Home > The Testament(11)

The Testament(11)
Author: John Grisham

A butler in corduroy took their bags and a maid fixed their coffee. Durban admired the stuffed game hanging from the walls while Josh called the office. A fire roared in the fireplace, and the cook asked what they wanted for dinner.

THE ASSOCIATE'S NAME was Montgomery, a four-year man who'd been handpicked by Mr. Stafford. He got lost three times in the sprawl of Houston before he found the offices of World Tribes Missions tucked away on the ground floor of a five-story building. He parked his rented car and straightened his tie.

He had talked to Mr. Trill twice on the phone, and though he was an hour late for the appointment it didn't seem to matter. Mr. Trill was polite and soft-spoken but not eager to help. They exchanged the required preliminaries. "Now, what can I do for you?" Trill asked.

"I need some information about one of your missionaries," Montgomery said.

Trill nodded but said nothing.

"A Rachel Lane."

The eyes drifted as if he was trying to place her. "Name doesn't ring a bell. But then, we have four thousand people in the field."

"She's working near the border of Brazil and Bolivia."

"How much do you know about her?"

"Not much. But we need to find her."

"For what purpose?"

"It's a legal matter," Montgomery said, with just enough hesitation to sound suspicious.

Trill frowned and pulled his elbows close to his chest. His small smile disappeared. "Is there trouble?" he asked.

"No. But the matter is quite urgent. We need to see her."

"Can't you send a letter or a package?"

"Afraid not. Her cooperation is needed, along with her signature."

"I assume it's confidential."


Something clicked and Trill's frown softened. "Excuse me for a minute." He disappeared from the office, and left Montgomery to inspect the spartan furnishings. The only decoration was a collection of enlarged photos of Indian children on the walls.

Trill was a different person when he returned, stiff and unsmiling and uncooperative. "I'm sorry, Mr. Montgomery," he said without sitting. "We will not be able to help you."

"Is she in Brazil?"

"I'm sorry."


"I'm sorry."

"Does she even exist?"

"I can't answer your questions."



"Could I speak to your boss or supervisor?"


"Where is he?"

"In heaven."

AFTER A DINNER of thick steaks in mushroom sauce, Josh Stafford and Tip Durban retired to the den, where a fire roared. A different butler, a Mexican in a white jacket and starched jeans, served them very old single-malt Scotch from Mr. Phelan's cabinet. Cuban cigars were ordered. Pavarotti sang Christmas songs on a distant stereo.

"I have an idea," Josh said as he watched the fire. "We have to send someone to find Rachel Lane, right?"

Tip was in the midst of a lengthy draw from his cigar, so he only nodded.

"And we can't just send anyone. It has to be a lawyer; someone who can explain the legal issues. And it has to be someone from our firm because of confidentiality."

His jaws filled with smoke, Tip kept nodding.

"So who do we send?"

Tip exhaled slowly, through both his mouth and his nose, and smoke boiled across his face and drifted upward. "How long will it take?" he finally asked.

"I don't know, but it's not a quick trip. Brazil's a big country, almost as big as the lower forty-eight. And we're talking jungles and mountains. These people are so remote they've never seen a car."

"I'm not going."

"We can hire local guides and such, but it still might take a week or so."

"Don't they have cannibals down there?"



"Relax, Tip. You're not going."


"But you see the problem, don't you? We have sixty lawyers, all busy as hell and swamped with more work than we can possibly do. None of us can suddenly drop everything and go find this woman."

"Send a paralegal."

Josh didn't like that idea. He sipped his Scotch and puffed his cigar and listened to the flames pop in the fireplace. "It has to be a lawyer," he said, almost to himself.

The butler returned with fresh drinks. He inquired about dessert and coffee, but the guests already had what they wanted.

"What about Nate?" Josh asked when they were alone again.

It was obvious Josh had been thinking about Nate all along, and this slightly irritated Tip. "You kidding?" he said.


They pondered the idea of sending Nate for a while, each working past their initial objections and fears. Nate O'Riley was a partner, a twenty-three-year man who was, at the moment, locked away in a rehab unit in the Blue Ridge Mountains west of D.C. In the past ten years, he had been a frequent visitor to rehab facilities, each time drying out, breaking habits, growing closer to a higher power, working on his tan and tennis game, and vowing to kick his addictions once and for all. And while he swore that each crash was the last one, the final descent to rock bottom, each was always followed by an even harder fall. Now, at the age of forty-eight, he was broke, twice divorced, and freshly indicted for income tax evasion. His future was anything but bright.

"He used to be an outdoor type, didn't he?" Tip asked.

"Oh yeah. Scuba diving, rock climbing, all that crazy stuff. Then the slide began and he did nothing but work."

The slide had begun in his mid-thirties, at about the time he put together an impressive string of large verdicts against negligent doctors. Nate O'Riley became a star in the medical malpractice game, and also began drinking heavily and using coke. He neglected his family and became obsessive about his addictions-big verdicts, booze, and drugs. He somehow balanced both, but was always on the edge of disaster. Then he lost a case, and fell off the cliff for the first time. The firm hid him in a designer spa until he was sufficiently dried out, and he made an impressive comeback. The first of several.

"When does he get out?" Tip asked, no longer surprised by the idea and liking it more and more.


But Nate had become a serious addict. He could stay clean for months, even years, but he always crashed. The chemicals ravaged his mind and body. His behavior became quite bizarre, and the rumors of his craziness crept through the firm and ultimately spread through die lawyers' network of gossip.

Almost four months earlier, he had locked himself in a motel room with a bottle of rum and a sack of pills in what many of his colleagues viewed as a suicide attempt.

Josh committed him for the fourth time in ten years. "It might be good for him," Tip said. "You know, to get away for a while."

Chapter Seven

ON THE THIRD DAY after Mr. Phelan's suicide, Hark Gettys arrived at his office before dawn, already tired but anxious for the day to begin. He'd had a late dinner with Rex Phelan, followed by a couple of hours in a bar, where they fretted over the will and plotted strategy. So his eyes were red and puffy and his head ached, but he was nonetheless moving quickly around the coffeepot.

Hark's hourly rates varied. In the past year, he'd handled a nasty divorce for as little as two hundred dollars an hour. He quoted three-fifty to every prospective client, which was a bit low for such an ambitious D.C. lawyer, but if he got them in the door at three-fifty, he could certainly pad the billing and earn what he deserved. An Indonesian cement company had paid him four hundred and fifty an hour for a small matter, then tried to stiff him when the bill came. He had settled a wrongful death case in which he earned a third of three hundred and fifty thousand. So he was all over the board when it came to fees.

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