فصل 15

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فصل 15

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Chapter fifteen

Final Arrangements

Eva walked out of jail at 8:30 A.M. Mark Birck rushed her to his car and took her to the airport, where a small jet was waiting to take her to New York. He told her that from New York she’d go to London.

Eva closed her eyes and thought of Patrick. Then she noticed the car phone and asked to use it. She called her father in Brazil and had a tearful conversation. She promised to be home soon. Her legal work in the United States was almost finished, and she missed her home.

In New York, the people at the British Airways check-in counter looked at her questioningly because she had no baggage. She fought to control her nerves. She couldn’t be arrested again. She loved Patrick, but this was too much.

In the lounge she had coffee and called Sandy.

“Are you OK?” he asked.

“I’m fine, Sandy. I’m at JFK, on my way to London. How’s Patrick?”

“Wonderful. We’ve made a settlement with the government people - 113 million.” Sandy waited for her to say something.

“When?” was all she said.

“You’ll have instructions when you get to London. Call me when you get to the hotel.”

“Tell Patrick I still love him, even after going to jail.”

Later in the morning, Sandy met with Riddleton to look over the divorce settlement agreement. Trudy had already signed it, and Riddleton didn’t want to see her again.

“We’ll sign it,” Sandy said. “There’s a new arrangement involving your client and her lawsuit with Northern Case. They’re going to drop their lawsuit against Trudy.”

Riddleton’s mouth opened. Sandy gave him a copy of the Northern Case Insurance settlement agreement, which he read curiously. “What a pleasant surprise.”

“There’s one other thing.” Sandy told him about the special account that had 250,000 dollars for Ashley Nicole.

“Anything else?” Riddleton asked with a broad smile.

“That’s it. The divorce is finished.”

Patrick was taken into the courthouse through a side door. He wore new clothes that Sandy had bought. He was pale and thin, but seemed to have no difficulty walking. Actually, Patrick felt great. He entered the courtroom, smiling, and sat at his table. He was relaxed because he knew that this jury couldn’t do anything to him.

He talked about the law firm and told the story of Benny Aricia and how he’d gathered his evidence. The jury listened with great interest for two hours. After a short break, some of the taped conversations were played, and they listened for three more hours.

The grand jury voted to indict Benny Aricia, Charles Bogan, Doug Vitrano, Jimmy Havarac, and Ethan Rapley for planning to cheat the government under the False Claims Act. Jaynes and Sprawling returned to Washington.

Before dawn the next morning, officers arrived at the homes of the law firm partners and arrested them. They were taken to jail, but released immediately because of their connections with several judges.

Patrick began, “I had a car wreck case once. The driver was killed, and two people were injured. It was the truck’s fault, Sandy, but the driver claimed that our client’s car was speeding. We found a witness - Mr. Clovis Goodman, age eighty-one. He tried to help the injured people in the car but couldn’t. He left without saying anything to anyone. Later we found him, but he was still too upset to talk about it.

“Clovis lived alone in the country, and I asked if I could visit him. He was a lonely old man who didn’t trust lawyers. We drank coffee and talked about everything except the wreck. When I asked about it, he informed me softly that he was there, but he couldn’t talk about it yet.

“I went back and we exchanged more stories. I took him to dinner, and we stopped for a few beers. But he still couldn’t talk about the wreck. After a month, I put pressure on him. I told him we’d reached an important point in the lawsuit, and it was time for him to answer some questions. He said he was ready. He had tears in his eyes and wanted to help the family in the car. They weren’t speeding. We went to trial, and Clovis Goodman was the best witness I’ve ever seen. The jury gave our clients 2.3 million dollars.

“We became friends. When he got sick and couldn’t live by himself, I moved him into a nursing home and took care of his finances. At that time, I was his only friend. He hadn’t heard from his relatives for years.

“He got very sick in January of ‘92. I moved him to a hospital and visited every day On February 6 he died.”

Sandy breathed heavily and closed his eyes tightly. “Clovis wasn’t buried, was he?” he asked

“No. I put his body in a freezer at my cabin.” Sandy was shocked. “I didn’t kill anybody, Sandy I needed a body, but he was already dead when his body burned.”

Sandy walked around the room, then leaned on the wall. “Let’s hear the rest of it,” he said. “I’m sure you have everything planned.”

“I’ve had time to think about it, yes. There’s a Mississippi law about destroying a dead body. It’s the only one they can use on me. The penalty is one year in jail. If that’s all they can use, Parrish will try very hard to get that.”

“He can’t let you walk away without any punishment.”

