After the speech Mitch went over to look at the pictures. There were three other pictures on the wall as well. One was of a woman; underneath the picture were the words 'Alice Knauss, 1948-1977'. He had heard about her: the only woman ever to become a member of the firm, she was killed in a car crash just three years after joining. The other two pictures were of Robert Lamm and John Mickel. He asked Avery about them. Lamm was out hunting in Arkansas one day in 1970 and didn't return. He was found eventually with a bullet in his head. Everyone supposed it was a hunting accident. Mickel shot himself in 1984. Five dead lawyers in fifteen years. It was a dangerous place to work.
Mitch was always the first to arrive at the office and often the last to leave as well. The partners were delighted with his progress and rewarded him with extra money. Abby got a job as a teacher at a local school, so that she wasn't just sitting around the house, bored. Mitch's ability to work long hours was already a legend, but she didn't want to be married to a legend; she wanted a flesh-and-blood person next to her. Recently Mitch had started having his lunch sometimes in a small cafe about half a mile from the Bendini Building. It was a dark hole in the wall with few customers and bad food. He liked it because no one else from the firm went there, so he could sit quietly and read legal documents while he ate. He could always bill the client for his time. One day while he was there a stranger approached his table and stood next to it. Mitch put down his document.
'Can I help you?' he asked.
The stranger said, 'You're McDeere, aren't you?'
Mitch studied him. Judging by his accent, he was from New York. He was about forty, with short hair, and was wearing a cheap suit. 'Yeah,' he said. 'Who are you?'
In reply the man pulled a badge out of his pocket. 'Wayne Tarrance, FBI.' He waited for a reaction.
'Sit down,' Mitch said.
After he sat down, Tarrance said, 'I heard you were the new man at Bendini, Lambert & Locke.'
'Why would that interest the FBI?'
'We watch that firm quite closely.'
'I can't tell you at the moment. We have our reasons, but I didn't come here to talk about them. I came here to meet you, and to warn you about the firm.'
'I'm listening,' Mitch said.
'Three things. First, don't trust anyone. Second, every word you say, at home or in the office, is probably being recorded.'
Mitch watched and listened carefully; Tarrance was enjoying this. 'And the third thing?' he asked.
'Money doesn't grow on trees.'
'What do you mean by that?'
'I can't say more at the moment. I think you and I will become very close. I want you to trust me, and I know I'll have to earn your trust. So I don't want to move too fast. We can't meet at your office or at my office, and we can't talk on the phone. So from time to time I'll come and find you. For now, just remember those three things, and be careful. Here's my home phone number. You won't want to call me yet, but you'll need it sometime. But call me only from a pay phone. If I'm not in, leave a message on the machine.'
Mitch put it in his shirt pocket. 'There's one other thing,' Tarrance said as he stood up. 'You had better know that Hodge's and Kozinski's deaths weren't accidental.' He looked down at Mitch with both hands in his pockets, smiled, and left before Mitch could ask any more questions.
The next day Mitch had an opportunity to go and see Lamar. He walked into his office and closed the door. 'We need to talk,' he said. If he believed Tarrance the office was bugged and the conversation would be recorded. He was not sure whom to believe.
'You sound serious,' Lamar said.
'Did you ever hear of someone called Wayne Tarrance?'
Lamar closed his eyes. 'FBI,' he whispered.
'That's right. He had a badge and everything.'
'Where did you meet him?'
'He found me in Lansky's Cafe on Union Street. He knew who I was.'
'Have you told Avery?'
'No. No one except you. I'm not sure what to do.'
Lamar picked up the phone and spoke to Avery Tolleson. Within a few minutes Mitch and Lamar were up in Lambert's office. Avery, Lambert, Royce McKnight, Harold O'Kane and Nathan Locke were there, sitting around a conference table.
'Have a seat,' said Locke with a false smile.
'What's that?' Mitch pointed to a tape recorder in the centre of the table.
'We don't want to miss anything,' Locke said.
'OK,' Mitch said.
He repeated his conversation with Tarrance. Locke stared at Mitch with his dark eyes while he was speaking, and as soon as he had finished he asked, 'Have you ever seen this man before?'
'Whom did you tell?'
'Did he leave you a phone number to call?'
The tape recorder was switched off. Locke walked to the window. 'Mitch,' he said, 'we've had trouble with the FBI and the tax people for several years now. Some of our clients like us to take risks for them. We do things for them which are not quite illegal, but which are close to the edge. And like any firm of tax lawyers with clients as rich as ours, the FBI occasionally has to investigate some of our clients. Naturally, they investigate us at the same time. Tarrance is new down here, and he's trying to score a big win. He's dangerous. You are not to speak to him again.'
'How many of our clients have the courts found guilty?' Mitch asked.
'Not a single one.'
'What about Marty and Joe? What did happen?'
'That's a good question. We don't know. It's true that it was possibly not an accident. The boatman who was with them seems to have been a drug smuggler, according to the police there.'
'I don't think we'll ever know,' McKnight added. 'We're trying to protect their families, so we're calling it an accident.'
'Don't mention any of this to anyone,' Locke said. 'Not even your wife. If Tarrance contacts you again, let us know immediately. Understand?'
'Yes, sir.' Mitch nodded.
The grandfatherly warmth returned to Oliver Lambert's face. He smiled and said, 'Mitch, we know this is frightening, but we're used to it. We can look after it. Leave it to us, and don't worry. And stay away from Tarrance.'
'Further contact with Tarrance will put your future in the firm at risk,' Locke said.
'I understand,' Mitch said.
'That's all, Mitch,' Lambert said. 'You and Lamar can go back to work now.'
As soon as they were out of the room Lambert called DeVasher on the phone. Within two minutes Lambert and Locke were sitting in DeVasher's office.
'Did you listen?' Locke asked.
'Yeah, of course. We heard every word the boy said. You handled it very well. I think he's frightened and will run from Tarrance. But I've got to tell Lazarov: he's the boss. I hope I can still persuade him not to kill Tarrance.'
'God, yes,' Lambert said.
'But why did they choose McDeere, do you think?'
'Because he's young and because he's a good person -- the kind of person who wouldn't like what's going on here. I suggest you keep McDeere so busy he doesn't have time to think. And it would be a good idea for Quin to get closer to him, too, so that if McDeere does want to tell anyone anything he'll naturally turn to Quin.'
'Did he tell his wife last night?' asked Locke.
'We're checking the tapes now,' DeVasher said. 'It'll take about an hour. We've got so many bugs in this city, it takes six computers to find anything. I'll let you know if I find anything. But he and his wife don't talk that much any more. McDeere had better visit the Caymans, though. Can you arrange it?'
'Of course,' said Lambert.
'I'll tell you later.'
About the book:
Mitch is a lawyer who is lured by a big law firm with the promise of a bright future. Things don't go as planned after he finds himself embroiled in a murder case.
Grisham's classic is a breathtaking roller-coaster ride that will keep you biting your nails.
Excerpt from Great Expectations
- Charles Dickens
Excerpt from The Power
- Naomi Alderman