The Pelican Brief



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Ben was still pacing, still ignoring. "They hate all of us, and if they killed out of hatred the cops'll catch them. Maybe. But what if they killed to manipulate this Court? What if some group seized this moment of unrest and violence to eliminate two of us, and thus realign the Court? I think it's very possible."
The Chief cleared his throat. "And I think we'll do nothing until after they are buried, or scattered. I'm not saying no, Ben, just wait a few days. Let the dust settle. The rest of us are still in shock."
Thurow excused himself and left the room. His bodyguards followed him down the hall.
Justice Manning stood with his cane and addressed the Chief. "I will not make it to Providence. I hate flying, and I hate funerals. I'll be having one myself before long, and I do not enjoy the reminder. I'll send my sympathies to the family. When you see them, please apologize for me. I'm a very old man." He left with a clerk.
"I think Justice Thurow has a point," said Jason Kline. "We at least need to review the pending cases and those likely to arrive here from the lower circuits. It's a long shot, but we may stumble across something."
I agree," said the Chief. "It's just a bit premature, don't you think?"
"Yes, but I'd like to get started anyway."
"No. Wait till Monday, and I'll assign you to Thurow."
Kline shrugged and excused himself. Two clerks followed him to Rosenberg's office, where they sat in the darkness and sipped the last of Abe's brandy.

IN A CLUTTERED STUDY CARREL on the fifth level of the law library, between the racks of thick, seldom-used law books, Darby Shaw scanned a printout of the Supreme Court's docket. She had been through it twice, and though it was loaded with controversy, she found nothing that interested her. Dumond was causing riots. There was a child pornography case from New Jersey, a sodomy case from Kentucky, a dozen death penalty appeals, a dozen assorted civil rights cases, and the usual array of tax, zoning, Indian, and antitrust cases. From the computer she had pulled summaries of each, then reviewed them twice. She compiled a neat list of possible suspects, but they would be obvious to everyone. The list was now in the garbage.


Callahan was certain it was the Aryans or the Nazis or the Klan; some easily identifiable collection of domestic terrorists; some radical band of vigilantes. It had to be right-wingers; that much was obvious, he felt. Darby was not so sure. The hate groups were too obvious. They had made too many threats, thrown too many rocks, held too many parades, made too many speeches. They needed Rosenberg alive because he was such an irresistible target for their hatred. Rosenberg kept them in business. She thought it was somebody much more sinister.
He was sitting in a bar on Canal Street, drunk by now, waiting on her though she had not promised to join him. She had checked on him at lunch, and found him on the balcony upstairs, drunk and reading his book of Rosenberg opinions. He had decided to cancel con law for a week; said he might not be able to teach it anymore now that his hero was dead. She told him to sober up, and she left.
A few minutes after ten, she walked to the computer room on the fourth level of the library and sat before a monitor. The room was empty. She pecked away at the keyboard, found what she wanted, and soon the printer was spewing forth page after page of appeals pending in the eleven federal appellate courts around the country. An hour later, the printer stopped, and she now possessed a six-inch-thick summary of the eleven dockets. She hauled it back to her study carrel and placed it in the center of the cluttered desk. It was after eleven, and the fifth level was deserted. A narrow window gave an uninspiring view of a parking lot and trees below.
She kicked off her shoes again and inspected the red paint on the toes. She sipped a warm Fresca and stared blankly at the parking lot. The first assumption was easy-the killings were done by the same group for the same reasons. If not, then the search was hopeless. The second assumption was difficult-the motive was not hatred or revenge, but rather manipulation. There was a case or an issue out there on its way to the Supreme Court, and someone wanted different justices. The third assumption was a bit easier-the case or issue involved a great deal of money.
The answer would not be found in the printout sitting before her. She flipped through it until midnight, and left when the library closed.

AT NOON THURSDAY a secretary carried a large sack decorated with grease spots and filled with deli sandwiches and onion rings into a humid conference room on the fifth floor of the Hoover Building. In the center of the square room, a mahogany table with twenty chairs along each side was surrounded with the top FBI people from across the country. All ties were loosened and sleeves rolled up. A thin cloud of blue smoke hung around the cheap government chandelier five feet above the table.


