The Pelican Brief

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"But why Jensen?"
"He was an embarrassment. And, obviously, he was an easier target."
"Yes, but he was basically a moderate with an occasional leftward impulse. And he was nominated by a Republican."
"You want a Bloody Mary?"
"Good idea. In a minute. I'm trying to think."
Darby reclined on the bed, sipped the coffee, and watched the sunlight filter across the balcony. "Think of it, Thomas. The timing is beautiful. Reelection, nominations, politics, all that. But think of the violence and the radicals, the zealots, the pro-lifers and gay haters, the Aryans and Nazis, think of all the groups capable of killing, and all the threats against the Court, and the timing is perfect for an unknown, inconspicuous group to knock them off. It's morbid, but the timing is great."
"And who is such a group?"
"Who knows?"
"The Underground Army?"
"They're not exactly inconspicuous. They killed Judge Fernandez in Texas."
"Don't they use bombs?"
"Yeah, experts with plastic explosives."
"Scratch them."
"I'm not scratching anybody right now." Darby stood and retied the robe. "Come on. I'll fix you a Bloody Mary."
"Only if you drink with me."
"Thomas, you're a professor. You can cancel your classes if you want to. I am a student and..."
"I understand the relationship."
"I cannot cut any more classes."
"I'll flunk you in con law if you don't cut classes and get drunk with me. I've got a book of Rosenberg opinions. Let's read them, sip Bloody Marys, then wine, then whatever. I miss him already."
"I have Federal Procedure at nine, and I can't miss it."
"I intend to call the dean and have all classes canceled. Then will you drink with me?"
"No. Come on, Thomas." He followed her down the stairs to the kitchen and the coffee and the liquor.


WTHOUT REMOVING the receiver from his shoulder, Fletcher Coal punched another button on the phone on the desk in the Oval Office. Three lines were blinking, holding. He paced slowly in front of the desk and listened while scanning a two-page report from Horton at Justice. He ignored the President, who was crouched in front of the windows, gripping his putter with gloved hands, staring fiercely first at the yellow ball, then slowly across the blue carpet to the brass putting cup ten feet away. Coal growled something into the receiver. His words were unheard by the President, who lightly tapped the ball and watched it roll precisely into the cup. The cup clicked, cleared itself, and the ball rolled three feet to the side. The President inched forward in his socks to the next ball, and breathed downward at it. It was an orange one. He tapped it just so, and it rolled straight into the cup. Eight in a row. Twenty-seven out of thirty.

