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11

An army of reporters swelled behind the police barricades outside, laying techno-siege to the townhouse. Grady and I ignored them, or tried to, and cleaned up the second-floor offices, excluding Marks, which had been taped closed. Not that I had the heart to go in there anyway. It was hard enough trying to function, but I had to see if I could salvage R amp; B.

None of the associates except Grady stuck around, and I didnt blame them. I wondered how many would stay on now, assuming there was a firm at all. I drafted a letter to our clients explaining that their matters would be handled through this tragedy, and called to reassure them. Only thirty would even take the call, and some had already been contacted by a detective they chose not to name. Most told me outright they were taking their legal business to a lawyer who wasnt a murder suspect, and I couldnt blame them, either. Between Detective Azzic and the press, I was becoming a pariah.

The calls I dreaded most were to the drug companies Mark represented. Id called Kurt Williamson and Dr. Haupt at Wellroth Chemical all day, but didnt reach them. I dictated a request for a postponement of the Wellroth trial, then tried Haupt one last time at the end of the day after his secretary had gone.

Ms. Rosato, Dr. Haupt said, in a tone as distant as I expected. Im surprised to be hearing from you.

I left several messages.

I saw them, but I didnt feel it was appropriate to return the calls. I understand that you have been charged with murder, he said, in his stilted accent.

No, thats not true. I havent been charged with murder, and I certainly didnt kill Mark. I want you to know that.

I dont wish to discuss this with you, Ms. Rosato. I find this situation rather horrifying. We saw Mark only yesterday. He was more than a lawyer to me, he was a friend.

I realize that. The purpose of this call is to tell you Ive prepared a request for an indefinite postponement of the Cetor patent trial. Id like to file it, with your permission.

We dont wish to postpone the trial indefinitely, Ms. Rosato.

Im afraid theres no other choice. Im not in a position to try the case.

He cleared his throat. Ms. Eberlein is fully prepared to go forward with the trial. We wish it to go forward, so that it concludes sooner. She has already asked the judge for a one-week postponement, and he agreed, in view of the circumstances.

What? How do you know this?

I have spoken with Ms. Eberlein by telephone. She is at home. Very upset, understandably, but as soon as she is feeling better well go forward with her. Now I really must go. Please do not call me or Kurt again.

But Dr. Haupt- I said, then the line went dead. I hung up slowly. Eve, trying the case herself? I was trying to process the information when the door to my office burst open. It was Grady, his print tie flopped over the shoulder of a blue oxford shirt. His eyes were bright with excitement behind his wire rims and he carried law books, legal pads, and photocopies.

Look at this, he said, shoveling papers over the desk at me. Its the will, Marks will.

Howd you get it?

The police, along with a real thin file. Thats all the information they would give us so far. But look at the will! Do you know who Mark named as his executor?

Who? I thumbed through the pages, looking for the answer, and found it at the same time Grady said:

Sam Freminet.

I skimmed the provision, which looked standard. So?

So! As executor, Sam gets two percent of the estate as a fee. He also has the power to choose the lawyers for the estate, and he can choose himself. This way, he gets the lawyers fees on top of the executors fees, also two percent, which can start right away if he wants them to. The topper is that the will sets up a trust naming Sam as trustee, so he also takes a trustees fee, one percent a yearfor life. Its like an annuity. Hell never have to work again.

Im confused. Half of me was still thinking about my conversation with Dr. Haupt.

Grady stood over me impatiently. Considering the size of the estate, that means Sam makes amillion dollars in fees, and the trustees fee goes on and on. Its double, even triple-dipping, and he also gets the billings as the responsible attorney at Grun. You dont think hell see some kind of bonus for bringing in an estate of this size?

And?

Bennie, arent you following me? Two lines furrowed Gradys usually mild brow. Sam gets rich from Marks death. Does that say something to you about motive?

Thats absurd, Grady! I felt angry, insulted for Sam. Thats just absurd.

Is it? Please be objective. I dont know Sam Freminet, only met him the one time, but money is a very powerful incentive.

Sam kill Mark? I shook my head. No way. Sam and Mark were friends. We all started at Grun together out of law school. Besides, Sam doesnt need the money or the billings. Hes a partner at Grun, he probably makes over four hundred grand a year.

Do you know that for a fact? Hows his client list, do you know?

Sams a bankruptcy lawyer and everybodys going bankrupt. I have to believe he gets his share of business.

You believe, but do you know? What about his bank account? Rich people are greedy. Its the nature of the beast.

Come on, Grady, Sam has all the toys he needs. Literally. I smiled, thinking of the stuffed Tasmanian Devil and Pepe Le Pew. Then I remembered Daffy Duck and his moneybags and stopped smiling.

Bennie, think about it. Grady unloaded his books and leaned on my desk, bracing himself on his arms. Sam knew about Marks will, apparently he was the only person who did. You say you three were friends, but I get the impression Sam had more of a business relationship with Mark, but more of a personal relationship with you. Is that right?

Yes, I guess, since the breakup.

Could Sam have killed Mark to get back at him for leaving you? And make a bundle in the bargain?

