He finally smiled. "It's more than a story. Have it written by two. It's eleven now. Use this conference room and close the door." Feldman was pacing again.We'll meet here at exactly two and read the draft. Not a word."
The men stood and filed from the room, but not before each shook hands with Darby Shaw. They were uncertain whether to say congratulations or thanks or whatever, so they just smiled and shook her hand. She kept her seat.
When they were alone, Gray sat beside her and they held hands. The clean conference table was before them. The chairs were placed perfectly around it. The walls were white, and the room was lit by fluorescent lights and two narrow windows.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"I don't know. This is the end of the road, I guess. We made it."
"You don't sound too happy."
"I've had better months. I'm happy for you."
He looked at her. "Why are you happy for me?"
"You put the pieces together and it hits tomorrow. It's got Pulitzer written all over it."
"I hadn't thought about that."
"Okay, maybe once. But when you got off the elevator yesterday and told me Garcia was dead, I quit thinking about Pulitzers."
"It's not fair. I do all the work. We used my brains and looks and legs, and you get all the glory."
"I'll be glad to use your name. I'll credit you as the author of the brief. We'll put your picture on the front page, along with Rosenberg, Jensen, Mattiece, the President, Verheek, and"
"Thomas? Will his picture run with the story?"
"It's up to Feldman. He'll edit this one."
She thought about this, and said nothing.
"Well, Ms. Shaw, I've got three hours to write the biggest story of my career. A story that will shock the world. A story that could bring down a presidency. A story that will solve the assassinations. A story that will make me rich and famous."
"You'd better let me write it."
"Would you? I'm tired."
"Go get your notes. And some coffee."
THEY CLOSED THE DOOR and cleared the table. A news aide rolled in a PC with a printer. They sent him after a pot of coffee. Then some fruit. They outlined the story in sections, beginning with the assassinations, then the pelican case in south Louisiana, then Mattiece and his link to the President, then the pelican brief and all the havoc it created, Callahan, Verheek, then Curtis Morgan and his muggers, then White and Blazevich and Wakefield, Velmano, and Einstein. Darby preferred to write in longhand. She scaled down the litigation and the brief, and what was known of Mattiece. Gray took the rest, and typed out rough notes on the machine.
Darby was a model of organization, with notes neatly arranged on the table, and words carefully written on paper. He was a whirlwind of chaospapers on the floor, talking to the computer, printing random paragraphs that were discarded by the time they were on paper. She kept telling him to be quiet. This is not a law school library, he explained. This is a newspaper. You work with a phone in each ear and someone yelling at you.
At twelve-thirty, Smith Keen sent in food. Darby ate a cold sandwich and watched the traffic below. Gray was digging through campaign reports.
She saw him. He was leaning on the side of a building across Fifteenth Street, and he would not have been suspicious except he had been leaning on the side of the Madison Hotel an hour earlier. He was sipping something from a tall Styrofoam cup, and watching the front entrance to the Post. He wore a black cap, denim jacket, and jeans. He was under thirty. And he just stood there staring across the street. She nibbled on her sand wich, and watched him for ten minutes. He sipped from his cup and never moved.
"Gray, come here, please."
"What is it?" He walked over. She pointed to the man with the black cap.
"Watch him carefully," she said.Tell me what he's doing."
"He's drinking something, probably coffee. He's leaning on the side of that building, and he's watching this building."
"What's he wearing?"
"Denim from head to toe, and a black cap. Looks like boots. What about it?"
"I saw him an hour ago standing over there by the hotel. He was sort of hidden by that telephone van, but I know it was him. Now he's over there."
"So for the past hour, at least, he's been moving around doing nothing but watching this building."
Gray nodded. This was no time for a smart comment. The guy looked suspicious, and she was concerned. She'd been tracked for two weeks now, from New Orleans to New York, and now maybe to Washington, and she knew more about being followed than he did.
"What're you saying, Darby?"
"Give me one good reason why this man, who obviously is not a street bum, would be doing this."
The man looked at his watch, and walked slowly along the sidewalk until he was gone. Darby looked at her watch.
It's exactly one," she said. "Let's check every fifteen minutes, okay?"