Director Voyles was talking. Tired and angry, he puffed on his fourth cigar of the morning and walked slowly in front of the screen at his end of the table. Half the men were listening. The other half had pulled reports from the pile in the center of the table and read about the autopsies, the lab report on the nylon rope, Nelson Muncie, and a few other quickly researched subjects. The reports were quite thin.
Listening carefully and reading intently was Special Agent Eric East, only a ten-year man but a brilliant investigator. Six hours earlier Voyles had picked him to lead the investigation. The rest of the team had been selected throughout the morning, and this was the organizational meeting.
East was listening and hearing what he already knew. The investigation could take weeks, probably months. Other than the slugs, nine of them, the rope, and the steel rod used in the tourniquet, there was no evidence. The neighbors in Georgetown had seen nothing; no exceptionally suspicious characters at the Montrose. No prints. No fibers. Nothing. It takes remarkable talent to kill so cleanly, and it takes a lot of money to hire such talent. Voyles was pessimistic about finding the gunmen. They must concentrate on whoever hired them.
Voyles was talking and puffing. "There's a memo on the table regarding one Nelson Muncie, a millionaire from Jacksonville, Florida, who's allegedly made threats against Rosenberg. The Florida authorities are convinced Muncie paid a bunch of money to have the rapist and his lawyer killed. The memo covers it. Two of our men talked with Muncie's lawyer this morning, and were met with great hostility. Muncie is out of the country, according to his lawyer, and of course he has no idea when he will return. I've assigned twenty men to investigate him."
Voyles relit his cigar and looked at a sheet of paper on the table. "Number four is a group called White Resistance, a small group of middle-aged commandos we've been watching for about three years. You've got a memo. Pretty weak suspect, really. They'd rather throw firebombs and burn crosses. Not a lot of finesse. And, most importantly, not much money. I doubt seriously if they could hire guns as slick as these. But I've assigned twenty men anyway."
East unwrapped a heavy sandwich, sniffed it, but decided to leave it alone. The onion rings were cold. His appetite had vanished. He listened and made notes. Number six on the list was a bit unusual. A psycho named Clinton Lane had declared war on homosexuals. His only son had moved from their family farm in Iowa to San Francisco to enjoy the gay life, but had quickly died of AIDS. Lane cracked up, and burned the Gay Coalition office in Des Moines. Caught and sentenced to four years, he escaped in 1989 and had not been found. According to the memo, he had set up an extensive coke-smuggling operation and made millions. And he used the money in his own little private war against gays and lesbians. The FBI had been trying to catch him for five years, but it was believed he operated out of Mexico. For years he had written hate mail to the Congress, the Supreme Court, the President. Voyles was not impressed with Lane as a suspect. He was a nut who was way out in left field, but no stone would go unturned. He assigned only six agents.
The list had ten names. Between six and twenty of the best special agents were assigned to each suspect. A leader was chosen for each unit. They were to report twice daily to East, who would meet each morning and each afternoon with the Director. A hundred or so more agents would scour the streets and countryside for clues.
Voyles talked of secrecy. The press would follow like bloodhounds, so the investigation must be extremely confidential. Only he, the Director, would speak to the press, and he would have precious little to say.
He sat down, and K. O. Lewis delivered a rambling monologue about the funerals, and security, and a request from Chief Runyan to assist in the investigation.
Eric East sipped cold coffee, and stared at the list.

IN THIRTY-FOUR YEARS, Abraham Rosenberg wrote no fewer than twelve hundred opinions. His production was a constant source of amazement to constitutional scholars. He occasionally ignored the dull antitrust cases and tax appeals, but if the issue showed the barest hint of real controversy, he waded in with both fists. He wrote majority opinions, concurrences to majorities, concurrences to dissents, and many, many dissents. Often he dissented alone. Every hot issue in thirty-four years had received an opinion of some sort from Rosenberg. The scholars and critics loved him. They published books and essays and critiques about him and his work. Darby found five separate hardback compilations of his opinions, with editorial notes and annotations. One book contained nothing but his great dissents.


