فصل 01

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کتاب های ساده

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فصل 01

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  • زمان مطالعه 9 دقیقه
  • سطح ساده

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CHAPTER ONE

Mister

Mister pointed at the dynamite around his waist. “I pull this,” he said,” and we die.”

The old black man got into the elevator behind me. He smelled of smoke and cheap wine and life on the streets without soap. His beard and hair were half-gray and very dirty. He was wearing sunglasses, and a long dirty coat hung down to his knees.

He looked fat, probably because he had all his clothes on. In the winter in Washington the street people wear all their clothes all the time. They can’t leave any of their clothes at home, because they don’t have a home.

The old man didn’t belong here. Everything here was expensive. The 400 lawyers in the building, who all worked for Drake and Sweeney, were paid an unbelievable amount of money. I knew that because I was a Drake and Sweeney lawyer myself.

The elevator stopped at six. The man hadn’t pushed an elevator button. When I stepped out and turned right, he followed me. I pushed the heavy, wooden door of a big meeting room. There were eight lawyers at the table inside and they all looked surprised. They were looking behind me, so I turned. My friend from the elevator was standing there. He was pointing a gun at me.

“Put that gun down,” said one of the lawyers at the table. His name was Rafter. He was a hard man in a courtroom, maybe the hardest lawyer that Drake and Sweeney had.

Suddenly, a shot hit the ceiling. Rafter’s eyes opened wide and his mouth shut.

“Lock the door,” the man said to me. I locked the door of the meeting room.

“Stand against the wall.” We all stood against the wall.

The man took off his dirty coat and put it carefully on the large, expensive table in the center of the room. He had five or six red sticks around his waist, tied there with string. I had never seen dynamite before, but they looked like dynamite to me.

I wanted to run and hope for a bad shot when he fired at me. But my legs were like water. Some of the lawyers were shaking with fear and making noises like scared animals.

“Please be quiet,” said the man, calmly. Then he took a long yellow rope and a knife from the pocket of his pants. “You,” he said to me. “Tie them up.”

Rafter stepped forward. “Listen, friend,” he said, “what do you want?”

The second shot went into the wall, behind Rafter’s ear.

“Do not call me ‘friend,’” said the man.

“What would you like us to call you?” I asked him, quietly.

“Call me ‘Mister.’”

I tied the eight lawyers with the yellow rope. One of them, Barry Nuzzo, was my friend. We were the same age, thirty-two, and we had started at Drake and Sweeney on the same day. Only our marriages were different. His was successful and mine wasn’t. He had three kids. Claire and I didn’t have any. I looked at Barry and he looked at me. I knew we were both thinking about Barry’s kids.

We could hear police cars outside and noises as the police entered the building. Mister pointed at the dynamite around his waist.

“I pull this,” he said, “and we die.”

For a second we all looked at each other, nine white boys and “Mister.”

I thought of all those terrible shootings you read about in the newspapers. A crazy worker returns to work after lunch with a gun and kills everybody in his office. There had been killings at fast-food restaurants and playgrounds, too. And those dead people were children or honest workers. Who would care about us? We were lawyers.

Time passed.

“What did you eat for lunch today?” Mister asked me, breaking a long silence, dynamite

He spoke clearly and, from the sound of his voice, he had had a good education. He hadn’t always been on the streets. “I had chicken and salad,” I said, surprised. “Alone?”

“No, I met a friend.”

“How much did it cost, for both of you?”

“Thirty dollars.”

Mister didn’t like that. “Thirty dollars,” he repeated. “For two people. You know what I had for lunch?” “No.”

“I had soup. Free soup from a shelter and I was glad to get it. You could feed a hundred of my friends for thirty dollars, you know that?” “Yes, Mister.” “Call your boss.”

There was a phone on the table. I called Arthur Jacobs. Eight hundred lawyers worked for Drake and Sweeney around the world, but at seventy-nine Jacobs was the oldest of the partners here in Washington. He answered at the first ring of the phone.

“Mr. Jacobs?”

“Michael! Are you OK?”

“Wonderful,” I said.

“What does he want from us?”

I spoke to the man: “What do you want, Mister?”

“Soup with bread,” said the man. “Get it from the shelter at L Street and 17th. They put a lot of vegetables in the soup there.”

“One soup with bread,” I said into the phone. “No,” said the man. “Get soup and bread for all of us.”

“Mr. Jacobs…” I said.

“I heard. I can hear him. A shelter for street people does carry outs?”

“Mr. Jacobs. Please just do it. He has a gun and dynamite.” I put the phone down.

“You,” said the man. He was talking to me. “What’s your name?” “Michael Brock.”

“How much money did you earn last year? Don’t lie.” I thought quickly. I didn’t lie. “A hundred and twenty thousand.” He didn’t like that. “How much did you give to poor people?” “I don’t remember. My wife does that.” “Thank you, Mr. Brock.”

Mister pointed the gun at the other lawyers. He asked all of them the same questions. Nate Malamud, the only partner in the room, earned more than a million dollars.

“More than a million?” Mister said to him. “I know you. You walk past me when I sit on the sidewalk every morning. You never give me any money. Why can’t you help poor people, homeless people?”

Nate was a big man with white hair. He had been with Drake and Sweeney for thirty years. He was red in the face with embarrassment now. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Who did the eviction?” said Mister, suddenly. And again, “Who did the eviction?”

Nobody spoke. None of us understood him. But Mister wasn’t looking for an answer. He looked out the window. Maybe he was thinking. Maybe he was dreaming. Maybe he was watching the police out there.

Our soup and bread arrived half an hour later. There was a knock on the door and somebody outside shouted through the door, “Your food.”

Mister shouted back: “If I see a policeman out there, I’ll kill these men.”

Then he pointed the gun at my head. The two of us walked slowly to the door.

“Unlock the door and open it very slowly,” Mister said.

There was nobody outside. The food was on the floor, near the door.

As I stepped outside and bent down to pick it up, I heard a shout: “Stay down!” A policeman stepped quickly out of the office opposite and shot Mister through the head.

Mister fell without a sound, and my face was covered in blood. Whose blood? Mister was lying on the floor. Half his head had gone, but the sunglasses still covered one eye. His hands were nowhere near the dynamite.

Policemen came running from all the offices. “Are you hurt?” one of them asked me.

I didn’t know. I couldn’t see. There was blood on my face and shirt and a liquid that, I discovered later, was part of Mister’s brain.

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