"Okay. I doubt if it's anything," he said, trying to be comforting. It didn't work. She sat at the table, and looked at the notes.
He watched her and slowly returned to the computer.
Gray typed furiously for fifteen minutes, then walked back to the window. Darby watched him carefully. "I don't see him," he said.
He did see him at one-thirty. "Darby," he said, pointing to the spot where she'd first seen him. She looked out the window, and slowly focused on the man with the black cap. Now he had a dark green windbreaker, and he was not facing the Post. He watched his boots, and every ten seconds or so glanced at the front entrance. This made him all the more suspicious, but he was partially hidden behind a delivery truck. The Styrofoam cup was gone. He lit a cigarette. He glanced at the Post, then watched the sidewalk in front of it.
"Why do I have this knot in my stomach?" Darby said.
"How could they follow you? It's impossible."
"They knew I was in New York. That seemed impossible at the time."
"Maybe they're following me. I've been told they were watching. That's what the guy's doing. Why should he know you're here? The dude's following me."
"Maybe," she said slowly.
"Have you seen him before?"
"They don't introduce themselves."
"Look. We've got thirty minutes, and they're back in here with knives to carve up our story. Let's finish it, then we can watch dude out there."
They returned to their work. At one forty-five, she stood in the window again, and the man was gone. The printer was rattling the first draft, and she began proofing.
THE EDITORS read with their pencils. Litsky the lawyer read for sheer pleasure. He seemed to enjoy it more than the others.
It was a long story, and Feldman was busy cutting like a surgeon. Smith Keen scribbled in the margins. Krauthammer liked what he saw.
They read slowly in silence. Gray proofed it again. Darby was at the window. Dude was back again, now wearing a navy blazer with the jeans. It was cloudy and in the sixties, and he was sipping from the cup. He huddled over it to stay warm. He took a drink, looked at the Post, looked at the street, and back to the cup. He was in front of a different building, and at exactly two-fifteen he began looking north along Fifteenth.
A car stopped on his side of the street. The rear door opened, and there he was. The car sped away, and he looked around. Limping ever so slightly, Stump walked casually to the man with the black cap. They spoke for seconds, then Stump walked south to the intersection of Fifteenth and L. Dude stayed in place.
She glanced around the room. They were immersed in the story. Stump was out of sight, so she couldn't show him to Gray, who was reading and smiling. No, they were not watching the reporter. They were waiting on the girl.
And they had to be desperate. They were standing on the street hoping somehow a miracle would happen and the girl would emerge from the building, and they could take her out. They were scared. She was inside spilling her guts and waving copies of that damned brief. Tomorrow morning the game would be over. Somehow they had to stop her. They had their orders.
She was in a room full of men, and suddenly she was not safe.
Feldman finished last. He slid his copy to Gray. "Minor stuff. Should take about an hour. Let's talk phone calls."
Just three, I think," Gray said. "The White House, FBI, and White and Blazevich."
"You only named Sims Wakefield at the firm. Why?" asked Krauthammer.
"Morgan fingered him the most."
"But the memo is from Velmano. I think he should be named."
"I agree," said Smith Keen.
"Me too," said DeBasio.
"I wrote his name in," Feldman said. "We'll get Einstein later. Wait until four-thirty or five before you call the White House and White and Blazevich. If you do it sooner, they may go nuts and run to court."
"I agree," said Litsky the lawyer. "They can't stop it, but they can try. I'd wait until five before I called them."
"Okay," Gray said. "I'll have it reworked by three-thirty. Then I'll call the FBI for their comment. Then the White House, then White and Blazevich."
"Feldman was almost out the door.We'll meet again here at three-thirty. Stay close to your phones."
When the room was empty again, Darby locked the door and pointed to the window. "You've heard me mention Stump?"
"Don't tell me."
They scanned the street below.
"Afraid so. He met with our little friend, then disappeared. I know it was him."
"I guess I'm off the hook."
"I guess you are. I really want to get out of here."
"We'll think of something. I'll alert our security. You want me to tell Feldman?"
"No. Not yet."
"I know some cops."
"Great. And they can just walk up and beat the hell out of him."
"These cops'll do it."
"They can't bother these people. What are they doing wrong?"
"Just planning murder."
