Voyles folded the paper and handed it back to Lewis.
"What will you do if you find Mattiece?" Grantham asked.
"Do you have a warrant?"
"We'll have one soon."
"Do you have any idea where he is?"
"Frankly, no. We've been trying to locate him for a week, with no success."
"Did the White House interfere with your investigation of Mattiece?"
"I'll discuss it off the record. Agreed?"
Gray looked at the executive editor. "Agreed," Feldman said.
Voyles stared at Feldman, then Keen, then Krauthammer, then Grantham. "We're off the record, right? You cannot use this under any circumstances. Do we understand this?"
They nodded and watched him carefully. Darby was watching too.
Voyles looked suspiciously at Lewis. "Twelve days ago, in the Oval Office, the President of the United States asked me to ignore Victor Mattiece as a suspect. In his words, he asked me to back off."
Did he give a reason?" asked Grantham.
"The obvious. He said it would be very embarrassing and seriously damage his reelection efforts. He felt there was little merit to the pelican brief, and if it was investigated, then the press would learn of it, and he would suffer politically."
Krauthammer listened with his mouth open. Keen stared at the table. Feldman hung on every word.
"Are you certain?" Gray asked.
"I recorded the conversation. I have a tape, which I will not allow anyone to hear unless the President first denies this."
There was a long silence as they admired this mean little bastard and his tape recorder. A tape!
Feldman cleared his throat. "You just saw the story. There was a delay by the FBI from the time it had the brief until it began its investigation. This must be explained in the story."
"You have my statement. Nothing more."
"Who killed Gavin Verheek?" Gray asked.
"I will not talk about the specifics of the investigation."
"But do you know?"
"We have an idea. But that's all I'll say."
Gray glanced around the table. It was obvious Voyles had nothing else to say now, and everyone relaxed at the same time. The editors savored the moment.
Voyles loosened his tie, and almost smiled. "This is off the record, of course, but how did you guys find out about Morgan, the dead lawyer?"
"I will not discuss the specifics of the investigation," Gray said with a wicked grin. They all laughed.
"What do you do now?" Krauthammer asked Voyles.
There'll be a grand jury by noon tomorrow. Quick indictments. We'll try to find Mattiece, but it'll be difficult. We have no idea where he is. He's spent most of the past five years in the Bahamas, but owns homes in Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay." Voyles glanced at Darby for the second time. She was leaning against the wall by the window, hearing it all.
"What time does the first edition come off the press?" Voyles asked.
"They roll off all night, starting at ten-thirty," said Keen.
"Which edition will this story run in?"
"Late City, a few minutes before midnight. It's the largest edition."
"Will it have Coal's picture on the front?"
Keen looked at Krauthammer, who looked at Feldman. "I guess it should. We'll quote you as saying the brief was personally delivered to Fletcher Coal, who we'll also quote as saying Mattiece gave the President four point two million. Yes, I think Mr. Coal should have his face on the front, along with everyone else."
"I think so too," Voyles said.If I have a man here at midnight, can I pick up a few copies of it?"
"Certainly," Feldman said.Why?"
"Because I want to personally deliver it to Coal. I want to knock on his door at midnight, see him in his pajamas, and flash the paper in his face. Then I want to tell him I'll be back with a grand jury subpoena, and shortly after that I'll be back with an indictment. And shortly after that, I'll be back with the handcuffs."
He said this with such pleasure it was frightening.
I'"m glad you don't carry a grudge," Gray said. Only Smith Keen thought it was funny.
"Do you think he'll be indicted?" Krauthammer asked innocently.
Voyles glanced at Darby again. "He'll take the fall for the President. He'd volunteer for a firing squad to save his boss."
Feldman checked his watch and pushed away from the table.
"Could I ask a favor?" Voyles asked.
"I'd like to spend a few minutes alone with Ms. Shaw. That is, if she doesn't mind."
Everyone looked at Darby, who shrugged her approval. The editors and K. O. Lewis stood in unison and filed out of the room. Darby took Gray's hand and asked him to stay. They sat opposite Voyles at the table.
"I wanted to talk in private," Voyles said, looking at Gray.