"That was Chief Runyan," Coal said, slamming the receiver down. "He's quite upset. He wanted to meet with you this afternoon."
"Tell him to take a number."
"I told him to be here at ten tomorrow morning. You have the Cabinet at ten-thirty, and National Security at eleven-thirty."
Without looking up, the President gripped the putter and studied the next ball. "I can't wait. What about the polls?" He swung carefully and followed the ball.
"I just talked to Nellson. He ran two, beginning at noon. The computer is digesting it now, but he thinks the approval rating will be somewhere around fifty-two or fifty-three."
"The golfer looked up briefly and smiled, then returned to his game.What was it last week?"
"Forty-four. It was the cardigan without the tie. Just like I said."
"I thought it was forty-five," he said as he tapped a yellow one and watched it roll perfectly into the cup.
"You're right. Forty-five."
"That's the highest in"
"Eleven months. We haven't been above fifty since Flight 402 in November of last year. This is a wonderful crisis, Chief. The people are shocked, yet many of them are happy Rosenberg is gone. And you're the man in the middle. Just wonderful." Coal punched a blinking button and picked up the receiver. He slammed it down without a word. He straightened his tie and buttoned his jacket.
"It's five-thirty, Chief. Voyles and Gminski are waiting."
He putted and watched the ball. It was an inch to the right, and he grimaced. "Let them wait. Let's do a press conference at nine in the morning. I'll take Voyles with me, but I'll keep his mouth shut. Make him stand behind me. I'll give some more details and answer a few questions. Networks'll carry it live, don't you think?"
"Of course. Good idea. I'll get it started."
He picked off his gloves and threw them in a corner. "Show them in." He carefully leaned his putter against the wall and slid into his Bally loafers. As usual, he had changed clothes six times since breakfast, and now wore a glen plaid double-breasted suit with a red and navy polka-dot tie. Office attire. The jacket hung on a rack by the door. He sat at his desk and scowled at some papers. He nodded at Voyles and Gminski, but neither stood nor offered to shake hands. They sat across the desk, and Coal took his usual standing position like a sentry who couldn't wait to fire. The President pinched the bridge of his nose as if the stress of the day had delivered a migraine.
"It's been a long day, Mr. President," Bob Gminski said to break the ice. Voyles looked at the windows.
Coal nodded, and the President said: "Yes, Bob. A very long day. And I have a bunch of Ethiopians invited for dinner tonight, so let's be brief. Let's start with you, Bob. Who killed them?"
"I do not know, Mr. President. But I assure you we had nothing to do with it."
"Do you promise me, Bob?" He was almost prayerful.
Gminski raised his right hand with the palm facing the desk. "I swear. On my mother's grave, I swear."
Coal nodded smugly as if he believed him, and as if his approval meant everything.
The President glared at Voyles, whose stocky figure filled the chair and was still draped with a bulky trench coat. The Director chewed his gum slowly and sneered at the President.
"Ballistics? Autopsies?"
"Got 'em," Voyles said as he opened his briefcase.
"Just tell me. I'll read it later."
"The gun was small-caliber, probably a .22. Point-blank range for Rosenberg and his nurse, powder burns indicate. Hard to tell for Ferguson, but the shots were fired from no farther than twelve inches away. We didn't see the shooting, you understand? Three bullets into each head. They picked two out of Rosenberg; found another in his pillow. Looks like he and the nurse were asleep. Same type slugs, same gun, same gunman, evidently. Complete autopsy summaries are being prepared, but there were no surprises. Causes of deaths are quite obvious."
"None. We're still looking, but it was a very clean job. Appears as if he left nothing but the slugs and the bodies."
"How'd he get into the house?"
"No apparent signs of entry. Ferguson searched the place when Rosenberg arrived around four. Routine procedure. He filed his written report two hours later, and it says he inspected two bedrooms, a bath, and three closets upstairs, and each room downstairs, and of course found nothing. Says he checked all windows and doors. Pursuant to Rosenberg's instructions, our agents were outside, and they estimate Ferguson's four o'clock inspection took from three to four minutes. I suspect the killer was waiting and hiding when the Justice returned and Ferguson walked through."
"Why?" Coal insisted.
Voyles' red eyes watched the President and ignored his hatchet man. "This man is obviously very talented. He killed a Supreme Court Justice maybe two and left virtually no trail. A professional assassin, I would guess. Entry would not be a problem for him. Eluding a cursory inspection by Ferguson would be no problem for him. He's probably very patient. He wouldn't risk an entry when the house was occupied and cops around. I think he entered sometime in the afternoon and simply waited, probably in a closet upstairs, or perhaps in the attic. We found two small pieces of attic insulation on the floor under the retractable stairs; suggests they had recently been used."
"Really doesn't matter where he was hiding," the President said. "He wasn't discovered."