She skipped class Thursday and secluded herself in the study carrel on the fifth level of the library. The computer printouts were scattered neatly on the floor. The Rosenberg books were open and marked and stacked on top of each other.
There was a reason for the killings. Revenge and hatred would be acceptable for Rosenberg alone. But add Jensen to the equation, and revenge and hatred made less sense. Sure he was hateable, but he had not aroused passions like Yount or even Manning.
She found no books of critical thought on the writings of Justice Glenn Jensen. In six years, he had authored only twenty-eight majority opinions, the lowest production on the Court. He had written a few dissents, and joined a few concurrences, but he was a painfully slow worker. At times his writing was clear and lucid, at times disjointed and pathetic.
She studied Jensen's opinions. His ideology swung radically from year to year. He was generally consistent in his protection of the rights of criminal defendants, but there were enough exceptions to astound any scholar. In seven attempts, he had voted with the Indians five times. He had written three majority opinions strongly protective of the environment. He was near perfect in support of tax protestors.
But there were no clues. Jensen was too erratic to take seriously. Compared to the other eight, he was harmless.
She finished another warm Fresca, and put away for the moment her notes on Jensen. Her watch was hidden in a drawer. She had no idea what time it was. Callahan had sobered up and wanted a late dinner at Mr. B's in the Quarter. She needed to call him.

DICK MABRY, the current speechwriter and word wizard, sat in a chair beside the President's desk and watched as Fletcher Coal and the President read the third draft of a proposed eulogy for Justice Jensen. Coal had rejected the first two, and Mabry was still uncertain about what they wanted. Coal would suggest one thing. The President wanted something else. Earlier in the day, Coal had called and said to forget the eulogy because the President would not attend the funeral. Then the President had called, and asked him to prepare a few words because Jensen was a friend and even though he was a queer he was still a friend.


Mabry knew Jensen was not a friend, but he was a freshly assassinated justice who would enjoy a highly visible funeral.
Then Coal had called and said they weren't sure if the President was going but work up something just in case. Mabry's office was in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House, and during the day small bets had been placed on whether the President would attend the funeral of a known homosexual. The office odds were three to one that he would not.
"Much better, Dick," Coal said, folding the paper.
"I like it too," the President said. Mabry had noticed that the President usually waited for Coal to express approval or displeasure over his words.
"I can try again," Mabry said, standing.
N"o, no," Coal insisted. "This has the right touch. Very poignant. I like it."
He walked Mabry to the door and closed it behind him.
"What do you think?" the President asked.
"Let's call it off. I'm getting bad vibes. Publicity would be great, but you'd be speaking these beautiful words over a body found in a gay porno house. Too risky."
"Yeah. I think you're"
"This is our crisis, Chief. The ratings continue to improve, and I just don't want to take a chance."
"Should we send someone?"
"Of course. What about the Vice President?"
"Where is he?"
"Flying in from Guatemala. He'll be in tonight." Coal suddenly smiled to himself. "This is great VP stuff, you know. A gay funeral."
The President chuckled. "Perfect."
Coal stopped smiling and began pacing in front of the desk. "Slight problem. Rosenberg's service is Saturday, only eight blocks from here."
"I'd rather go to hell for a day."
"I know. But your absence would be very conspicuous."
"I could check into Walter Reed with back spasms. It worked before."
"No, Chief. Reelection is next year. You must stay away from hospitals."
The President slapped both hands on his desk and stood. "Dammit, Fletcher! I can't go to his service because I can't keep from smiling. He was hated by ninety percent of the American people. They'll love me if I don't go."
"Protocol, Chief. Good taste. You'll be burned by the press if you don't go. Look, it won't hurt, okay. You don't have to say a word. Just ease in and out, look real sad, and allow the cameras to get a good look. Won't take an hour."
The President was gripping his putter and crouching over an orange ball. "Then I'll have to go to Jensen's."
"Exactly. But forget the eulogy."
He putted. "I met him only twice, you know."
I know. Let's quietly attend both services, say nothing, then disappear."
He putted again. "I think you're right."

