When I asked what the agent had meant about his family, he sagged a bit.
"Sick wife," he said, "sick mother." Waging a running war against the medical establishment, Feaver, like many personal injury attorneys, had absorbed the lexicon of physicians. His mother was in a nursing home. "CVA," he said, meaning a stroke. His wife, Lorraine, was worse. She had been diagnosed nearly two years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis--ALS, or more commonly Lou Gehrig's disease--and was on a certain downward course toward total paralysis and, eventually, death.
"She's got a year maybe before things get really hairy, no one knows for sure." He was stoical but his black eyes did not rise from the carpet. "I mean, I can't leave her. Not practically. There's nobody else to take care of her."
That was the agent's point. Feaver would talk or be in the penitentiary when his wife reached the point of total helplessness or passed. The dark shroud of that prospect fell over us both.
In the resulting silence, I picked up Sennett's card, which Feaver had laid on my desk. Without it, I might have questioned whether Robbie had identified the right man on his doorstep. The United States Attorney, with ninety-two assistants and several hundred cases to supervise, would ordinarily have no direct role in a straightforward tax case, even one against a successful personal injury lawyer. Whatever Stan Sennett had come to Robbie's house to say last night must have been a mouthful.
"What did it mean," Feaver asked, "when Sennett said that George Mason would be an interesting choice? Does he hate your guts or think you're a pushover?"
It was complicated, I responded. I believed in some moods Stan would say I was a close friend.
"Well, that's good, then, isn't it?" Feaver asked.
When it came to Stan Sennett, I never knew the answer.
Sometimes friends, I told Feaver. Always rivals.
From Personal Injuries. Copyright © 1999 Scott Turow. No part of this book can be reproduced without the permission of the publisher
Blood at the Root
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