Its unthinkable! I leaned back in my chair. Sam Freminet is the gentlest soul in the universe. You dont know him. Forget it. Nice try, lousy theory.

Grady cocked his head. Did you tell Sam that Mark wanted to break up R amp; B?

You mean after Mark told me? I went right to the river.

Do you know where Sam was that night?

I never know where he is at night. He goes out a lot.

Then I thought of my meeting with Sam that day, in his office. But he told me he heard some of our associates were leaving. Did you know anything about that?

Just that Wingates been grumbling, but you could see that. Do you think Mark told Sam he was going to break up R amp; B?

No. Sam would have told me.

Would he? He didnt tell you about the will and he didnt tell you he was Marks executor. Maybe you dont know as much as you think about him.

I know enough to know that this is crazy, this whole discussion.

Grady sat down, undaunted. Id like to call Sam and find out where he was that night.

You will not.

Bennie, were fighting the clock here, you heard Azzic. Hell charge you as soon as he has something that can conceivably support it. Then where will you be? Murders not a bailable offense in Philly. Youll go right to jail.

I flashed on the womens prison at Muncy. Id been there to see clients and was always relieved to hit the front gate on my way out. Are you trying to scare me, Grady?

I surely am. He smiled, but I didnt.

Okay. Fine. But if anybody talks to Sam, it should be me.

Id like to, as your lawyer.

No. You dont know Sam. Hes one of the dearest men in the world, he volunteers for Action AIDs. He was mad at me because I had a client opposed to AIDS research. He- I stopped in midsentence. Bill Kleeb. Eileens threat against the CEO. I had completely forgotten. I checked my watch. 7:00. I wondered where Eileen and Bill were now, whether they were back at their apartment. If I couldnt get to Detective Azzic, maybe I could get to them. I got up and hustled to my briefcase for their file.

Bennie? What in Gods name are you doing? Grady asked, astonished as I ran back and forth.

I have to make another call. I found the phone number Bill had given me and punched it in.

Now? Were in the middle of a conversation.

I held up a hand when Bill Kleebs voice came on the line. Can you meet me at eight tonight? Its very important, I told him. Bill agreed only reluctantly, and I named a place to meet, then hung up, feeling uneasy.

Who was that? Grady asked.

A client. I replaced the file and zipped my canvas briefcase closed. I have to go. You want to walk me out?

Which client? Where are you going? He stood up.

To meet a client, the animal rights guy, okay? Maybe his girlfriend.

Why?

I have to.

Grady put his hands on his hips. Bennie, Im your lawyer. Id like to know as much as the police and the press do about you. Besides, you said youd let me win the next one.

He had a point. I would have smacked a client who was behaving as badly as I was. I just want to check in with him, see how he is. I cant tell you more than that, its confidential and I dont want you involved in it.

Youre worried about a client when youre being investigated for murder?

We met eye to eye, and I wasnt entirely comfortable in his gaze. Im worried about all my clients. You saw me, I made a zillion phone calls today.

Why does this client merit a personal visit?

Because I wanted to see if he and Eileen were picking out china patterns or explosives, but I couldnt tell Grady that. Hes young, a kid. He needs some help. Extra help.

Good. Im extra helpful, Ill go with you. He retrieved his suit jacket from the chair and tossed it over his shoulder, hooking it with a finger.

You cant come. You have to hold the fort. I opened my office door, but Grady halted the doors progress with a hand.

I dont get it, he said, gray eyes frank behind his glasses. I know how much you care about finding Marks killer, but you spent the day doing everything else but. Now youre running off. Arent you avoiding it?

I have some things to get in order, I said, though I sensed he was right. Somehow, the threat to the Furstmann CEO was urgent to me. Maybe it was a murder I could prevent, as opposed to one I couldnt. Or maybe it was just too hard to deal with Marks death.

Hello?

Grady, if all goes well tonight, well solve this thing together. You need my help, I can tell.

He laughed. Oh yes, I need your help. Dont know how I got along without you before. Now will you call Sam Freminet or should I?

I will.

Will you also think about who else had a motive to kill Mark? Was anyone angry with him? Any clients in the past, anyone like that?

Yes, sir.

He grinned. I like the sound of that.

Dont get too used to it.

Dont worry. Call me here or at home if you need anything, after your meeting or anytime. Ill be doing my alibi research. Id like to know where the other associates were last night about the time Mark was killed.

It caught me up short. Our associates? Christ.

Suddenly my office windows filled with a harsh white light. The TV klieg lights, fishing for file footage. Grady turned toward the windows, now bright as midday despite the growing darkness. Wonder if they got the telephoto on us.

Probably. Lets go say hi. I walked to the window, and Grady came after.

Dont give them the finger this time, he said.

Youre no fun. I looked out the window, shielding my eyes from the searing light. Reporters thronged on the street below, silhouetted in front of the round lamps like shadows on the moon.

Grady scanned the crowd. The First Amendment at work.

Right. Half of them are my clients in the libel cases. I defend their right to hound people.

Be careful what you wish for, right?

I gazed into the hot white brightness, wondering whether the next scene caught in the spotlight would be my arrest for murder.


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