the firm, really."
"Do you remember any other clerks?"
"Sure. The place was crawling with summer clerks."
"If I needed their names, could I get back with you?"
"Anytime. This guy in trouble?"
"I don't think so. He may know something."
"I hope they all get disbarred. A bunch of thugs, really. It's a rotten place to work. Everything's political."
"Thanks." She smiled, and turned away. He admired the rear view, and said, "Call me anytime."
Darby, the investigative reporter, walked next door to the library building, and climbed the stairs to the fifth floor where the Georgetown Law Journal had a suite of crowded offices. She'd found the most recent edition of 'thejournal in the library, and noticed that JoAnne Ratliff was an assistant editor. She suspected most law reviews and law journals were much the same. The top students hung out there and prepared their scholarly articles and comments. They were superior to the rest of the students, and were a clannish bunch who appreciated their bril liant minds. They hung out in the law journal suite. It was their second home.
She stepped inside and asked the first person where she might find JoAnne Ratliff. He pointed around a corner. Second door on the right. The second door opened into a cluttered workroom lined with rows of books. Two females were hard at work.
"JoAnne Ratliff," Darby said.
"That's me," an older woman of maybe forty responded.
"Hi. My name is Sara Jacobs, and I'm working on a story for the Washington Post. Can I ask you a few quick questions?"
She slowly laid her pen on the table, and frowned at the other woman. Whatever they were doing was terribly important, and this interruption was a real pain in the ass. They were significant law students.

Darby wanted to smirk and say something smart. She was number two in her class, dammit!, so don't act so high and mighty.

"What's the story about?" Ratliff asked.
"Could we speak in private?"
They frowned at each other again.
"I'm very busy," Ratliff said.
So am I, thought Darby. You're checking citations for some meaningless article, and I'm trying to nail the man who killed two Supreme Court Justices.
"I'm sorry," Darby said. "I promise I'll just take a minute."
They stepped into the hall. "I'm very sorry to disturb you, but I'm in sort of a rush."
"And you're a reporter with the Post?" It was more of a challenge than a question, and she was forced to lie some more. She told herself she could lie and cheat and steal for two days, then it was off to the Caribbean and Grantham could have it.
"Yes. Did you work for White and Blazevich last summer?"
"I did. Why?"
Quickly, the photo. Ratliff took it and analyzed it.
"Do you recognize him?"
She shook her head slowly. "I don't think so. Who is he?"
This bitch'll make a fine lawyer. So many questions. If she knew who he was, she wouldn't be standing in this tiny hallway acting like a reporter and putting up with this haughty legal eagle.
"He's a lawyer with White and Blazevich," Darby said as sincerely as possible. "I thought you might recognize him."
"Nope." She handed the photo back.
Enough of this. "Well, thanks. Again, sorry to bother."
"No problem," Ratliff said as she disappeared through the door.

SHE JUMPED into the new Hertz Pontiac as it stopped at the corner, and they were off in traffic. She had seen enough of the Georgetown Law School.