"He stays," she said. "It's off the record."
She beat him to the punch. "If you plan to interrogate me, I won't talk without an attorney present."
He was shaking his head. "Nothing like that. I was just wondering what's next for you."
"Why should I tell you?"
"Because we can help."
"Who killed Gavin?"
Voyles hesitated. "Off the record."
"Off the record," said Gray.
"I'll tell you who we think killed him, but first tell me how much you talked to him before he died."
"We talked several times over the weekend. We were supposed to meet last Monday, and leave New Orleans."
"When did you last talk to him?"
"And where was he?"
"In his room at the Hilton."
Voyles breathed deeply, and looked at the ceiling. "And you discussed with him the meeting on Monday?"
"Had you met him before?"
The man who killed him was the same man you were holding hands with when he lost his brains."
She was afraid to ask. Gray did it for her. "Who was that?"
"The great Khamel."
She choked and covered her eyes, and tried to say something. But it wouldn't work.
"This is rather confusing," Gray said, straining to be rational.
"Rather, yes. The man who killed Khamel is a contract operative hired independently by the CIA. He was on the scene when Callahan was killed, and I think he made contact with Darby."
"Rupert," she said quietly.
"That's not his real name, of course, but Rupert'll do. He's probably got twenty names. If it's who I think it is, he's a British chap who's very reliable."
"Do you have any idea how confusing this is?" she asked.
"I can imagine."
"Why was Rupert in New Orleans? Why was he following her?" Gray asked.
"It's a very long story, and I don't know all of it. I try to keep my distance from the CIA, believe me. I have enough to worry about. It goes back to Mattiece. A few years ago, he needed some money to move along his grand scheme. So he sold a piece of it to the Libyan government. I'm not sure if it was legal, but enter the CIA. Evidently they watched Mattiece and the Libyans with a great deal of interest, and when the litigation sprang up, the CIA monitored it. I don't think they suspected Mattiece in the Supreme Court killings, but Bob Gminski was handed a copy of your little brief just a few hours after we delivered a copy to the White House. Fletcher Coal gave it to him. I have no idea who Gminski told of the brief, but the wrong words hit the wrong ears, and twenty-four hours later, Mr. Callahan is dead. And you, my dear, were very lucky."
"Then why don't I feel lucky?" she said.
"That doesn't explain Rupert," Gray said.
"I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect Gminski immediately sent Rupert to follow Darby. I think the brief initially scared Gminski more than the rest of us. He probably sent Rupert to trail her, in part to watch, and in part to protect. Then the car exploded, and suddenly Mr. Mattiece just confirmed the brief. Why else would you kill Callahan and Darby? I have reason to believe there were dozens of CIA people in New Orleans hours after the car exploded."
"But why?" Gray asked.
2The brief had been legitimized, and Mattiece was killing people. Most of his business is in New Orleans. And I think the CIA was very concerned about Darby. Lucky for her. They came through when it counted."
"If the CIA moved so fast, why didn't you?" she asked.
"Fair question. We didn't think that much of the brief, and we didn't know half as much as the CIA. I swear, it seemed like such a long shot, and we had a dozen other suspects. We underestimated it. Plain and simple. Plus, the President asked us to back off, and it was easy to do because I'd never heard of Mattiece. Had no reason to. Then my friend Gavin got himself killed, and I sent in the troops."
"Why would Coal give the brief to Gminski?" Gray asked.
"It scared him. And, truthfully, that's one reason we sent it over. Gminski is, well, he's Gminski, and he sometimes does things his way without regard for little obstacles like laws and such. Coal wanted the brief checked out, and he figured Gminski would do it quickly and quietly."
"So Gminski didn't level with Coal."
"He hates Coal, which is perfectly understandable. Gminski dealt with the President, and, no, he didn't level with him. It all happened so fast. Remember, Gminski, Coal, the President, and I first saw the brief just two weeks ago today. Gminski was probably waiting to tell the President some of the story, but just hadn't got the chance."