THOMAS CALLAHAN slept late and alone. He had gone to bed early, and sober, and alone. For the third day in a row he had canceled classes. It was Friday, and Rosenberg's service was tomorrow, and out of respect for his idol, he would not teach con law until the man was properly put to rest.


He fixed coffee and sat on the balcony in his robe. The temperature was in the sixties, the first cold snap of the fall, and Dauphine Street below bustled with brisk energy. He nodded to the old woman without a name on the balcony across the street. Bourbon was a block away and the tourists were already out with their little maps and cameras. Dawn went unnoticed in the Quarter, but by ten the narrow streets were busy with delivery trucks and cabs.
On these late mornings, and they were many in number, Callahan cherished his freedom. He was twenty years out of law school, and most of his contemporaries were strapped into seventy-hour weeks in pressurized law factories. He had lasted two years in private practice. A behemoth in B.C. with two hundred lawyers hired him fresh out of Georgetown and stuck him in a cubbyhole office writing briefs for the first six months. Then he was placed on an assembly line answering interrogatories about lUDs twelve hours a day, and expected to bill sixteen. He was told that if he could cram the next twenty years into the next ten, he just might make partner at the weary age of thirty-five.
Callahan wanted to live past fifty, so he retired from the boredom of private law. He earned a master's in law, and became a professor. He slept late, worked five hours a day, wrote an occasional article, and for the most part enjoyed himself immensely. With no family to support, his salary of seventy thousand a year was more than sufficient to pay for his two-story bungalow, his Porsche, and his liquor. If death came early, it would be from whiskey and not work.
He had sacrificed. Many of his pals from law school were partners in the big firms with fancy letterheads and half-million-dollar earnings. They rubbed shoulders with CEOs from IBM and Texaco and State Farm. They power-schmoozed with senators. They had offices in Tokyo and London. But he did not envy them.
One of his best friends from law school was Gavin Verheek, another dropout from private practice who had gone to work for the government. He first worked in the civil rights division at Justice, then transferred to the FBI. He was now special counsel to the Director. Callahan was due in Washington Monday for a conference of con law professors. He and Verheek planned to eat and get drunk Monday night.
He needed to call and confirm their eating and drinking, and to pick his brain. He dialed the number from memory. The call was routed then rerouted, and after five minutes of asking for Gavin Verheek, the man was on the phone.
"Make it quick," Verheek said.
"So nice to hear your voice," Callahan said.
"How are you, Thomas?"
"It's ten-thirty. I'm not dressed. I'm sitting here in the French Quarter sipping coffee and watching pedestrians on Dauphine. What're you doing?"
"What a life. Here it's eleven-thirty, and I haven't left the office since they found the bodies Wednesday morning."
"I'm just sick, Gavin. He'll nominate two Nazis."
"Well, of course, in my position, I cannot comment on such matters. But I suspect you're correct."
"Suspect my ass. You've already seen his short list of nominees, haven't you, Gavin? You guys are already doing back ground checks, aren't you? Come on, Gavin, you can tell me. Who's on the list? I'll never tell."
"Neither will I, Thomas. But I promise this-your name is not among the few."
"I'm wounded."
"How's the girl?"
"Which one?"
"Come on, Thomas. The girl?"
"She's beautiful and brilliant and soft and gentle"
"Keep going."
"Who killed them, Gavin? I have a right to know. I'm a taxpayer and I have a right to know who killed them."
"What's her name again?"
"Darby. Who killed them, and why?"
"You could always pick names, Thomas. I remember women you turned down because you didn't like the names. Gorgeous, hot women, but with flat names. Darby. Has a nice erotic touch to it. What a name. When do I meet her?"
"I don't know."
"Has she moved in?"
"None of your damned business. Gavin, listen to me. Who did it?"
"Don't you read the papers? We have no suspects. None. Nada."
"Surely you have a motive."
"Mucho motives. Lots of hatred out there, Thomas. Weird combination, wouldn't you say? Jensen's hard to figure. The Director has ordered us to research pending cases and recent decisions and voting patterns and all that crap."
"That's great, Gavin. Every con law scholar in the country is now playing detective and trying to solve the murders."
"And you're not?"
"No. I threw a binge when I heard the news, but I'm sober now. The girl, however, has buried herself in the same research you're doing. She's ignoring me."
"Darby. What a name. Where's she from?"
"Denver. Are we on for Monday?"
"Maybe. Voyles wants us to work around the clock until the computers tell us who did it. I plan to work you in, though."
"Thanks. I'll expect a full report, Gavin. Not just the gossip."
"Thomas, Thomas. Always fishing for information. And I, as usual, have none to give you."
"You'll get drunk and tell all, Gavin. You always do."
"Why don't you bring Darby? How old is she? Nineteen?"
"Twenty-four, and she's not invited. Maybe later."
"Maybe. Gotta run, pal. I meet with the Director in thirty minutes. The tension is so thick around here you can smell it." Callahan punched the number for the law school library and asked if Darby Shaw had been seen. She had not.