"That's correct. We were not allowed to inspect the house, you understand?"
"I understand he's dead. What about Jensen?"
"He's dead too. Broken neck, strangled with a piece of yellow nylon rope that can be found in any hardware store. The medical examiners doubt the broken neck killed him. They're reasonably confident the rope did. No fingerprints. No witnesses. This is not the sort of place where witnesses come rushing forward, so I don't expect to find any. Time of death was around twelve-thirty this morning. The killings were two hours apart."
The President scribbled notes. "When did Jensen leave his apartment?"
"Don't know. We're relegated to the parking lot, remember. We followed him home around 6 P.M., then watched the building for seven hours until we found out he'd been strangled in a queer joint. We were following his demands, of course. He sneaked out of the building in a friend's car. Found it two blocks from the joint."
Coal took two steps forward with his hands clasped rigidly behind him. "Director, do you think one assassin did both jobs?"
"Who in hell knows. The bodies are still warm. Give us a break. There's precious little evidence right now. With no witnesses, no prints, no screwups, it'll take time to piece this thing together. Could be the same man, I don't know. It's too early."
"Surely you have a gut feeling," the President said.
Voyles paused and glanced at the windows. "Could be the same guy, but he must be superman. Probably two or three, but regardless, they had to have a lot of help. Someone fed them a lot of information."
"Such as?"
"Such as how often Jensen goes to the movies, where does he sit, what time does he get there, does he go by himself, does he meet a friend. Information we didn't have, obviously. Take Rosenberg. Someone had to know his little house had no security system, that our boys were kept outside, that Ferguson arrived at ten and left at six and had to sit in the backyard, that"
"You knew all this," the President interrupted.
"Of course we did. But I assure you we didn't share it with anyone." The President shot a quick conspiratorial glance at Coal, who was scratching his chin, deep in thought.
Voyles shifted his rather wide rear and gave Gminski a smile, as if to say, "Let's play along with them."
"You're suggesting a conspiracy," Coal said intelligently with deep eyebrows.
"I'm not suggesting a damned thing. I am proclaiming to you, Mr. Coal, and to you, Mr. President, that, yes, in fact, a large number of people conspired to kill them. There may be only one or two killers, but they had a lot of help. It was too quick and clean and well organized."
Coal seemed satisfied. He stood straight and again clasped his hands behind him.
"Then who are the conspirators?" the President asked. "Who are your suspects?"
Voyles breathed deeply and seemed to settle in his chair. He closed the briefcase and laid it at his feet. "We don't have a prime suspect, at the moment, just a few good possibilities. And this must be kept very quiet."
Coal sprang a step closer. "Of course it's confidential," he snapped.You're in the Oval Office."
"And I've been here many times before. In fact, I was here when you were running around in dirty diapers, Mr. Coal. Things have a way of leaking out."
"I think you've had leaks yourself," Coal said.
The President raised his hand. "It's confidential, Denton. You have my word." Coal retreated a step.
"Voyles watched the President.Court opened Monday, as you know, and the maniacs have been in town for a few days. For the past two weeks, we've been monitoring various movements. We know of at least eleven members of the Underground Army who've been in the D.C. area for a week. We questioned a couple today, and released them. We know the group has the capability, and the desire. It's our strongest possibility, for now. Could change tomorrow."
Coal was not impressed. The Underground Army was on everyone's list.
"I've heard of them," the President said stupidly.
"Oh yes. They're becoming quite popular. We believe they killed a trial judge in Texas. Can't prove it, though. They're very proficient with explosives. We suspect them in at least a hundred bombings of abortion clinics, ACLU offices, porno houses, gay clubs, all over the country. They're just the people who would hate Rosenberg and Jensen."
"Other suspects?" Coal asked.
"There's an Aryan group called White Resistance that we've been watching for two years. It operates out of Idaho and Oregon. The leader gave a speech in West Virginia last week, and has been in the area for a few days. He was spotted Monday in the demonstration outside the Supreme Court. We'll try to talk to him tomorrow."
"But are these people professional assassins?" Coal asked.
"They don't advertise, you understand. I doubt if any group performed the actual killings. They just hired the assassins and provided the legwork."
"So who're the assassins?" the President asked.
"We may never know, frankly."
The President stood and stretched his legs. Another hard day at the office. He smiled down at Voyles across the desk. "You have a difficult task." It was the grandfather's voice, filled with warmth and understanding. "I don't envy you. If possible, I would like a two-page typewritten double-spaced report by 5 P.M. each day, seven days a week, on the progress of the investigation. If something breaks, I expect you to call me immediately."

