Some of the cutthroats down there didn't care how it ended. Just hurry up and get it over with.
Mister seemed to doze for a second. His chin dipped, and his breathing was heavier. Rafter grunted to get my attention, then jerked his head to one side as if to suggest I make a move. Problem was, Mister held the gun with his right hand, and if he was indeed napping, then he was doing so with the dreaded red wire held firmly in his left hand.
And Rafter wanted me to be the hero. Though Rafter was the meanest and most effective litigator in the firm, he was not yet a partner. He was not in my division, and we weren't in the Army. I didn't take orders.
"How much money did you make last year?" Mister, very much awake, asked me, his voice clear.
Again, I was startled. "I, uh, gosh, let me see--"
"A hundred and twenty thousand."
He didn't like this either. "How much did you give away?"
"Yes. To charities."
"Oh. Well, I really don't remember. My wife takes care of the bills and things like that."
All eight litigators seemed to shift at once.
Mister didn't like my answer, and he was not about to be denied. "Who, like, fills in your tax forms?"
"You mean for the IRS?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"It's handled by our tax division, down on the second floor."
"Here in this building?"
"Then get it for me. Get me the tax records for everybody here."
I looked at their faces, and a couple wanted to say, "Just go ahead and shoot me." I must've hesitated too long, because Mister shouted, "Do it now!" And he used the gun when he shouted.
I called Rudolph, who also hesitated, and so I shouted at him. "Just fax them in here," I demanded. "Last year's only."
We stared at the fax machine in the corner for fifteen minutes, afraid Mister might start executing us if our 1040's didn't hurry along.
Excerpted from The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. Copyright 1998 by Belfry Holdings, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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