The Firm(10)


by John Grisham

Chapter 3

There were no law offices on the fifth floor of the Bendini Building. The partners' dining room and kitchen occupied the west end, some unused and unpainted storage rooms sat locked and empty in the center, then a thick concrete wall sealed off the remaining third of the floor. A small metal door with a button beside it and a camera over it hung in the center of the wall and opened into a small room where an armed guard watched the door and monitored a wall of closed-circuit screens. A hallway zigzagged through a maze of cramped offices and workrooms where an assortment of characters went secretly about their business of watching and gathering information. The windows to the outside were sealed with paint and covered with blinds. The sunlight stood no chance of penetrating the fortress.

DeVasher, head of security, occupied the largest of the small, plain offices. The lone certificate on his bare walls recognized him for thirty years of dedicated service as a detective with the New Orleans Police Department. He was stocky with a slight belly, thick shoulders and chest and a huge, perfectly round head that smiled with great reluctance. His wrinkled shirt was mercifully unbuttoned at the collar, allowing his bulging neck to sag unrestricted. A thick polyester tie hung on the coatrack with a badly worn blazer.

Monday morning after the McDeere visit, Oliver Lambert, stood before the small metal door and stared at the camera over it. He pushed the button twice, waited and was finally cleared through security. He walked quickly through the cramped hallway and entered the cluttered office. DeVasher blew smoke from a Dutch Masters into a smokeless ashtray and shoved papers in all directions until wood was visible on his desk.

"Mornin', Ollie. I guess you want to talk about McDeere."

DeVasher was the only person in the Bendini Building who called him Ollie to his face.

"Yes, among other things."

"Well, he had a good time, was impressed with, liked Memphis okay and will probably sign on."

"Where were your people?"

"We had the rooms on both sides at the hotel. His room was wired, of course, as was the limo and the phone and everything else. The usual, Ollie."

"Let's get specific."

"Okay. Thursday night they checked in late and went to bed. Little discussion. Friday night he told her all about, the offices, the people, said you were a real nice man. I thought you'd like that."

"Get on with it."

"Told her about the fancy dining room and his little lunch with the partners. Gave her the specifics on the offer and they were ecstatic. Much better than his other offers. She wants a home with a driveway and a sidewalk and trees and a backyard. He said she could have one."

"Any problems with?"

"Not really. He commented on the absence of blacks and women, but it didn't seem to bother him."

"What about his wife?"

"She had a ball. She likes the town, and she and Quin's wife hit it off. They looked at houses Friday afternoon, and she saw a couple she liked."

"You get any addresses?"

"Of course, Ollie. Saturday morning they called the limo and rode all over town. Very impressed with the limo. Our driver stayed away from the bad sections, and they looked at more houses. I think they decided on one. 1231 East Meadowbrook. It's empty. Realtor by the name of Betsy Bell walked them through it. Asking one-forty, but will take less. Need to move it."

"That's a nice part of town. How old is the house?"

"Ten, fifteen years. Three thousand square feet. Sort of a colonial-looking job. It's nice enough for one of your boys, Ollie."

"Are you sure that's the one they want?"

"For now anyway. They discussed maybe coming back in a month or so to look at some more. You might want to fly them back as soon as they accept. That's normal procedure, ain't it?"

"Yes. We'll handle that. What about the salary?"

"Most impressed. Highest one so far. They talked and talked about the money. Salary, retirement, mortgage, BMW, bonus, everything. They couldn't believe it. Kids must really be broke."

"They are. You think we got him, huh?"

"I'd bet on it. He said once that may not be as prestigious as the ones on Wall Street, but the lawyers were just as qualified and a lot nicer. I think he'll sign on, yeah."

"Any suspicions?"

"Not really. Quin evidently told him to stay away from Locke's office. He told his wife that no one ever went in there but some secretaries and a handful of partners. But he said Quin said Locke was eccentric and not that friendly. I don't think he's suspicious, though. She said seemed concerned about some things that were none of its business."

"Such as?"

"Personal matters. Children, working wives, etc. She seemed a bit irritated, but I think it was more of an observation. She told Mitch Saturday morning that she would be damned if any bunch of lawyers would tell her when to work and when to have babies. But I don't think it's a problem."

"Does he realize how permanent this place is?"

"I think so. There was no mention of putting in a few years and moving on. I think he got the message. He wants to be a partner, like all of them. He's broke and wants the money."

"What about the dinner at my place?"

"They were nervous, but had a good time. Very impressed with your place. Really liked your wife."

"Sex?"

"Every night. Sounded like a honeymoon in there."

"What'd they do?"

"We couldn't see, remember. Sounded normal. Nothing kinky. I thought of you and how much you like pictures, and I kept telling myself we should've rigged up some cameras for old Ollie."

"Shut up, DeVasher."

"Maybe next time."

They were silent as DeVasher looked at a notepad. He stubbed his cigar in the ashtray and smiled to himself.

"All in all," he said, "it's a strong marriage. They seemed to be very intimate. Your driver said they held hands all weekend. Not a cross word for three days. That's pretty good, ain't it? But who am I? I've been married three times myself."

"That's understandable. What about children?"

"Couple of years. She wants to work some, then get pregnant."

"What's your opinion of this guy?"

"Very good, very decent young man. Also very ambitious. I think he's driven and he won't quit until he's at the top. He'll take some chances, bend some rules if necessary."

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