"How safe are we in this building?"
Gray thought a moment. "Let me tell Feldman. We'll get two security guards posted by this door."
FELDMAN APPROVED the second draft at three-thirty, and Gray was given the green light to call the FBI. Four phones were brought to the conference room, and the recorder was plugged in. Feldman, Smith Keen, and Krauthammer listened on extensions.
Gray called Phil Norvell, a good acquaintance and sometime source, if there was such a thing within the Bureau. Norvell answered his own line.
"Phil, Gray Grantham with the Post."
"I think I know who you're with, Gray."
"I've got the recorder on."
"Must be serious. What's up?"
"We're running a story in the morning detailing a conspiracy in the assassinations of Rosenberg and Jensen. We're naming Victor Mattiece, an oil speculator, and two of his lawyers here in town. We also mention Verheek, not in the conspiracy, of course. We believe the FBI knew about Mattiece early on, but refused to investigate at the urging of the White House. We wanted to give you guys a chance to comment."
There was no response on the other end.
"Phil, are you there?"
"Yes. I think so."
"I'm sure we will have a comment, but I'll have to call you back."
"We're going to press soon, so you need to hurry."
"Well, Gray, this is a shot in the ass. Could you hold it a day?"
Norvell paused. "Okay. Let me see Mr. Voyles, and I'll call you back."
"No, thank you, Gray. This is wonderful. Mr. Voyles will be thrilled."
"We're waiting." Gray punched a button and cleared the line. Keen turned off the recorder.
They waited eight minutes, and Voyles himself was on the line. He insisted on speaking to Jackson Feldman. The recorder was back on.
"Mr. Voyles?" Feldman said warmly. The two had met many times, so the "mister" was unnecessary.
"Call me Denton, dammit. Look, Jackson, what's your boy got? This is crazy. You guys are jumping off a cliff. We've investigated Mattiece, still investigating him, and it's too early to move on him. Now, what's your boy got?"
"Does the name Darby Shaw mean anything?" Feldman grinned at her when he asked the question. She was standing against the wall.
Voyles was slow to respond. "Yes," he said simply.
"My boy has the pelican brief, Denton, and I'm sitting here looking at Darby Shaw."
"I was afraid she was dead."
"No. She's very much alive. She and Gray Grantham have confirmed from another source the facts set forth in the brief. It's a large story, Denton."
Voyles sighed deeply, and threw in the towel. "We are pursuing Mattiece as a suspect," he said.
"The recorder's on, Denton, be careful."
"Well, we need to talk. I mean, man to man. I may have some deep background for you."
"You're welcome to come here."
"I'll do that. I'll be there in twenty minutes."
The editors were terribly amused at the idea of the great F. Denton Voyles hopping in his limo and rushing to the Post. They had watched him for years, and knew he was a master at cutting his losses. He hated the press, and this willingness to talk on their turf and under their gun meant only one thing he would point the finger at someone else. And the likely target was the White House.
Darby had no desire to meet the man. Her thoughts were on escape. She could point at the man in the black cap, but he'd been gone for thirty minutes now. And what could the FBI do? They had to catch him first, then what? Charge him with loitering and planning an ambush? Torture him and make him tell all? They probably wouldn't believe her.
She had no desire to deal with the FBI. She didn't want their protection. She was about to take a trip, and no one would know where to. Maybe Gray. Maybe not.
He punched the number for the White House, and they picked up the extensions. Keen turned on the recorder.
"Fletcher Coal, please. This is Gray Grantham with the Washington Post, and it's very urgent."
He waited. "Why Coal?" Keen asked.
"Everything has to be cleared through him," Gray said with his hand over the receiver.
"Says a source."
The secretary returned with the message that Mr. Coal was on his way. Please hold. Gray was smiling. The adrenaline was pumping.
Finally, "Fletcher Coal."
"Yes, Mr. Coal. Gray Grantham at the Post. I am recording the conversation. Do you understand that?"
"Is it true you have issued a directive to all White House personnel, except the President, to the effect that all communications with the press must first be cleared by you?"
"Absolutely untrue. The press secretary handles those matters."
"I see. We're running a story in the morning which, in summary, verifies the facts set forth in the pelican brief. Are you familiar with the pelican brief?"