Voyles nodded but did not speak.

"I'm having a press conference in the morning at nine. I would like for you to be here."
Voyles nodded but did not speak. Seconds passed and no one spoke. Voyles stood noisily and tied the strap around the trench coat. "Oh well, we'll be going. You've got the Ethiopians and all." He handed the ballistics and autopsy reports to Coal, knowing the President would never read them.
"Thanks for coming, gentlemen," the President said warmly. Coal closed the door behind them, and the President grabbed the putter. "I'm not eating with the Ethiopians," he said, staring at the carpet and a yellow ball.
"I know it. I've already sent your apologies. This is a great hour of crisis, Mr. President, and you are expected to be here in this office surrounded by your advisers, hard at work."
He putted, and the ball rolled perfectly into the cup. "I want to talk to Horton. These nominations must be perfect."
"He's sent a short list of ten. Looks pretty good."
"I want young conservative white men opposed to abortion, pornography, queers, gun control, racial quotas, all that crap." He missed a putt, and kicked off his loafers. "I want judges who hate dope and criminals and are enthusiastic about the death penalty. Understand?"
Coal was on the phone, punching numbers and nodding at his boss. He would select the nominees, then convince the President.

K. O. LEWIS sat with the Director in the back of the quiet limousine as it left the White House and crawled through rush-hour traffic. Voyles had nothing to say. So far, in the early hours of the tragedy, the press had been brutal. The buzzards were circling. No less than three congressional subcommittees had already announced hearings and investigations into the deaths. And the bodies were still warm. The politicians were giddy and wrestling for the spotlight. One outrageous statement fueled another. Senator Larkin from Ohio hated Voyles, and Voyles hated Senator Larkin from Ohio, and the senator had called a press conference three hours earlier and announced his subcommittee would immediately begin investigating the FBI's protection of the two dead justices. But Larkin had a girlfriend, a rather young one, and the FBI had some photographs, and Voyles was confident the investigation could be delayed.

"How's the President?" Lewis finally asked.
"Which one?"
"Not Coal. The other one."
"Swell. Just swell. He's awfully tore up about Rosenberg, though."
"I bet."
They rode in silence in the direction of the Hoover Building. It would be a long night.
"We've got a new suspect," Lewis finally said.
"Do tell."
"A man named Nelson Muncie."
Voyles slowly shook his head. "Never heard of him."
"Neither have I. It's a long story."
"Gimme the short version."
"Muncie is a very wealthy industrialist from Florida. Sixteen years ago his niece was raped and murdered by an Afro-American named Buck Tyrone. The little girl was twelve. Very, very brutal rape and murder. I'll spare you the details. Muncie has no children, and idolized his niece. Tyrone was tried in Orlando, and given the death penalty. He was guarded heavily because there were a bunch of threats. Some Jewish lawyers in a big New York firm filed all sorts of appeals, and in 1984 the case arrives at the Supreme Court. You guessed it: Rosenberg falls in love with Tyrone and concocts this ridiculous Fifth Amendment self-incrimination argument to exclude a confession the punk gave a week after he was arrested. An eight-page confession that he, Tyrone, wrote himself. No confession, no case. Rosenberg writes a convoluted five-to-four opinion overturning the conviction. An extremely controversial decision. Tyrone goes free. Then, two years later he disappears and has not been seen since. Rumor has it Muncie paid to have Tyrone castrated, mutilated, and fed to the sharks. Just a rumor, say the Florida authorities. Then in 1989, Tyrone's main lawyer on the case, man named Kaplan, is gunned down by an apparent mugger outside his apartment in Manhattan. What a coincidence."
"Who tipped you?"
"Florida called two hours ago. They're convinced Muncie paid a bunch of money to eliminate both Tyrone and his lawyer. They just can't prove it. They've got a reluctant, unidentified informant who says he knows Muncie and feeds them a little info. He says Muncie has been talking for years about eliminating Rosenberg. They think he went a little over the edge when his niece was murdered."
"How much money has he got?"
"Enough. Millions. No one is sure. He's very secretive. Florida is convinced he's capable."
"Let's check it out. Sounds interesting."
"I'll get on it tonight. Are you sure you want three hundred agents on this case?"
Voyles lit a cigar and cracked his window. "Yeah, maybe four hundred. We need to crack this baby before the press eats us alive."
"It won't be easy. Except for the slugs and the rope, these guys left nothing."
Voyles blew smoke out the window. "I know. It's almost too clean."
HE CHIEF slouched behind his desk with a loosened tie and a haggard look. Around the room, three of his brethren and a half-dozen clerks sat and talked in subdued tones. The shock and fatigue were evident. Jason Kline, Rosenberg's senior clerk, looked especially hard-hit. He sat on a small sofa and stared blankly at the floor while Justice Archibald Manning, now the senior Justice, talked of protocol and funerals. Jensen's mother wanted a small, private Episcopal service Friday in Providence. Rosenberg's son, a lawyer, had delivered to Runyan a list of instructions the Justice had prepared after his second stroke in which he wanted to be cremated after a non-military ceremony and his ashes dropped over the Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Though Rosenberg was Jewish, he had abandoned the religion and claimed to be agnostic. He wanted to be buried with the Indians. Runyan thought that was appropriate, but did not say so. In the outer office, six FBI agents sipped coffee and whispered nervously. There had been more threats during the day, several coming within hours of the President's early morning address. It was dark now, almost time to escort the remaining justices home. Each had four agents as bodyguards.
Justice Andrew McDowell, at sixty-one now the youngest member of the Court, stood in the window, smoking his pipe and watching traffic. If Jensen had a friend on the Court, it was McDowell. Fletcher Coal had informed Runyan that the President would not only attend Jensen's service but wanted to deliver a eulogy. No one in the inner office wanted the President to say a word. The Chief had asked McDowell to prepare a few words. A shy man who avoided speeches, McDowell twirled his bow tie and tried to picture his friend in the balcony with a rope around his neck. It was too awful to think about. A Justice of the Supreme Court, one of his distinguished brethren, one of the nine, hiding in such a place watching those movies and being exposed in such a ghastly manner. What a tragic embarrassment. He thought of himself standing before the crowd in the church and looking at Jensen's mother and family, and knowing that every thought would be on the Montrose Theatre. They would ask each other in whispered voices, "Did you know he was gay?" McDowell, for one, did not know, nor did he suspect. Nor did he want to say anything at the funeral.
Justice Ben Thurow, age sixty-eight, was not as concerned about burying the dead as he was about catching the killers. He had been a federal prosecutor in Minnesota, and his theory grouped the suspects into two classes: those acting out of hatred and revenge, and those seeking to affect future decisions. He had instructed his clerks to begin the research.
Thurow was pacing around the room. "We have twenty-seven clerks and seven justices," he said to the group but to no one in particular. "It's obvious we won't get much work done for the next couple of weeks, and all close decisions must wait until we have a full bench. That could take months. I suggest we put our clerks to work trying to solve the killings."