"I struck out," Gray said. "Linney wasn't home."
"I talked to Akers and Ratliff, and both said no. That's five of seven who don't recognize Garcia."
"I'm hungry. You want some lunch?"
"That's fine."
"Is it possible to have five clerks work three months in a law firm and not one of them recognize a young associate?"
"Yeah, it's not only possible, it's very probable. This is a long shot, remember. Four hundred lawyers means a thousand people when you add secretaries, paralegals, law clerks, office clerks, copy room clerks, mail room clerks, all kinds of clerks and support people. The lawyers tend to keep to themselves in their own little sections."
"Physically, are the sections on separate territory?"
"Yes. It's possible for a lawyer in banking on the third floor to go weeks without seeing an acquaintance in litigation on the tenth floor. These are very busy people, remember."
"Do you think we've got the wrong firm?"
"Maybe the wrong firm, maybe the wrong law school."
"The first guy, Maylor, gave me two names of George Washington students who clerked there last summer. Let's get them after lunch." He slowed and parked illegally behind a row of small buildings.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"A block off Mount Vernon Square, downtown. The Post is six blocks that way. My bank is four blocks that way. And this little deli is just around the corner."
They walked to the deli, which was filling fast with lunch traffic. She waited at a table by the window as he stood in line and ordered club sandwiches. Half the day had flown by, and though she didn't enjoy this line of work, it was nice to stay busy and forget about the shadows. She wouldn't be a reporter, and at the moment a career in law looked doubtful. Not long ago, she'd thought of being a judge after a few years in practice. Forget it. It was much too dangerous.
Gray brought a tray of food and iced tea, and they began eating.
"Is this a typical day for you?" she asked.
"This is what I do for a living. I snoop all day, write the stories late in the afternoon, then dig until late at night."
"How many stories a week?"
"Sometimes three or four, sometimes none. I pick and choose, and there's little supervision. This is a bit different. I haven't run one in ten days."
"What if you can't link Mattiece? What'll you write about the story?"
"Depends on how far I get. We could've run that story about Verheek and Callahan, but why bother. It was a big story, but they had nothing to go with it. It scratched the surface and stopped."
"And you're going for the big bang."
"Hopefully. If we can verify your little brief, then we'll run one helluva story."
"You can see the headlines, can't you?"
"I can. The adrenaline is pumping. This will be the biggest story since"
"No. Watergate was a series of stories that started small and kept getting bigger. Those guys chased leads for months and kept pecking away until the pieces came together. A lot of people knew different parts of the story. This, my dear, is very different. This is a much bigger story, and the truth is known only by a very small group. Watergate was a stupid burglary and a bungled cover-up. These are masterfully planned crimes by very rich and smart people."
"And the cover-up?"
"That comes next. After we link Mattiece to the killings, we run the big story. The cat's out of the bag, and a half a dozen investigations will crank up overnight. This place will be shell-shocked, especially at the news that the President and Mattiece are old friends. As the dust is settling, we go after the Administration and try to determine who knew what and when."
"But first, Garcia."
"Ah, yes. I know he's out there. He's a lawyer in this city, and he knows something very important."
"What if we stumble across him, and he won't talk?"
"We have ways."
"Such as?"
"Torture, kidnapping, extortion, threats of all types."
A burly man with a contorted face was suddenly beside the table. "Hurry up!" he yelled.You're talkin' too much!"
"Thanks, Pete," Gray said without looking up. Pete was lost in the crowd, but could be heard yelling at another table. Darby dropped her sandwich.
"He owns the place," Gray explained. "It's part of the ambience."
"How charming. Does it cost extra?"
"Oh no. The food's cheap, so he depends on volume. He refuses to serve coffee because he doesn't want socializing. He expects us to eat like refugees and get out."
"I'm finished."
"Gray looked at his watch.It's twelve-fifteen. We need to be at Judith Wilson's apartment at one. Do you want to wire the money now?"
"How long will it take?"
"We can start the wire now, and pick the money up later."
"Let's go."
"How much do you want to wire?"
"Fifteen thousand."

JUDITH WILSON lived on the second floor of a decaying old house filled with two-room student apartments. She was not there at one, and they drove around for an hour. Gray became a tour guide. He drove slowly by the Montrose Theatre, still boarded and burned out. He showed her the daily circus at Dupont Circle.

They were parked on the street at two-fifteen when a red Mazda stopped in the narrow driveway. "There she is," Gray said, and got out. Darby stayed in the car.
He caught Judith near the front steps. She was friendly enough. They chatted, he showed her the photo, she looked at it for a few seconds and began shaking her head. Moments later he was in the car.
"Zero for six," he said.
"That leaves Edward Linney, who probably is our best shot because he clerked there two summers."
They found a pay phone at a convenience store three blocks away, and Gray called Linney's number. No answer. He slammed the phone down and got in the car. "He wasn't at home at ten this morning, and he's not at home now."
"Could be in class," Darby said.We need his schedule. You should've picked it up with the others."
"You didn't suggest it then."
"Who's the detective here? Who's the big-shot investigative reporter with the Washington Post? I'm just a lowly ex-law student who's thrilled to be sitting here in the front seat watching you operate."
What about the backseat? he almost said. "Whatever. Where to?"

"Back to the law school," she said. "I'll wait in the car while you march in there and get Linney's class schedule."

"Yes, ma'am."

A DIFFERENT STUDENT was behind the desk in the registrar's office. Gray asked for the class schedule for Edward Linney, and the student went to look for the registrar. Five minutes later, the registrar walked slowly around the corner and glared at him.