“No, he can’t. But he won’t know about Clovis unless I tell him, and I have to tell him before he’ll drop the murder charges. But I’m the only witness, and there’s no way to prove the burned body was Clovis.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“You go to Clovis’s granddaughter, tell her the truth, and offer money. We make a settlement with her quietly, and, to get the money, she agrees to tell Parrish not to charge me.”

Sandy walked around again, thinking. “We have to give Parrish something,” he said. “It’s not just him. It’s the system, Patrick. If you aren’t punished, then you’ve bought your way out of jail. Everybody else looks bad.”

“Then I’ll say I’m guilty of destroying Clovis’s dead body. I’ll go to court and pay money, but no jail time. I’ll be free. No one in Brazil will care.”

Sandy stopped walking and sat on the bed beside Patrick. “So you’ll go back to Brazil?”

“It’s home, Sandy.”

“And the girl?”

“We’ll either have ten kids, or eleven. We haven’t decided.” “How much money will you have?”

“Millions. You have to get me out of here, Sandy I have another life to live.”

Sandy visited Clovis’s granddaughter at the coffee shop where she worked. “I have good news for you,” he said. They sat at a table and had coffee. As efficiently as possible, he told her Patrick’s story. She found it amusing. “Give him the death penalty,” she said.

“He didn’t kill anybody. The body in the car was already dead. He just stole it. The body was Clovis Goodman, your grandfather.”

She looked at him with narrow eyes. “He burned Clovis! Why?”

“He had to have a dead body. Clovis was his client and friend.” She looked confused. “It’s a crime to destroy a dead body. That means Clovis’s family can sue my client.” She smiled and said, “Now I understand.” Sandy smiled, too. “Yes. That’s why I’m here. My client would like to make a very quiet settlement with you.” “How much? What’s the most you’ll pay?” Sandy drank his coffee. “Fifty thousand.” “OK.” They shook hands. Sandy gave her a settlement agreement to sign and wrote a check.

Eva left her London hotel and took a long walk. She looked in the store windows and then stopped for lunch. She listened to the happy people who had no idea who she was. They didn’t care. She felt more like Leah Pires than Eva Miranda. She began shopping, without paying attention to the prices. She was a very-wealthy woman at the moment.

At two o’clock in the afternoon, she had a meeting with the manager of DeutscheBank’s London office. His bank would wire 113 million from its Zurich office to its Washington office, following her instructions.

After the wire, there would be 1.9 million dollars in the account. Another Swiss account had 3 million. A bank on Grand Cayman held 6.5 million. A financial advisor in Bermuda had 4 million. And 7.2 million was in Luxembourg.

The Swedish lady left Benny Aricia’s home and put her baggage in his BMW. She sped away, went to the airport, and took a plane to London. When she landed, the officials were watching for her. She took a taxi to her hotel and was delayed at the front desk until the manager was told that the bug had been placed in the phone in her room.

As soon as she went into her room, she called Benny. She told him she was scared but didn’t think she’d been followed. They made arrangements to meet at a coffee shop in an hour. She waited there, but Benny didn’t come.

The next morning, she read all the newspapers in the hotel. On an inside page of the Daily Mail she finally found a two- paragraph story about the capture of an American criminal, Benny Aricia. She packed her bags and took a plane to Sweden.

Patrick was rushed through the back door of the courthouse and into Karl’s office. His wounds were still bandaged, and he wore his hospital clothes to remind people that he was hospitalized, not in jail like a criminal.

“I spent two hours with Judge Trussel this morning,” Karl said.

“I told him that, in my opinion, this isn’t a capital murder trial.”

“There’s not going to be a trial, Karl. Remember the Hoover trial? A truck hit a car, killing the driver and injuring two passengers. My first trial in your courtroom.” “Of course,” Huskey said, relaxing at his desk. Patrick told him the Clovis story.

When he finished, they sat silently for a few minutes. Then Karl said, “I hear the government’s dropped all charges against you.

“That’s correct. I talked to the grand jury yesterday. It was great fun, Karl, finally telling all the secrets I’ve been keeping for years.”

“So, the divorce is settled. The government’s dropped all charges, and you’ve agreed to pay back a total of 113 million. The capital murder trial won’t happen because there wasn’t a murder. The lawsuits filed by the insurance companies have been dropped. Pepper’s still alive. That just leaves the charge of destroying a dead body. A small crime.” Karl admired his thin friend. He’d talk to Judge Trussel again.

Patrick sat at the end of the table with Sandy on his right and Parrish on his left. Since the government charges had been dropped, Parrish felt pressured to get justice from Patrick for the state.

“You can forget murder, Terry,” Patrick said. “I didn’t kill anyone. The person in the car had been dead for four days.”

