Page 20 of The Firm

"Exactly what do you need, Avery?" Osgood asked through his nose.

"Let's start off with some coffee. I need summaries of all the accounts of Sonny Capps, Al Coscia, Dolph Hemmba, Ratzlaff Partners and Greene Group."

"Yes, and how far back would you like to go?"

"Six months. Every account."

Osgood snapped his fingers at one of the clerks. She left and returned with a tray of coffee and pastries. The other clerk took notes.

"Of course, Avery, we'll need authorization and powers of attorney for each of these clients," Osgood said.

"They're on file," Avery said as he unpacked his briefcase.

"Yes, but they've expired. We'll need current ones. Every account."

"Very well." Avery slid a file across the table. "They're in there. Everything's current." He winked at Mitch.

A clerk took the file and spread the documents over the table. Each instrument was scrutinized by both clerks, then by Osgood himself. The lawyers drank coffee and waited.

Osgood smiled and said, "It all appears to be in order. We'll get the records. What else do you need?"

"I need to establish three corporations. Two for Sonny Capps and one for Greene Group. We'll follow the usual procedure. The bank will serve as registered agent, etc."

"I'll procure the necessary documents," Osgood said, and looked at a clerk. "What else?"

"That's all for now."

"Very well. We should have these records within thirty minutes. Will you be joining me for lunch?"

"I'm sorry, Randolph. I must decline. Mitch and I have a prior commitment. Maybe tomorrow."

Mitch knew nothing of a prior commitment, at least none he was involved in.

"Perhaps," replied Osgood. He left the room with the clerks.

Avery closed the door and removed his jacket. He walked to the window and sipped coffee. "Look, Mitch. I'm sorry about last night. Very sorry. I got drunk and quit thinking. I was wrong to push that woman on you."

"Apology accepted. Don't let it happen again."

"It won't. I promise."

"Was she good?"

I think so. I don't remember too much. What did you do with her sister?"

"She told me to get lost. I hit the beach and took a walk."

Avery bit into a pastry and wiped his mouth. "You know I'm separated. We'll probably get a divorce in a year or so. I'm very discreet because the divorce could get nasty. There's an unwritten rule in - what we do away from Memphis stays away from Memphis. Understand?"

"Come on, Avery. You know I wouldn't tell."

"I know. I know."

Mitch was glad to hear of the unwritten rule, although he awakened with the security that he had committed the perfect crime. He had thought of her in bed, the shower, the taxi, and now he had trouble concentrating on anything. He had caught himself looking at jewelry stores when they reached Georgetown.

"I've got a question," Mitch said.

Avery nodded and ate the pastry.

"When I was recruited a few months ago by Oliver Lambert and McKnight and the gang, it was impressed upon me repeatedly that frowned on divorce, women, booze, drugs, everything but hard work and money. That's why I took the job. I've seen the hard work and money, but now I'm seeing other things. Where did you go wrong? Or do all the guys do it?"

"I don't like your question."

"I knew you wouldn't. But I'd like an answer. I deserve an answer. I feel like I was misled."

"So what are you going to do? Leave because I got drunk and laid up with a whore?"

"I haven't thought about leaving."

"Good. Don't."

"But I'm entitled to an answer."

"Okay. Fair enough. I'm the biggest rogue in, and they'll come down hard when I mention the divorce. I chase women now and then, but no one knows it. Or at least they can't catch me. I'm sure it's done by other partners, but you'd never catch them. Not all of them, but a few. Most have very stable marriages and are forever faithful to their wives. I've always been the bad boy, but they've tolerated me because I'm so talented. They know I drink during lunch and sometimes in the office, and they know I violate some more of their sacred rules, but they made me a partner because they need me. And now that I'm a partner, they can't do much about it. I'm not that bad of a guy, Mitch."

"I didn't say you were."

"I'm not perfect. Some of them are, believe me. They're machines, robots. They live, eat and sleep for Bendini, Lambert & Locke. I like to have a little fun."

"So you're the exception - "

"Rather than the rule, yes. And I don't apologize for it."

"I didn't ask you for an apology. Just a clarification."

"Clear enough?"

"Yes. I've always admired your bluntness."

"And I admire your discipline. It's a strong man who can remain faithful to his wife with the temptations you had last night. I'm not that strong. Don't want to be."

Temptations. He had thought of inspecting the downtown jewelry shops during lunch.

"Look, Avery, I'm not a Holy Roller, and I'm not shocked. I'm not one to judge - I've been judged all my life. I was just confused about the rules, that's all."

"The rules never change. They're cast in concrete. Carved in granite. Etched in stone. Violate too many and you're out. Or violate as many as you want, but just don't get caught."

"Fair enough."

Osgood and a group of clerks entered the room with computer printouts and stacks of documents. They made neat piles on the table and alphabetized it all.

"This should keep you busy for a day or so," Osgood said with a forced smile. He snapped his fingers and the clerks disappeared. "I'll be in my office if you need something."

"Yes, thanks," Avery said as he hovered over the first set of documents. Mitch removed his coat and loosened his tie.

"Exactly what are we doing here?" he asked.

"Two things. First, we'll review the entries into all of these accounts. We're looking primarily for interest earned, what rate, how much, etc. We'll do a rough audit of each account to make sure the interest is going where it is supposed to go. For example, Dolph Hemmba sends his interest to nine different banks in the Bahamas. It's stupid, but it makes him happy. It's also impossible for anyone to follow, except me. He has about twelve million in this bank, so it's worth keeping up with. He could do this himself, but he feels better if I do it. At two-fifty an hour, I don't mind. We'll check the interest this bank is paying on each account. The rate varies depending on a number of factors. It's discretionary with the bank, and this is a good way to keep them honest."

"I thought they were honest."

"They are, but they're bankers, remember."

"You're looking at close to thirty accounts here, and when we leave we'll know the exact balance, the interest earned and where the interest is going. Second, we have to incorporate three companies under Caymanian jurisdiction. It's fairly easy legal work and could be done in Memphis. But the clients think we must come here to do it. Remember, we're dealing with people who invest millions. A few thousand in legal fees doesn't bother them."

Mitch flipped through a printout in the Hemmba stack. "Who's this guy Hemmba? I haven't heard of him."

"I've got a lot of clients you haven't heard of. Hemmba is a big farmer in Arkansas, one of the state's largest landowners."

"Twelve million dollars?"

"That's just in this bank!"

"That's a lot of cotton and soybeans."

"Let's just say he has other ventures."

"Such as?"

"I really can't say."

"Legal or illegal?"

"Let's just say he's hiding twenty million plus interest in various Caribbean banks from the IRS."

"Are we helping him?"

Avery spread the documents on one end of the table and began checking entries. Mitch watched and waited for an answer. The silence grew heavier and it was obvious there would not be one. He could press, but he had asked enough questions for one day. He rolled up his sleeves and went to work.

At noon he learned about Avery's prior commitment. His woman was waiting at the condo for a little rendezvous. He suggested they break for a couple of hours and mentioned a cafe downtown Mitch could try.

Instead of a cafe, Mitch found the Georgetown Library four blocks from the bank. On the second floor he was directed to the periodicals, where he found a shelf full of old editions of The Daily Caymanian. He dug back six months and pulled the one dated June 27. He laid it on a small table by a window overlooking the street. He glanced out the window, then looked closer. There was a man he had seen only moments earlier on the street by the bank. He was behind the wheel of a battered yellow Chevette parked in a narrow drive across from the library. He was a stocky, darkhaired, foreign-looking type with a gaudy green-and-orange shirt and cheap touristy sunglasses.

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