Darby pushed her chair away, and walked back to the window. It was dark now, and the traffic was still slow and heavy. It was nice to have these mysteries revealed to her, but they created more mysteries. She just wanted to leave. She was tired of running and being chased; tired of playing reporter with Gray; tired of wondering who did what and why; tired of the guilt for writing the damned thing; tired of buying a new toothbrush every three days. She longed for a small house on a deserted stretch of beach with no phones and no people, especially ones hiding behind vehicles and buildings. She wanted to sleep for three days without nightmares and without seeing shadows. It was time to go.
Gray watched her carefully. "She was followed to New York, then here," he said to Voyles. "Who is it?"
"Are you positive?" Voyles asked.
"They were on the street all day watching the building," Darby said, nodding to the window.
"We've watched them," Gray said. "They're out there."
Voyles seemed skeptical. "Have you seen them before?" he asked Darby.
"One of them. He watched Thomas' memorial service in New Orleans. He chased me through the French Quarter. He almost found me in Manhattan, and I saw him chatting with another fella about five hours ago. I know it's him."
"Who is it?" Gray asked Voyles again.
"I don't think CIA would chase you."
"Oh, he chased me."
"Do you see them now?"
"No. They disappeared two hours ago. But they're out there."
Voyles stood and stretched his thick arms. He walked slowly around the table, unwrapping a cigar. "Mind if I smoke?"
"Yes, I mind," she said without looking at him. He laid it on the table.
"We can help," he said.
"I don't want your help," she said to the window.
"What do you want?"
"I want to leave the country, but when I do, I want to make damned sure no one follows. Not you, not them, not Rupert nor any of his pals."
"You'll have to come back and testify before the grand jury."
"Only if they can find me. I'm going to a place where subpoenas are frowned upon."
"What about the trial? You'll be needed at trial."
"That's at least a year from now. I'll think about it then."
Voyles placed the cigar in his mouth, but did not light it. He paced and analyzed better with one between his teeth. "I'll make you a deal."
"I'm not in the mood for deals." She was leaning against the wall now, looking at him and looking at Gray.
It's a good one. I've got planes and helicopters and plenty of men who carry guns and are not the least bit afraid of those boys out there playing hide-and-seek. First, we'll get you out of the building, and no one will know it. Second, we'll put you on my plane and fly you anywhere you want. Third, you can disappear from there. You have my word we will not follow. But, and fourth, you allow me to contact you through Mr. Grantham here if, and only if, it becomes urgently necessary."
She was looking at Gray as the offer was made, and it was obvious he liked the deal. She kept a poker face, but, damn, it sounded good. If she had trusted Gavin after the first phone call, he would be alive and she would never have held hands with Khamel. If she'd simply left New Orleans with him when he suggested, he would not have been murdered. She'd thought about this every five minutes for the past seven days.
This thing was bigger than she was. There comes a time when you give up and start trusting people. She didn't like this man, but for the past ten minutes he had been remarkably honest with her.
"Is it your plane and your pilots?"
"Where is it?"
"Let's do it like this. I get on the plane, and it's headed for Denver. And no one is on it but me, Gray, and the pilots. And thirty minutes after we take off, I instruct the pilot to go to, let's say, Chicago. Can he do that?"
"He has to file a flight plan before he leaves."
"I know. But you're the director of the FBI, and you can pull some strings."
"Okay. What happens when you get to Chicago?"
"I get off the plane alone, and it returns to Andrews with Gray."
"And what do you do in Chicago?"
"I get lost in a busy airport, and catch the first flight out."
"That'll work, but you have my word we won't follow."
"I know. Forgive me for being so cautious."
"It's a deal. When do you wish to leave?"
She looked at Gray. "When?"
"It'll take me an hour to revise it again, and add Mr. Voyles' comments."
"An hour," she said to Voyles.
"Could we talk in private?" she said to Voyles while nodding at Gray.
"Certainly." He grabbed his trench coat, and stopped at the door. He smiled at her. "You're a helluva lady, Ms. Shaw. Your brains and guts are bringing down one of the sickest men in this country. I admire you. And I promise I'll always level with you."
He stuck the cigar in the middle of his chubby smile and left the room.
They watched the door close. "Do you think I'll be safe?" she asked.
"Yes. I think he's sincere. Plus, he has men with guns who can get you out of here. It's okay, Darby."
