Page 44 of The Firm

Mitch tied the laces of his Nike Air Cushion jogging shoes and sat on the sofa waiting by the phone. Hearsay, depressed after two weeks without the woman around, sat next to him and tried to doze. At exactly ten-thirty, it rang. It was Abby.

There was no mushy "sweethearts" and "babes" and "honeys." The dialogue was cool and forced.

"How's your mother?" he asked.

"Doing much better. She's up and around, but very sore. Her spirits are good."

"That's good to hear. And your dad?"

"The same. Always busy. How's my dog?"

"Lonesome and depressed. I think he's cracking up."

"I miss him. How's work?"

"We survived April 15 without disaster. Everyone's in a better mood. Half the partners left for vacation on the sixteenth, so the place is a lot quieter."

"I guess you've cut back to sixteen hours a day?"

He hesitated, and let it sink in. No sense starting a fight. "When are you coming home?"

"I don't know. Mom will need me for a couple more weeks. I'm afraid Dad's not much help. They've got a maid and all, but Mom needs me now." She paused, as if something heavy was coming. "I called St. Andrew's today and told them I wouldn't be back this semester."

He took it in stride. "There are two months left in this semester. You're not coming back for two months?"

"At least two months, Mitch. I just need some time, that's all."

"Time for what?"

"Let's not start it again, okay? I'm not in the mood to argue."

"Fine. Fine. Fine. What are you in the mood for?"

She ignored this, and there was a long pause. "How many miles are you jogging?"

"A couple. I've been walking to the track, then running about eight laps."

"Be careful at the track. It's awfully dark."

"Thanks."

Another long pause. "I need to go," she said. "Mom's ready for bed."

"Will you call tomorrow night?"

"Yes. Same time."

She hung up without a "goodbye" or "I love you" or anything. Just hung up.

Mitch pulled on his white athletic socks and tucked in his white long-sleeved T-shirt. He locked the kitchen door and trotted down the dark street. West Junior High School was six blocks to the east of East Meadowbrook. Behind the redbrick classrooms and gymnasium was the baseball field, and farther away at the end of a dark driveway was the football field. A cinder track circled the field, and was a favorite of local joggers.

But not at 11 P.M., especially with no moon. The track was deserted, and that was fine with Mitch. The spring air was light and cool, and he finished the first mile in eight minutes. He began walking a lap. As he passed the aluminum bleachers on the home side, he saw someone from the corner of his eye. He kept walking.

"Pssssssst."

Mitch stopped. "Yeah. Who is it?"

A hoarse, scratchy voice replied, "Joey Morolto."

Mitch started for the bleachers. "Very funny, Tarrance. Am I clean?"

"Sure, you're clean. Laney's sitting up there in a school bus with a flashlight. He flashed green when you passed, and if you see something red flash, get back to the track and make like Carl Lewis."

They walked to the top of the bleachers and into the unlocked press box. They sat on stools in the dark and watched the school. The buses were parked in perfect order along the driveway.

"Is this private enough for you?" Mitch asked.

"It'll do. Who's the girl?"

"I know you prefer to meet in daylight, preferably where a crowd has gathered, say like a fast-food joint or a Korean shoe store. But I like these places better."

"Great. Who's the girl?"

"Pretty clever, huh?"

"Good idea. Who is she?"

"An employee of mine."

"Where'd you find her?"

"What difference does it make? Why are you always asking questions that are irrelevant?"

"Irrelevant? I get a call today from some woman I've never met, tells me she needs to talk to me about a little matter at the Bendini Building, says we gotta change phones, instructs me to go to a certain pay phone outside a certain grocery store and be there at a certain time, and she'll call exactly at one-thirty. And I go there, and she calls at exactly one-thirty. Keep in mind, I've got three men within a hundred feet of the phone watching everybody that moves. And she tells me to be here at exactly ten forty-five tonight, to have the place sealed off, and that you'll come trotting by."

"Worked, didn't it?"

"Yeah, so far. But who is she? I mean, now you got someone else involved, and that really worries me, McDeere. Who is she and how much does she know?"

"Trust me, Tarrance. She's my employee and she knows everything. In fact, if you knew what she knows you'd be serving indictments right now instead of sitting here bitching about her."

Tarrance breathed deeply and thought about it. "Okay, so tell me what she knows."

"She knows that in the last three years the Morolto gang and its accomplices have taken over eight hundred million bucks in cash out of this country and deposited it in various banks in the Caribbean. She knows which banks, which accounts, the dates, a bunch of stuff. She knows that the Moroltos control at least three hundred and fifty companies chartered in the Caymans, and that these companies regularly send clean money back into the country. She knows the dates and amounts of the wire transfers. She knows of at least forty U.S. corporations owned by Cayman corporations owned by the Moroltos. She knows a helluva lot, Tarrance. She's a very knowledgeable woman, don't you think?"

Tarrance could not speak. He stared fiercely into the darkness up the driveway.

Mitch found it enjoyable. "She knows how they take their dirty cash, trade it up to one-hundred-dollar bills and sneak it out of the country."

"How?"

"Lear, of course. But they also mule it. They've got a small army of mules, usually their minimum-wage thugs and their girlfriends, but also students and other freelancers, and they'll give them ninety-eight hundred in cash and buy them a ticket to the Caymans or the Bahamas. No declarations are required for amounts under ten thousand, you understand. And the mules will fly down like regular tourists with pockets full of cash and take the money to their banks. Doesn't sound like much money, but you get three hundred people making twenty trips a year, and that's some serious cash walking out of the country. It's also called smurfing, you know."