Parrish questioned him and accepted that Patrick was right. But he wasn’t going to give up completely. “Looks like a year in jail,” he said. “A year in Parchman should be good for you.”

“Sure, except that I’m not going to Parchman. You don’t have a body. You have no idea who was burned, and I’m not telling until we make an agreement. Drop the charges. You can’t win.”

“The family of the dead person doesn’t want to sue Patrick,” Sandy said.

“You can’t prove anything against me. There are no witnesses, and the evidence isn’t good enough.”

“You can’t make us look like fools,” Parrish said. “Give us something.”

“I’ll say I’m guilty of destroying the dead body. But I get no jail time. You can explain to the judge that the family doesn’t want to sue me. You can talk about the torture and what I’ve been through. You can do all that, Parrish, and you’ll look very good. But no jail.”

Parrish thought for a minute. “And you’ll tell us the name of the dead person?”

“I will, but only after we have an agreement.”

“OK, but I have to speak with Judge Trussel. He’ll have to agree, too.”

Patrick smiled at Sandy. Parrish stood up to leave. “Oh, I almost forgot,” the District Attorney said. “What can you tell us about Pepper Scarboro?”

“I can give you his new name and passport number.”

Sandy, Parrish, and Judge Trussel spent several hours working out a plea agreement to reduce the charges against Patrick. Sandy took it to him at the hospital. They read the agreement aloud, and Patrick signed. Sandy noticed that he was already packing.

Back in his hotel room office, Sandy’s phone rang. It was Jack Stephano, who was downstairs and wanted to talk. “I’m here out of curiosity,” he told Sandy when he arrived in the office.

“Have they caught Aricia?” Sandy asked.

“Yes. Just hours ago. In London. I’m not working for him any more. I was hired to find the money. I tried, I got paid, and that’s finished. But I’m extremely curious about something. We only found Lanigan in Brazil after someone gave us information about him. Someone who knew him well - his movements, his habits, his false names. It was planned by someone very smart. It has to be the girl, right? One of these days, if you learn the truth, I’d like to know I won’t sleep well until I know if she took our money.”

The hearing was scheduled for five o’clock in the courthouse. Patrick put on new pants and a large white shirt. He shook hands with Hayani and thanked him for his friendship. After two weeks as a patient and prisoner, Patrick left the hospital. His lawyer was at his side, and his guards followed behind.

It was supposed to be a secret hearing to complete the secret agreements, but people heard about it. In less than thirty minutes, half the city knew, and the courtroom was crowded.

Patrick smiled for the photographers as he was led to the jury room. Karl entered and asked the guards to wait in the hall. “When are you leaving?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Soon.”

“Can I go with you?”

“Would you really leave? If you had the chance to disappear right now, would you do it?”

“No, I wouldn’t leave. But I don’t blame you.”

“Everybody wants to disappear, Karl. At some time in life, everybody thinks about walking away. Problems can be left behind.”

Judge Trussel entered the courtroom. Patrick was led through the door and stood next to Sandy in front of the Judge. He didn’t look at his audience.

“Mr. Lanigan,” Trussel said. “First, you’ve asked us to reduce the charges from capital murder to destroying a dead body.” People were surprised. Destroying a dead body? Parrish explained the recent developments in the case.

“Next, it’s been suggested that this court should accept a plea of guilty to the charge of destroying a dead body Mr. Parrish?” And Parrish told the story of Clovis.

“What’s your plea, Mr. Lanigan?” the Judge asked.

“Guilty,” Patrick said, firmly but with no pride.

“Does the state have a recommended punishment?”

Parrish walked to his table, looked through his notes, and returned to the Judge’s desk. “Yes, Your Honor. I have a letter from Ms. Deena Postell of Meridian, Mississippi. She’s a grandchild of Clovis Goodman.” He handed a copy to Trussel. “In the letter, Ms. Postell asks this court not to punish Mr. Lanigan for burning her grandfather’s dead body. He’s been dead for over four years, and the family doesn’t want any more suffering. So, the state recommends a punishment of twelve months in jail. However, this punishment can be dropped because of Mr. Lanigan’s good behavior. We also recommend that he pay 5,000 dollars and all court costs.”

“Mr. Lanigan, do you agree?”Trussel asked.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Patrick said, unable to lift his head.

“Then I order you to make this payment within one week. Anything further?” Both lawyers quietly said no, and he closed the hearing.

Patrick exited quickly. He was anxious to leave, but he waited in Karl’s office until it was dark and all the people had left. At seven o’clock, he said goodbye to Karl and thanked him for his friendship and help.

Sandy drove Patrick out of Biloxi to New Orleans. Using Sandy’s car phone, Patrick called Eva. It was 3 A.M. in London, but she answered quickly.