"You can leave with me, can't you?"
She walked to him and put her arms around his waist. He held her tightly, and closed his eyes.
AT SEVEN, the editors gathered around the table for the last time Tuesday night. They quickly read the section Gray added to include Voyles' comments. Feldman walked in late with an enormous smile.
"You will not believe this," he said. "I've had two phone calls. Ludwig called from China. The President found him there and begged him to hold the story for twenty-four hours. Ludwig said the man was near tears. Ludwig, being the gentleman, listened respectfully, and politely declined. The second call was from Judge Roland, an old friend of mine. Seems as though the boys at White and Blazevich called him away from the dinner table and requested permission to file an injunction tonight with an immediate hearing. Judge Roland listened quite disrespectfully, and impolitely declined."
"Let's run this baby!" Krauthammer yelled.
THE TAKEOFF was smooth and the jet was headed due west, supposedly for Denver. It was adequate but not luxurious, but then it was owned by the taxpayers and held by a man who cared nothing for the finer things. No good whiskey, Gray determined as he opened the cabinets. Voyles was an abstainer, and at the moment this really irritated Gray since he was a guest and dying of thirst. He found two semichilled Sprites in the refrigerator, and handed one to Darby. She popped the top of the can.
The jet appeared to be level. The copilot appeared in the door of their cabin. He was polite and introduced himself.
"We were told that we would have a new destination shortly after takeoff."
"That's correct," Darby said.
"Fine. Uh, we'll need to know something in about ten minutes."
"Is there any liquor on this thing?" Gray asked.
"Sorry." The copilot smiled, and returned to the cockpit.
Darby and her long legs consumed most of the small sofa, but he was determined to join her. He lifted her feet and sat at the end of it. They were in his lap. Red toenails. He rubbed her ankles and thought only of this first major eventthe holding of the feet. It was terribly intimate for him, but didn't seem to faze her. She was smiling a little now, unwinding. It was over.
"Were you scared?" he asked.
"Yes. And you?"
"Yes, but I felt safe. I mean, it's hard to feel vulnerable with six armed buddies using their bodies as shields. It's hard to feel watched in the rear of a van with no windows."
"Voyles loved it, didn't he?"
"He was like Napoleon, making plans and directing troops. It's a big moment for him. He'll take a shot in the morning, but it'll bounce off. The only person who can fire him is the President, and I'd say Voyles has control of him at the moment."
"And the murders are solved. He has to feel good about that."
"I think we've added ten years to his career. What have we done!"
"I think he's cute," Darby said. "I didn't like him at first, but he sort of grows on you. And he's human. When he mentioned Verheek, I saw a trace of water in his eyes."
"A real sweetheart. I'm sure Fletcher Coal will be delighted to see this cute little man in a few hours."
Her feet were long and thin. Perfect, really. He rubbed along the top of them, and felt like a sophomore moving up from the knee on the second date. They were pale, and needed sun, and he knew that in a few short days they would be brown with sand permanently stuck between the toes. He had not been invited to visit later, and this was disturbing. He had no idea where she was going, and this was intentional. He was not certain she knew her destination.
The foot play reminded her of Thomas. He'd get half drunk and smear polish around the nails. With the jet humming and shaking softly, he was suddenly many miles removed from her. He'd been dead for two weeks, but it seemed much longer. There'd been so many changes. It was better this way. If she was at Tulane, walking by his office, seeing his classroom, talking to the other professors, staring at his apartment from the street, it would be awfully painful. The little reminders are nice for the long run, but during the mourning they get in the way.
She was a different person now, with a different life in a different place.
And a different man was rubbing her feet. He was an ass at first, cocky and abrasive, a typical reporter. But he was thawing rapidly, and under the jaded layer she was finding a warm man who obviously liked her very much.
"Tomorrow's a big day for you," she said.
He took a sip of straight Sprite. He would pay an outrageous sum of money for a ice-cold imported beer in a green bottle. "Big day," he said, admiring the toes. It would be more than a big day, but he felt the need to understate it. At this moment, she had his attention, not the chaos of tomorrow.
