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Home > The Chamber(13)

The Chamber(13)
Author: John Grisham

"I can't wait."

"I'll talk to the warden, and get permission for the visit. They'll usually give you a couple of hours. Of course, it may take five minutes if Sam doesn't want a lawyer."

"He'll talk to me, don't you think?"

"I believe so. I cannot imagine how the man will react, but he'll talk. It may take a couple of visits to sign him up, but you can do it."

"When did you last see him?"

"Couple of years ago. Wallace Tyner and I went down. You'll need to touch base with Tyner. He was the point man on this case for the past six years."

Adam nodded and moved to the next thought. He'd been picking Tyner's brain for the past nine months.

"What do we file first?"

"We'll talk about it later. Tyner and I are meeting early in the morning to review the case. Everything's on hold, though, until we hear from you. We can't move if we don't represent him."

Adam was thinking of the newspaper photos, the black and whites from 1967 when Sam was arrested, and the magazine photos, in color, from the third trial in 1981, and the footage he'd pieced together into a thirty-minute video about Sam Cayhall. "What does he look like?"

Goodman left his pen on the table and fiddled with his bow tie. "Average height. Thin - but then you seldom see a fat one on the Row - nerves and lean food. He chain-smokes, which is common because there's not much else to do, and they're dying anyway. Some weird brand, Montclair, I believe, in a blue pack. His hair is gray and oily, as I recall. These guys don't get a shower every day. Sort of long in the back, but that was two years ago. He hasn't lost much of it. Gray beard. He's fairly wrinkled, but then he's pushing seventy. Plus, the heavy smoking. You'll notice the white guys on the Row look worse than the black ones. They're confined for twenty-three hours a day, so they sort of bleach out. Real pale, fair, almost sickly-looking. Sam has blue eyes, nice features. I suspect that at one time Sam Cayhall was a handsome fellow."

"After my father died, and I learned the truth about Sam, I had a lot of questions for my mother. She didn't have many answers, but she did tell me once that there was little physical resemblance between Sam and my father."

"Nor between you and Sam, if that's what you're getting at."

"Yeah, I guess."

"He hasn't seen you since you were a toddler, Adam. He will not recognize you. It won't be that easy. You'll have to tell him."

Adam stared blankly at the table. "You're right. What will he say?"

"Beats me. I expect he'll be too shocked to say much. But he's a very intelligent man, not educated, but well read and articulate. He'll think of something to say. It may take a few minutes."

"You sound as if you almost like him."

"I don't. He's a horrible racist and bigot, and he's shown no remorse for his actions."

"You're convinced he's guilty."

Goodman grunted and smiled to himself, then thought of a response. Three trials had been held to determine the guilt or innocence of Sam Cayhall. For nine years now the case had been batted around the appellate courts and reviewed by many judges. Countless newspaper and magazine articles had investigated the bombing and those behind it. "The jury thought so. I guess that's all that matters."

"But what about you? What do you think?"

"You've read the file, Adam. You've researched the case for a long time. There's no doubt Sam took part in the bombing."

"But?"

"There are a lot of buts. There always are."

"He had no history of handling explosives."

"True. But he was a Klan terrorist, and they were bombing like hell. Sam gets arrested, and the bombing stops."

"But in one of the bombings before Kramer, a witness claims he saw two people in the green Pontiac."

"True. But the witness was not allowed to testify at trial. And the witness had just left a bar at three in the morning."

"But another witness, a truck driver, claims he saw Sam and another man talking in a coffee shop in Cleveland a few hours before the Kramer bombing."

"True. But the truck driver said nothing for three years, and was not allowed to testify at the last trial. Too remote."

"So who was Sam's accomplice?"

"I doubt if we'll ever know. Keep in mind, Adam, this is a man who went to trial three times, yet never testified. He said virtually nothing to the police, very little to his defense lawyers, not a word to his juries, and he's told us nothing new in the past seven years."

"Do you think he acted alone?"

"No. He had help. Sam's carrying dark secrets, Adam. He'll never tell. He took an oath as a Klansman, and he has this really warped, romantic notion of a sacred vow he can never violate. His father was a Klansman too, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. Don't remind me."

"Sorry. Anyway, it's too late in the game to fish around for new evidence. If he in fact had an accomplice, he should've talked long ago. Maybe he should've talked to the FBI. Maybe he should've cut a deal with the district attorney. I don't know, but when you're indicted on two counts of capital murder and facing death, you start talking. You talk, Adam. You save your ass and let your buddy worry about his."

"And if there was no accomplice?"

"There was." Goodman took his pen and wrote a name on a piece of paper. He slid it across the table to Adam, who looked at it and said, "Wyn Lettner. The name is familiar."

"Lettner was the FBI agent in charge of the Kramer case. He's now retired and living on a trout river in the Ozarks. He loves to tell war stories about the Klan and the civil rights days in Mississippi."

"And he'll talk to me?"

"Oh sure. He's a big beer drinker, and he gets about half loaded and tells these incredible stories. He won't divulge anything confidential, but he knows more about the Kramer bombing than anyone. I've always suspected he knows more than he's told."

Adam folded the paper and placed it in his pocket. He glanced at his watch. It was almost 6 p.m. "I need to run. I have to pack and all."

"I'll ship the file down tomorrow. You need to call me as soon as you talk to Sam."

"I will. Can I say something?"

"Sure."

"On behalf of my family, such as it is - my mother who refuses to discuss Sam; my sister who only whispers his name; my aunt in Memphis who has disowned the name Cayhall - and on behalf of my late father, I would like to say thanks to you and to this firm for what you've done. I admire you greatly."

"You're welcome. And I admire you. Now get your ass down to Mississippi."

Chapter 6

THE apartment was a one-bedroom loft somewhere above the third floor of a turn-of-the-century warehouse just off the Loop, in a section of downtown known for crime but said to be safe until dark. The warehouse had been purchased in the mid-eighties by an S & L swinger who spent a bundle sanitizing and modernizing. He chopped it into sixty units, hired a slick realtor, and marketed it as yuppie starter condos. He made money as the place filled overnight with eager young bankers and brokers.

Adam hated the place. He had three weeks left on a six-month lease, but there was no place to go. He would be forced to renew for another six months because Kravitz & Bane expected eighteen hours a day, and there'd been no time to search for another apartment.

Nor had there been much time to purchase furniture, evidently. A fine leather sofa without arms of any kind sat alone on the wooden floor and faced an ancient brick wall. Two bean bags - yellow and blue - were nearby in the unlikely event a crowd materialized. To the left was a tiny kitchen area with a snack bar and three wicker stools, and to the right of the sofa was the bedroom with the unmade bed and clothes on the floor. Seven hundred square feet, for thirteen hundred bucks a month.

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