"We're not police," Manning said patiently.

"Can we at least wait until after the burials before we start playing Dick Tracy?" McDowell said without turning from the window.
Thurow ignored them, as usual. "I'll direct the research. Loan me your clerks for two weeks, and I think we can put together a short list of solid suspects."
"The FBI is very capable, Ben," the Chief said. "They haven't asked for our help."
"I'd rather not discuss the FBI," Thurow said. "We can mope around here in official mourning for two weeks, or we can go to work and find these bastards."
"What makes you so sure you can solve this?" Manning asked.
"I'm not sure I can, but I think it's worth a try. Our brethren were murdered for a reason, and that reason is directly related to a case or an issue already decided or now pending before this Court. If it's retribution, then our task is almost impossible. Hell, everybody hates us for one reason or another. But if it's not revenge or hatred, then perhaps someone wanted a different Court for a future decision. That's what's intriguing. Who would kill Abe and Glenn because of how they might vote on a case this year, next year, or five years from now? I want the clerks to pull up every case now pending in the eleven circuits below."
Justice McDowell shook his head. "Come on, Ben. That's over five thousand cases, a small fraction of which will eventually end up here. It's a wild-goose chase."
Manning was equally unimpressed. "Listen, fellas. I served with Abe Rosenberg for thirty-one years, and I often thought of shooting him myself. But I loved him like a brother. His liberal ideas were accepted in the sixties and seventies, but grew old in the eighties, and are now resented in the nineties. He became a symbol for everything that's wrong in this country. He has been killed, I believe, by one of these radical right-wing hate groups, and we can research cases till hell freezes over and not find anything. It's retribution, Ben. Pure and simple."
"And Glenn?" Thurow asked.
"Evidently our friend had some strange proclivities. Word must have spread, and he was an easy target for such groups. They hate homosexuals, Ben."

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