فصل 12

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فصل 12

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Chapter twelve

Hoppy Dupree’s Confession

Fitch met with Marlee an hour after the previous meeting ended. “How much does Rohr know?” he asked.

“He knows nothing. We never met. I made you think I’d met him, but it never happened.”

“Promise me you won’t get rid of Lonnie Shaver,” Fitch said. “Tell me why. If we’re working for the same verdict, then we have to be honest.”

“All I can say is that Lonnie has been bought and paid for. How many votes does Nicholas have now?”

“He’ll have nine votes before the jury withdraws, maybe more. He just needs a bit of help with a few, like Rikki Coleman, for instance.”

“We might have some information about her.”

“You keep playing games, so will I. What about Millie Dupree?” Nicholas had noticed Hoppy’s sudden interest in the trial, and he and Marlee had their suspicions that Fitch was trying to use Hoppy to persuade Millie.

Fitch decided to be cautious. “Nothing on Millie,” he said. They discussed the other jurors briefly. Marlee asked for another twenty-five thousand dollars to bribe Jerry Fernandez and another juror, then gave new instructions for the transfer of the ten million dollars. The meeting was over.

Later on Friday, Fitch instructed each of the Big Four CEOs to send two million dollars each to The Fund immediately. There was no time for explanations. He then transferred ten million dollars from The Fund’s bank account to a new account which he opened in the Netherlands Antilles. By Friday evening, it was all done. At first, Fitch was relieved, but he knew his work wasn’t finished. He didn’t know the real Marlee, and why she was doing this. Fitch didn’t like the unknown. He soon became angry and worried again.


At eight on Friday evening, Derrick went to Durwood Cable’s office. He was nervous and when he asked for a Mr. Gable by mistake, he was told that no one of that name worked there.


In court, Judge Harkin was worried about the jury. It was five on Friday. They were bored and tired. The lawyers were worried too; the jurors weren’t reacting to testimony as they should be. They were staring blankly into space or trying to stay awake.

Nicholas wanted the jurors to be tired. They’d listen to him more willingly. He persuaded all the jurors to sign a letter to Judge Harkin asking for the trial to continue on Saturday. Judge Harkin agreed. “The trial should be over Monday afternoon,” he said. “We’ll have closing arguments on Monday morning, and you’ll receive the case before noon. That’s the best I can do.”

There were smiles from the jury. With the end in sight, they could manage one more weekend together. There would be personal visits tonight, tomorrow night, and Sunday.


Hoppy arrived in Millie’s room late. He sat on her bed and put his face in his hands.

“What’s the matter, Hoppy?” she asked, frightened. He finally told her. Mr. Todd Ringwald, Stillwater Bay, Jimmy Hull Moke, Napier, Nitchman, and the tape. How could he have been so stupid! Millie began crying. But there was more. When he got to the part where he did a deal with Mr. Cristano, Millie stopped crying.

“But I’m not sure I want to vote for the tobacco company,” she said.

“Wake up, Millie. If you don’t, I go to prison for five years.”

“That’s not fair.” Millie was shocked.

“What about the kids?” Hoppy asked. He’d planned his arguments in advance. Millie felt she’d been hit by a bus.

“It’s not fair to the people in the trial,” she said.

“I know, honey,” he replied. “I know. I’m a total failure. Believe me, I’ve even thought about shooting myself.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said, and started to cry again.

After Hoppy had left, Millie couldn’t sleep. At midnight, she went down to the Party Room for a snack. She found Nicholas alone.

“Why are you up so late?” he asked. “You look troubled.”

“I am. Can you help me, Nicholas?”

“I’ll try.”

She told him everything. Nicholas suspected a scam but didn’t tell Millie that. She promised to do nothing until they spoke again. He went to his room and rang Marlee.


In court on Saturday, Cable decided to start with a bit of action. His witness was a Dr. Olney, who’d done research on laboratory mice. He had a video of the mice. Over some years the mice had been given huge doses of cigarette smoke. Not one had developed lung cancer.

Hoppy was in court, listening. He’d promised Millie that he’d come to show his support. Derrick sat at the back and continued to plot. Rikki Coleman’s husband was also in court; so were the families of some of the other jurors.


Marlee had been working since six on Saturday morning. She called newspaper reporters, the police, FBI information lines, and government information services. She soon decided that the whole Hoppy affair was a scam arranged by Fitch.