“Eva, it’s me,” he said. “Yes, I’m fine. I’ve never felt better. And you?” He listened for a long time, his eyes closed, his head leaning back. Then he said, “I’ll meet you in Aix, at the Hotel Gallici, on Sunday. I love you. I’ll call you in a few hours.”

They drove into Louisiana in silence. Then Sandy said, “I had a very interesting visitor this afternoon.”

“Really, who?”

“Jack Stephano. He visited me at the hotel. He said he was sorry his boys injured you so much when they caught you. He told me about the person in Brazil who gave him information about you and about the Pluto Group. And he asked me directly if Eva sold the information. He’s curious, because he found his man but didn’t get the money.”

“For the last three years, I’ve been chased in my sleep by a hundred men. All of them were hired by Jack Stephano. I finally got tired of it, Sandy. I gave up. Disappearing is an adventure until you learn that someone’s trying to find you and is watching everything you do. I stole too much money, Sandy. They had to come after me. When I learned they were already in Brazil, I knew the end would come. So I decided to do it my way, not theirs.”

Patrick breathed heavily, looked out the window, and tried to organize his thoughts. “The rewards were my idea, Sandy. Eva flew to Atlanta, where she met the Pluto Group. We paid them, and we gave Stephano information.”

Sandy turned slowly, his mouth open. “You’re lying,” he said. “I know you’re lying.”

“No. We collected 1,150,000 dollars from Stephano. It’s hidden now, probably in Switzerland with the rest of it.”

“You don’t know where it is?”

“She’s been taking care of it. I’ll find out when I see her.”

Sandy was too shocked to say anything else. Patrick continued, “I knew they’d capture me, and I knew they’d try to make me talk. But I didn’t know this would happen.” He pointed to the rope mark above his left ankle. “They almost killed me. I finally gave up and told them about Eva. By then, she was gone, and so was the money.”

“They almost killed you,” Sandy said.

“That’s true. But two hours after I was captured, Eva called Cutter in Biloxi, and he called the FBI in Washington. That’s what saved my life. Stephano couldn’t kill me because the FBI knew about it.”

Sandy wanted to stop the car, get out, and scream. “You were a fool if you let them catch you.”

“Oh, really? Didn’t I just walk out of the courtroom a free man? Didn’t I just talk with the woman I love dearly, a woman who’s keeping a small fortune for me? The past is finally gone, Sandy. Don’t you understand? There’s no one looking for me anymore.”

Sandy took him to his mother’s house and drove away. In the morning, Patrick woke up smiling. His life of hiding was over. He and his mother talked, drove around the city, and did some shopping. Then Patrick went to the airport. He flew to Atlanta and from there to Nice, France.

He’d last seen Eva a month earlier, in Rio. She’d almost persuaded him to run and hide again, but he was tired of running. They’d said goodbye near her apartment. He’d kissed her and walked away, leaving her crying. He flew back to Ponta Pora and began waiting.

On Sunday, when the train from Nice arrived in Aix, Patrick took a taxi to the Hotel Gallici. She’d reserved a room in both names, Eva Miranda and Patrick Lanigan, but she hadn’t arrived yet, the clerk informed him.

He went to the room, unpacked, and fell asleep, dreaming of her. When he woke up, he went for a walk. Maybe they’d live here. They’d stay here for a week or so, then go back to Rio, but maybe Rio wouldn’t be home. Feeling free, Patrick wanted to live everywhere, to experience different cultures, to learn different languages.

He refused to worry. He waited until dark, and then walked slowly back to the hotel. She wasn’t there, and there was no message. He called the hotel in London and was informed that she’d left yesterday. He called her father. She was in London, Paulo said. He would say nothing more.

Patrick waited two hours and then called Sandy. “She’s missing,” he said, now frightened. Sandy hadn’t heard from her.

Patrick stayed in Aix for two days, walking, calling Sandy and Paulo. Alone in his room, he cried from a broken heart. He drank too much alcohol. On the third day he left, asking a clerk to keep an envelope at the desk for Ms. Miranda if she arrived.

He flew to Rio. He wasn’t sure why. She was too smart to go to Rio. Patrick had taught her too well how to disappear. No one would find Eva, unless she wanted them to.

He visited Paulo and told him the whole story, leaving him crying. He stayed in small hotels close to her apartment. Now he was the hunter, not the hunted, and a desperate one. He was almost out of money. Eventually, he called Sandy and asked to borrow 5,000 dollars. Sandy quickly agreed.

He gave up after a month, and returned to Ponta Pora. He could live in a country he loved, in a pleasant little town he also loved. Where else could he go? His journey was over. His past was finally closed.

Surely, some day she would find him.

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