Page 56 of The Firm

Sunday. The forty-foot schooner sped south with full sails under a clear sky. Abby was in a deep sleep in the master suite. Ray was in a scotch-induced coma on a couch. Abanks was somewhere below catching a nap.

Mitch sat on the deck sipping cold coffee and listening to George expound on the basics of sailing. He was in his late fifties, with long, gray, bleached hair and dark, sun-cured skin. He was small and wiry, much like Abanks. He was Australian by birth, but twenty-eight years earlier had fled his country after the largest bank heist in its history. He and his partner split eleven million in cash and silver and went their separate ways. His partner was now dead, he had heard.

George was not his real name, but he'd used it for twenty-eight years and forgotten the real one. He discovered the Caribbean in the late sixties, and after seeing its thousands of small, primitive English-speaking islands, decided he'd found home. He put his money in banks in the Bahamas, Belize, Panama and, of course, Grand Cayman. He built a small compound on a deserted stretch of beach on Little Cayman and had spent the past twenty-one years touring the Caribbean in his thirty-foot schooner. During the summer and early fall, he stayed close to home. But from October to June, he lived on his boat and hopped from island to island. He'd been to three hundred of them in the Caribbean. He once spent two years just in the Bahamas.

"There are thousands of islands," he explained. "And they'll never find you if you move a lot."

"Are they still looking for you?" Mitch asked.

"I don't know. I can't call and ask, you know. But I doubt it."

"Where's the safest place to hide?"

"On this boat. It's a nice little yacht, and once you learn to sail it, it'll be your home. Find you a little island somewhere, perhaps Little Cayman or Brae - they're both still primitive - and build a house. Do as I've done. And spend most of your time on this boat."

"When do you stop worrying about being chased?"

"Oh, I still think about it, you know. But I don't worry about it. How much did you get away with?"

"Eight million, give or take," Mitch said.

"That's nice. You've got the money to do as you please, so forget about them. Just tour the islands for the rest of your life. There are worse things, you know."

For days they sailed toward Cuba, then around it in the direction of Jamaica. They watched George and listened to his lectures. After twenty years of sailing through the Caribbean, he was a man of great knowledge and patience. Ray, the linguist, listened to and memorized words like spinnaker, mast, bow, stern, aft, tiller, halyard winches, masthead fittings, shrouds, lifelines, stanchions, sheet winch, bow pulpit, coamings, transom, clew outhaul, genoa sheets, mainsail, jib, jibstays, jib sheets, cam cleats and boom vangs. George lectured on heeling, luffing, running, blanketing, backwinding, heading up, trimming and pointing. Ray absorbed the language of sailing; Mitch studied the technique. Abby stayed in the cabin, saying little and smiling only when necessary. Life on a boat was not something she dreamed about. She missed her house and wondered what would happen to it. Maybe Mr. Rice would cut the grass and pull the weeds. She missed the shady streets and neat lawns and the small gangs of children riding bicycles. She thought of her dog, and prayed that Mr. Rice would adopt it. She worried about her parents - their safety and their fear. When would she see them again? It would be years, she decided, and she could live with that if she knew they were safe.

Her thoughts could not escape the present. The future was inconceivable.

During the second day of the rest of her life, she began writing letters; letters to her parents, Kay Quin, Mr. Rice and a few friends. The letters would never be mailed, she knew, but it helped to put the words on paper.

Mitch watched her carefully, but left her alone. He had nothing to say, really. Maybe in a few days they could talk.

By the end of the fourth day, Wednesday, Grand Cayman was in sight. They circled it slowly once and anchored a mile from shore. After dark, Barry Abanks said goodbye. The McDeeres simply thanked him, and he eased away in the rubber raft. He would land three miles from Bodden Town at another dive lodge, then call one of his dive captains to come get him. He would know if anyone suspicious had been around. Abanks expected no trouble.

George's compound on Little Cayman consisted of a small main house of white-painted wood and two smaller outbuildings. It was inland a quarter of a mile, on a tiny bay. The nearest house could not be seen. A native woman lived in the smallest building and maintained the place. Her name was Fay.

The McDeeres settled in the main house and tried to begin the process of starting over. Ray, the escapee, roamed the beaches for hours and kept to himself. He was euphoric, but could not show it. He and George took the boat out for several hours each day and drank scotch while exploring the islands. They usually returned drunk.

Abby spent the first days in a small room upstairs overlooking the bay. She wrote more letters and began a diary. She slept alone.

Twice a week, Fay drove the Volkswagen bus into town for supplies and mail. She returned one day with a package from Barry Abanks. George delivered it to Mitch. Inside the package was a parcel sent to Abanks from Doris Greenwood in Miami. Mitch ripped open the thick legal-sized envelope and found three newspapers, two from Atlanta and one from Miami.

The headlines told of the mass indicting of the Bendini law firm in Memphis. Fifty-one present and former members of The Firm were indicted, along with thirty-one alleged members of the Morolto crime family in Chicago. More indictments were coming, promised the U.S. Attorney. Just the tip of the iceberg. Director F. Denton Voyles allowed himself to be quoted as saying it was a major blow to organized crime in America. It should be a dire warning, he said, to legitimate professionals and businessmen who are tempted to handle dirty money.

Mitch folded the newspapers and went for a long walk on the beach. Under a cluster of palms, he found some shade and sat down. The Atlanta paper listed the names of every Bendini lawyer indicted. He read them slowly. There was no joy in seeing the names. He almost felt sorry for Nathan Locke. Almost. Wally Hudson, Kendall Mahan, Jack Aldrich and, finally, Lamar Quin. He could see their faces. He knew their wives and their children. Mitch gazed across the brilliant ocean and thought about Lamar and Kay Quin. He loved them, and he hated them. They had helped seduce him into, and they were not without blame. But they were his friends. What a waste! Maybe Lamar would only serve a couple of years and then be paroled. Maybe Kay and the kids could survive. Maybe.

"I love you, Mitch." Abby was standing behind him. She held a plastic pitcher and two cups.

He smiled at her and waved to the sand next to him. "What's in the pitcher?"

"Rum punch. Fay mixed it for us."

"Is it strong?"

She sat next to him on the sand. "It's mostly rum. I told Fay we needed to get drunk, and she agreed."

He held her tightly and sipped the rum punch. They watched a small fishing boat inch through the sparkling water.

"Are you scared, Mitch?"

"Terrified."

"Me too. This is crazy."

"But we made it, Abby. We're alive. We're safe. We're together."

"But what about tomorrow? And the next day?"

"I don't know, Abby. Things could be worse, you know. My name could be in the paper there with the other freshly indicted defendants. Or we could be dead. There are worse things than sailing around the Caribbean with eight million bucks in the bank."

"Do you think my parents are safe?"

"I think so. What would Morolto have to gain by harming your parents? They're safe, Abby."

She refilled the cups with rum punch and kissed him on the cheek. "I'll be okay Mitch. As long as we're together, I can handle anything."

"Abby," Mitch said slowly, staring at the water, "I have a confession to make."

"I'm listening."

"The truth is, I never wanted to be a lawyer anyway."

"Oh, really."

"Naw. Secretly, I've always wanted to be a sailor."

"Is that so? Have you ever made love on the beach?" Mitch hesitated for a slight second. "Uh, no."

"Then drink up, sailor. Let's get drunk and make a baby."

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