Fitch arrived for a meeting with Marlee at ten. Earlier that morning, he’d received a report on the investigations into Claire Clement. Before she arrived in Lawrence in the summer of 1988, she hadn’t existed. While in Lawrence, she made no long distance phone calls. After she left Lawrence, the trail led nowhere. She’d probably changed her identity. Whoever she was, she was smart.

“We’ve got problems with Rikki Coleman,” said Marlee. “Nicholas thinks she wants a big verdict.”

Without comment, Fitch handed Marlee a piece of paper.

“So she was pregnant? You’re sure this is her?”

“Positive.”

“You have nothing on Herman Grimes?”

“Nothing,” replied Fitch. “Nicholas will have to deal with him. He’s getting paid for it. If there’s a problem, can’t you get him removed?”

“We’re thinking about it.”

Fitch shook his head in amazement. “Do you realize what you’re doing?”

“I think so. That’s all for now, Fitch. I have work to do.”

Later that day, Marlee received a call from an FBI Agent in Biloxi called Madden. He confirmed that Nitchman, Napier, and Cristano weren’t FBI agents and he’d love to talk to them. Marlee said she’d try to arrange a meeting.


At three on Saturday afternoon, the defense finished. The jurors were free to go. There would be trips to a football match or movie theater arranged for Saturday night, followed by personal visits. On Sunday the jurors could go to church, and in the evening there would be more personal visits.

Millie had no interest in movies, and certainly none in football. Hoppy arrived with some food, which they ate slowly. After dinner, they talked about their problems again. There were more tears and more apologies. Finally, Millie confessed that she’d told Nicholas everything. He could be trusted, she said.

At ten-thirty, Nicholas, back from the football game, visited Millie’s room. He explained to Hoppy and Millie that the whole thing was a scam. A close friend had made phone calls which confirmed that Napier, Nitchman, and Cristano weren’t government agents and that KLX Property Group didn’t exist. Hoppy had been tricked. At first Hoppy felt even more stupid, then he had questions. What did it mean? Was it good news or bad? “What about the tape,” he asked, “of me and Jimmy Hull Moke?”

“I’m not worried about it,” Nicholas said confidently. “The tape was obtained illegally. Forget it.”

What sweet words. “You’re serious?”

“Yes, Hoppy. The tape will never be played again.”

Millie leaned over and kissed Hoppy. This time her tears were of joy.


On Sunday morning, some of the jurors went to church. Hoppy went to his office at ten. He’d called Napier at eight on Sunday morning with the news that he had important developments to discuss; he said he’d managed to persuade his wife, and she was influencing other jurors. Napier called Cristano, who called Fitch. Fitch was delighted and authorized the meeting.

Napier and Nitchman arrived in Hoppy’s office at eleven. Hoppy was making coffee. He started talking to his visitors. Another guest quietly entered the building through the front door, which Hoppy had left unlocked. He knocked on Hoppy’s door and opened it.

“Agent Alan Madden, FBI,” he said, showing his badge. Napier and Nitchman went pale as their hearts stopped.

“The FBI is already here,” said Hoppy, acting perfectly, looking at Madden, then the other two, then Madden. “You guys don’t know each other?”

“FBI?” Madden said. “Show me your identification.”

“I can explain,” Nitchman said, his voice higher than normal. “You see we’re not really FBI agents - we’re private investigators and, well - “ “What!” screamed Hoppy. “You’ve been telling me for ten days that you’re FBI agents. What’s going on here?”

“Who are you?” Madden asked the two men. There was no response. He took out a gun and searched them. Then he led them from the building, where another FBI agent was waiting. They got into a car and drove away.

In the car, Napier and Nitchman invented a story. They’d been hired to investigate some real estate. One thing led to another, and their boss had made them pretend to be FBI agents. No harm done, really. Madden was a young agent and thought it was a minor crime. He gave them a lecture about pretending to be FBI officers, and told them to stay out of Mississippi.

When Fitch heard the story, he was so angry that he broke a lamp. He sent Pang to fetch the two men. Three hours later Napier and Nitchman were sitting in a room next to Fitch’s office, with Cristano.

“Start at the beginning,” he said. “I want to hear every word.” They remembered nearly everything.

After they’d left, Fitch sat and thought. Hoppy would tell Millie tonight. Millie would be lost as a defense juror. In fact, she would probably go right over to the other side and want billions of dollars for the poor widow Wood.

Marlee could rescue the situation, only Marlee.

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