He flashed the smile. "Hi, remember me? Gray Grantham with the Post. I need another class schedule."
"The dean says no."
"I thought the dean was out of town."
"He is. The assistant dean says no. No more class schedules. You've already gotten me in a lot of trouble."
"I don't understand. I'm not asking for personal records."
"The assistant dean says no."
"Where is the assistant dean?"
"He's busy."
"I'll wait. Where's his office?"
"He'll be busy for a long time."
"I'll wait for a long time."
She dug in and folded her arms. "He will not allow you to have any more class schedules. Our students are entitled to privacy."
"Sure they are. What kind of trouble have I caused?"
"Well, I'll just tell you."
"Please do."
The student clerk eased around the corner and disappeared.
"One of the students you talked to this morning called White and Blazevich, and they called the assistant dean, and the assistant dean called me and said no more class schedules will be given to reporters."
"Why should they care?"
"They care, okay? We've had a long relationship with White and Blazevich. They hire a lot of our students."
Gray tried to look pitiful and helpless. "I'm just trying to find Edward Linney. I swear he's not in trouble. I just need to ask him a few questions."
She smelled victory. She had backed down a reporter from the Post, and she was quite proud. So offer him a crumb.Mr. Linney is no longer enrolled here. That's all I can say."
He backed toward the door, and mumbled, "Thanks."
He was almost to the car when someone called his name. It was the student from the registrar's office.
"Mr. Grantham," he said as he ran to him. "I know Edward.
"He's sort of dropped out of school for a while. Personal problems."
"Where is he?"
"His parents put him in a private hospital. He's being detoxified."
"Where is it?"
"Silver Spring. A place called Parklane Hospital."
"How long's he been there?"
"About a month."
Grantham shook his hand. "Thanks. I won't tell anyone you told me."
"He's not in trouble, is he?"
"No. I promise."
They stopped at the bank, and Darby left with fifteen thousand in cash. Carrying the money scared her. Linney scared her. White and Blazevich suddenly scared her.

PARKLANE was a detox center for the rich, or for those with expensive insurance. It was a small building, surrounded by trees and sitting alone a half mile off the highway. This might be difficult, they decided.

Gray entered the lobby first, and asked the receptionist for Edward Linney.
"He is a patient here," she said rather officially.
He used his best smile. "Yes. I know he is a patient. They told me at the law school that he was a patient. What room is he in?"
Darby entered the lobby and strolled to the water fountain for a very long drink.
"He's in room 22, but you can't see him."
"They told me at the law school I could see him."
"And who might you be?"
He was so friendly. "Gray Grantham, with the Washington Post. They told me at the law school I could ask him a couple of questions."
"I'm sorry they told you that. You see, Mr. Grantham, we run this hospital, and they run their law school."
Darby picked up a magazine and sat on a sofa.
His smile faded considerably, but was still there. "I understand that," he said, still courteous. "Could I see the administrator?"
"Because this is a very important matter, and I must see Mr. Linney this afternoon. If you won't allow it, then I have to talk to your boss. I will not leave here until I speak to the administrator."
She gave him her best go-to-hell look, and backed away from the counter. "Just a moment. You may have a seat."
"Thank you."
She left and Gray turned to Darby. He pointed to a set of double doors that appeared to lead to the only hallway. She took a deep breath, and walked quickly through them. They opened into a large junction from which three sterile corridors branched out. A brass plate pointed to rooms 18 through 30. It was the center wing of the hospital, and the hall was dark and quiet with thick, industrial carpet and floral wallpaper.
This would get her arrested. She would be tackled by a large security guard or a heavy nurse and taken to a locked room where the cops would rough her up when they arrived, and her sidekick out there would stand and watch helplessly as they led her away in shackles. Her name would be in the paper, the Post, and Stump, if he was literate, would see it, and they'd get her.
As she crept along by these closed doors, the beaches and pina coladas seemed unreachable. The door to number 22 was closed and had the names Edward L. Linney and Dr. Wayne McLatchee tacked on it. She knocked.

THE ADMINISTRATOR was more of an ass than the receptionist. But then, he was paid well for it. He explained they had strict policies about visitation. These were very sick and delicate people, his patients, and they had to protect them. And their doctors, who were the finest in their field, were very strict about who could see the patients. Visitation was allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays, and even then only a carefully selected group of people, usually just family and friends, could sit with the patients, and then only for thirty minutes. They had to be very strict.

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