"What'll happen?" she asked.
"I'll probably go back to the office and wait for it to hit. Smith Keen said he would be there all night. A lot of people will be in early. We'll gather in the conference room, and they'll bring more televisions. We'll spend the morning watching it break. It'll be great fun listening to the official White House response. White and Blazevich will say something. Who knows about Mattiece. Chief Runyan will have a comment. Voyles will be very visible. The lawyers will assemble grand juries. And the politicians will be delirious. They'll hold press conferences all day on Capitol Hill. It will be a rather significant news day. I hate you'll miss it."
She gave a little sarcastic snort. "What's your next story?"
"Probably Voyles and his tape. You have to anticipate a White House denial of any interference, and if the ink gets too hot for Voyles, he'll attack with a vengeance. I'd like to have the tape."
"And after that?"
"Depends on a lot of unknowns. After six o'clock in the morning, the competition gets much stiffer. There'll be a million rumors and a thousand stories, but every paper in the country will be wedging in."
"But you'll be the star," she said with admiration, not sarcasm.
"Yeah, I'll get my fifteen minutes."
The copilot knocked on the door and opened it. He looked at Darby.
"Atlanta," she said, and he closed the door.
"Why Atlanta?" Gray asked.
"You ever changed planes at Atlanta?"
"You ever got lost changing planes at Atlanta?"
"I think so."
"I rest my case. It's huge and wonderfully busy."
He emptied the can and set it on the floor. "Where to from there?" He knew he shouldn't ask because she hadn't volunteered. But he wanted to know.
"I'll catch a quick flight somewhere. I'll do my four-airports-in-one-night routine. It's probably unnecessary, but I'll feel safer. I'll eventually land somewhere in the Caribbean."
Somewhere in the Caribbean. That narrowed it to a thousand islands. Why was she so vague? Did she not trust him? He was sitting here playing with her feet and she wouldn't tell him where she was going.
"What do I tell Voyles?" he asked.
"I'll call you when I get there. Or I might drop you a line."
Great! They could be pen pals. He could send her his stories and she could send postcards from the beach.
"Will you hide from me?" he asked, looking at her.
"I don't know where I'm going, Gray. I won't know until I get there."
"But you'll call?"
"Eventually, yes. I promise."
BY 11 P.M., only five lawyers remained in the offices of White and Blazevich, and they were in Marty Velmano's on the tenth floor. Velmano, Sims Wakefield, Jarreld Schwabe, Nathaniel (Einstein) Jones, and a retired partner named Frank Cortz. Two bottles of Scotch sat on the edge of Velmano's desk. One was empty, the other almost there. Einstein sat alone in one corner, mumbling to himself. He had wild, curly gray hair and a pointed nose, and indeed looked crazy. Especially now. Sims Wakefield and Jarreld Schwabe sat in front of the desk with ties off and sleeves rolled up.
Cortz finished a phone chat with an aide to Victor Mattiece. He handed the phone to Velmano, who placed it on the desk.
"That was Strider," Cortz reported. "They're in Cairo in the penthouse suite of some hotel. Mattiece will not talk to us. Strider says he's over the edge, acting very bizarre. He's locked himself in a room, and, needless to say, he ain't coming to this side of the ocean. Strider says they've told the boys with the guns to get out of town immediately. The chase is off. The fat lady is singing."
"So what're we supposed to do?" asked Wakefield.
"We're on our own," said Cortz. "Mattiece has washed his hands of us."
They spoke quietly and deliberately. The screaming ended hours ago. Wakefield blamed Velmano for the memo. Velmano blamed Cortz for bringing in a sleazy client like Mattiece in the first place. That was twelve years ago, Cortz screamed back, and we've enjoyed his fees ever since. Schwabe blamed Velmano and Wakefield for being so careless with the memo. They dragged Morgan through the mud again and again. It had to be him. Einstein sat in the corner and watched them. But that was all behind them now.
"Grantham mentioned only me and Sims," Velmano said.The rest of you guys may be safe."
"Why don't you and Sims skip the country?" Schwabe said.
"I'll be in New York at 6 A.M." Velmano said. "Then to Europe for a month on the trains."