DARBY PARKED in the near-empty lot of the federal building in Lafayette, and entered the clerk's office on the first floor. It was noon Friday, court was not in session, and the hallways were deserted. She stopped at the counter and looked through an open window, and waited. A deputy clerk, late for lunch and with an attitude, walked to the window. "Can I help you?" she asked in the tone of a lowly civil servant who wanted to do anything but help.


Darby slid a strip of paper through the window. "I would like to see this file." The clerk took a quick glance at the name of the case, and looked at Darby. "Why?" she asked.
"I don't have to explain. It's public record, isn't it?"
"Semipublic."
Darby took the strip of paper and folded it. "Are you familiar with the Freedom of Information Act?"
"Are you a lawyer?"
"I don't have to be a lawyer to look at this file."
The clerk opened a drawer in the counter, and took out a key ring. She nodded, pointing with her forehead. "Follow me."
The sign on the door said JURY ROOM, but inside there were no tables or chairs, only file cabinets and boxes lining the walls. Darby looked around the room.
The clerk pointed to a wall. "That's it, on this wall. The rest of the room is other junk. This first file cabinet has all the pleadings and correspondence. The rest is discovery, exhibits, and the trial."
"When was the trial?"
"Last summer. It went on for two months."
"Where's the appeal?"
"Not perfected yet. I think the deadline is November 1. Are you a reporter or something?"
"No."
"Good. As you obviously know, these are indeed public records. But the trial judge has placed certain restrictions. First, I must have your name and the precise hours you visited this room. Second, nothing can be taken from this room. Third, nothing in this file can be copied until the appeal is perfected. Fourth, anything you touch in here must be put back exactly where you found it. Judge's orders."
Darby stared at the wall of file cabinets. "Why can't I make copies?"
"Ask His Honor, okay? Now, what's your name?"
"Darby Shaw."
The clerk scribbled the information on a clipboard hanging near the door. "How long will you be?"
"I don't know. Three or four hours."
"We close at five. Find me at the office when you leave." She closed the door with a smirk. Darby opened a drawer full of pleadings, and began flipping through files and taking notes. The lawsuit was seven years old, with one plaintiff and thirty-eight wealthy corporate defendants who had collectively hired and fired no less than fifteen law firms from all over the country. Big firms, many with hundreds of lawyers in dozens of offices.
Seven years of expensive legal warfare, and the outcome was far from certain. Bitter litigation. The trial verdict was only a temporary victory for the defendants. The verdict had been purchased or in some other way illegally obtained, clairned the plaintiff in its motions for a new trial. Boxes of motions. Accusations and counteraccusations. Requests for sanctions and fines flowing rapidly to and from both sides. Pages and pages of affi davits detailing lies and abuses by the lawyers and their clients. One lawyer was dead.
Another had tried suicide, according to a classmate of Darby's who had worked on the fringes of the case during the trial. Her friend had been employed in a summer clerkship with a big firm in Houston, and was kept in the dark but heard a little.



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