Slowly, "I am."
"We have confirmed that Mr. Mattiece contributed in excess of four million dollars to the President's campaign three years ago."
"Four million, two hundred thousand, all through legal channels."
"We also believe the White House intervened and attempted to obstruct the FBI investigation into Mr. Mattiece, and we wanted your comment, if any."
"Is this something you believe, or is it something you intend to print?"
"We are trying to confirm it now."
"And who do you think will confirm it for you?"
"We have sources, Mr. Coal."
"Indeed you do. The White House emphatically denies any involvement with this investigation. The President asked to be apprised as to the status of the entire investigation after the tragic deaths of Justices Rosenberg and Jensen, but there has been no direct or indirect involvement from the White House into any aspect of the investigation. You have received some bad information."
"Does the President consider Victor Mattiece a friend?"
"No. They met on one occasion, and as I stated, Mr. Mattiece was a significant contributor, but he is not a friend of the President."
"He was the largest contributor, though, wasn't he?"
"I cannot confirm that."
"Any other comment?"
"No. I'm sure the press secretary will address this in the morning."
They hung up and Keen turned off the recorder. Feldman was on his feet rubbing his hands together. "I'd give a year's pay to be in the White House right now," he said.
"He's cool, isn't he?" Gray said with admiration.
"Yeah, but his cool ass is now sitting deep in boiling water."
FOR A MAN accustomed to throwing his weight around and watching everyone flinch, it was difficult to come humbly forward with hat in hand and ask for a break. He swaggered as humbly as he could through the newsroom with K. O. Lewis and two agents in tow. He wore his customary wrinkled trench coat with the belt tied tightly around the center of his short and dumpy physique. He was not striking, but his manner and walk left no doubt he was a man accustomed to getting his way. All dressed in dark coats, they resembled a Mafia don with bodyguards. The busy newsroom grew silent as they walked quickly through it. Though not striking, F. Denton Voyles was a presence, humble or not.
A small, tense group of editors huddled in the short hallway outside Feldman's office. Howard Krauthammer knew Voyles, and met him as he approached. They shook hands and whispered. Feldman was on the phone to Mr. Ludwig, the publisher, who was in China. Smith Keen joined the conversation and shook hands with Voyles and Lewis. The two agents kept to themselves a few feet away.
Feldman opened his door, looked toward the newsroom, and saw Denton Voyles. He motioned for him to come in. K. O. Lewis followed. They exchanged routine pleasantries until Smith Keen closed the door and they took a seat.
"I take it you have solid confirmation of the pelican brief," Voyles said.
"We do," Feldman answered. "Why don't you and Mr. Lewis read a draft of the story? I think it will explain things. We're going to press in about an hour, and the reporter, Mr. Grantham, wants you to have the opportunity to comment."
"I appreciate that."
Feldman picked up a copy of the draft and handed it to Voyles, who took it gingerly. Lewis leaned over, and they immediately started reading. "We'll step outside," Feldman said.Take your time." He and Keen left the office, and closed the door. The agents moved closer.
Feldman and Keen walked across the newsroom to the conference door. Two large security guards stood in the hall. Gray and Darby were alone inside when they entered.
"You need to call White and Blazevich," Feldman said.
"Waiting on you."
They picked up the extensions. Krauthammer was gone for the moment, and Keen handed his phone to Darby. Gray punched the numbers.
"Marty Velmano, please," Gray said. "Yes, this is Gray Grantham with the Washington Post, and I need to speak to him. It's very urgent."
"One moment, please," the secretary said.
A moment passed, and another secretary was on the phone. "Mr. Velmano's office."
Gray identified himself again, and asked for her boss.
"He's in a meeting," she said.
"So am I," Gray said. "Go to the meeting, tell him who I am, and tell him his picture will be on the front page of the Post at midnight tonight."
"Well, yes sir."
Within seconds, Velmano said, "Yes, what's going on?"
Gray identified himself for the third time, and explained about the recorder.
"I understand," Velmano snapped.
We're running a story in the morning about your client, Victor Mattiece, and his involvement in the assassinations of Justices Rosenberg and Jensen."