Tarrance nodded slightly, as if he knew.

"A lot of folks wanna be smurfers when they can get free vacations and spending money. Then they've got their super mules. These are the trusted Morolto people who take a million bucks in cash, wrap it up real neat in newspaper so the airport machines won't see it, put it in big briefcases and walk it onto the planes like everybody else. They wear coats and ties and look like Wall Streeters. Or they wear sandals and straw hats and mule it in carry-on bags. You guys catch them occasionally, about one percent of the time, I believe, and when that happens the super mules go to jail. But they never talk, do they, Tarrance? And every now and then a smurfer will start thinking about all this money in his briefcase and how easy it would be just to keep flying and enjoy all the money himself. And he'll disappear. But the Mob never forgets, and it may take a year or two, but they'll find him somewhere. The money'll be gone, of course, but then so will he. The Mob never forgets, does it, Tarrance? Just like they won't forget about me."

Tarrance listened until it was obvious he needed to say something. "You got your million bucks."

"Appreciate it. I'm almost ready for the next installment."

"Almost?"

"Yeah, me and the girl have a couple more jobs to pull. We're trying to get a few more records out of Front Street."

"How many documents do you have?"

"Over ten thousand."

The lower jaw collapsed and the mouth fell open. He stared at Mitch. "Damn! Where'd they come from?"

"Another one of your questions."

"Ten thousand documents," said Tarrance.

"At least ten thousand. Bank records, wire-transfer records, corporate charters, corporate loan documents, internal memos, correspondence between all sorts of people. A lot of good stuff, Tarrance."

"Your wife mentioned a company called Dunn Lane, Ltd. We've reviewed the files you've already given us. Pretty good material. What else do you know about it?"

"A lot. Chartered in 1986 with ten million, which was transferred into the corporation from a numbered account in Banco de Mexico, the same ten million that arrived in Grand Cayman in cash on a certain Lear jet registered to a quiet little law firm in Memphis, except that it was originally fourteen million but after payoffs to Cayman customs and Cayman bankers it was reduced to ten million. When the company was chartered, the registered agent was a guy named Diego Sanchez, who happens to be a VP with Banco de Mexico. The president was a delightful soul named Nathan Locke, the secretary was our old pal Royce McKnight and the treasurer of this cozy little corporation was a guy named Al Rubinstein. I'm sure you know him. I don't."

"He's a Morolto operative."

"Surprise, surprise. Want more?"

"Keep talking."

"After the seed money of ten million was invested into this venture, another ninety million in cash was deposited over the next three years. Very profitable enterprise. The company began buying all sorts of things in the U.S.-cotton farms in Texas, apartment complexes in Dayton, jewelry stores in Beverly Hills, hotels in St. Petersburg and Tampa. Most of the transactions were by wire transfer from four or five different banks in the Caymans. It's a basic money-laundering operation."

"And you've got all this documented?"

"Stupid question, Wayne. If I didn't have the documents, how would I know about it? I only work on clean files, remember?"

"How much longer will it take you?"

"Couple of weeks. Me and my employee are still snooping around Front Street. And it doesn't look good. It'll be very difficult to get files out of there."

"Where'd the ten thousand documents come from?"

Mitch ignored the question. He jumped to his feet and started for the door. "Abby and I want to live in Albuquerque. It's a big town, sort of out of the way. Start working on it."

"Don't jump the gun. There's a lot of work to do."

"I said two weeks, Tarrance. I'll be ready to deliver in two weeks, and that means I'll have to disappear."

"Not so fast. I need to see a few of these documents."

"You have a short memory, Tarrance. My lovely wife promised a big stack of Dunn Lane documents just as soon as Ray goes over the wall."

Tarrance looked across the dark field. "I'll see what I can do."

Mitch walked to him and pointed a finger in his face. "Listen to me, Tarrance, and listen closely. I don't think we're getting through. Today is April 17. Two weeks from today is May 1, and on May 1 I will deliver to you, as promised, over ten thousand very incriminating and highly admissible documents that will seriously cripple one of the largest organized crime families in the world. And, eventually, it will cost me my life. But I promised to do it. And you've promised to get my brother out of prison. You have a week, until April 24. If not, I'll disappear. And so will your case, and career."

"What's he gonna do when he gets out?"

"You and your stupid questions. He'll run like hell, that's what he'll do. He's got a brother with a million dollars who's an expert in money laundering and electronic banking. He'll be out of the country within twelve hours, and he'll go find the million buck's."

"The Bahamas."

"Bahamas. You're an idiot, Tarrance. That money spent less than ten minutes in the Bahamas. You can't trust those corrupt fools down there."

"Mr. Voyles doesn't like deadlines. He gets real upset."

"Tell Mr. Voyles to kiss my ass. Tell him to get the next half million, because I'm almost ready. Tell him to get my brother out or the deal's off. Tell him whatever you want, Tarrance, but Ray goes over the wall in a week or I'm gone."

Mitch slammed the door and started down the bleachers. Tarrance followed. "When do we talk again?" he yelled.

Mitch jumped the fence and was on the track. "My employee will call you. Just do as she says."

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