"Great! We'll sue your ass for the next twenty years. You're out in left field, buddy. We'll own the Post."
"Yes sir. Remember, I'm recording this."
"Record all you want! You'll be named as a defendant. This will be great! Victor Mattiece will own the Washington Post! This is fabulous!"
Gray shook his head in disbelief at Darby. The editors smiled at the floor. This was about to be very funny.
"Yes sir. Have you heard of the pelican brief? We have a copy."
Dead silence. Then a distant grunt, like the last gasp of a dying dog. Then more silence.
"Mr. Velmano. Are you there?"
We also have a copy of a memo you sent to Sims Wakefield, dated September 28, in which you suggest your client's position will be greatly improved if Rosenberg and Jensen are removed from the Court. We have a source that tells us this idea was researched by one called Einstein, who sits in a library on the sixth floor, I believe."
Gray continued. "We have the story ready to run, but I wanted to give you the chance to comment. Would you care to comment, Mr. Velmano?"
"I have a headache."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Will you run the memo word for word?"
"Will you run my picture?"
"Yes. It's an old one from a Senate hearing."
"You son of a bitch."
"Thank you. Anything else?"
"I notice you've waited until five o'clock. An hour earlier, and we could've run to court and stopped this damned thing."
"Yes sir. It was planned that way."
"You son of a bitch."
"You don't mind ruining people, do you?" His voice trailed off, and he was almost pitiful. What a marvelous quote. Gray had mentioned the recorder twice, but Velmano was too shocked to remember it.
"No sir. Anything else?"
"Tell Jackson Feldman the lawsuit will be filed at nine in the morning, just as soon as the courthouse opens."
"I'll do that. Do you deny you wrote the memo?"
"Do you deny the existence of the memo?"
"It's a fabrication."
"There's no lawsuit, Mr. Velmano, and I think you know it."
Silence, then, "You son of a bitch."
The phones clicked, and they were listening to the dial tone. They smiled at each other in disbelief.
"Don't you want to be a journalist, Darby?" Smith Keen asked.
"Oh, this is fun," she said. "But I was almost mugged twice yesterday. No, thanks."
Feldman stood and pointed to the recorder. "I wouldn't use any of that."
"But I sort of liked the part about ruining lives. And what about the lawsuit threats?" Gray asked.
"You don't need it, Gray. The story takes up the entire front page now. Maybe later."
"There was a knock at the door. It was Krauthammer.Voyles wants to see you," he said to Feldman.
"Bring him in here."
Gray stood quickly and Darby walked to the window. The sun was fading and the shadows were falling. Traffic inched along the street. There was no sign of Stump and his band of confederates, but they were there, no doubt waiting on darkness, no doubt plotting one last effort to kill her, either for prevention or revenge. Gray said he had a plan to exit the building without gunfire after the deadline. He wasn't specific.
Voyles entered with K. O. Lewis. Feldman introduced them to Gray Grantham, and to Darby Shaw. Voyles walked to her, smiling and looking up. "So you're the one who started all this," he said in an attempt at admiration. It didn't work.
"She instantly despised him.I think it was Mattiece," she said coolly. He turned away and took off the trench coat.
"Can we sit?" he asked in general.
They sat around the table-Voyles, Lewis, Feldman, Keen, Grantham, and Krauthammer. Darby stood by the window.
"I have some comments for the record," Voyles announced, taking a sheet of paper from Lewis. Gray began taking notes.
First, we received a copy of the pelican brief two weeks ago today, and submitted it to the White House on the same day. It was personally delivered by the deputy director, K. O. Lewis, to Mr. Fletcher Coal, who received it with our daily summary to the White House. Special agent Eric East was present during the meeting. We thought it raised enough questions to be pursued, but it was not pursued for six days, until Mr. Gavin Verheek, special counsel to the director, was found murdered in New Orleans. At that time, the FBI immediately began a full-scale investigation of Victor Mattiece. Over four hundred agents from twenty-seven offices have taken part in the investigation, logging over eleven thousand hours, interviewing over six hundred people, and going to five foreign countries. The investigation is continuing in full force at this time. We believe Victor Mattiece to be the prime suspect in the assassinations of Justices Rosenberg and Jensen, and at this time we are attempting to locate him."