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THE PRISONER WAS LED THROUGH THE DOORWAY BY A PAIR of burly MPs, who shoved him into a chair and immediately began shackling his handcuffs to the table. The table was bolted to the floor, which was bolted to the prison, and so on.
"Guys. . . no need for that," I politely insisted. And was coldly ignored.
"Look, it's ridiculous," I said, with a touch more indignation. "How's he going to break out of here, much less walk two inches from this prison without being instantly recognized?" I was blowing hot air, actually to impress the prisoner more than the guards. I'm a lawyer. I'm not above such things.
The MP sergeant stuffed the shackle key in his pocket and replied, "Don't give the prisoner nothing. No pens, no pencils, no sharp objects. Knock when you're done."
He stared at me longer than necessarya gesture meant to convey that he didn't think highly of me or what I came here to do.Well, neither did I-regarding the latter.
I gave him a cold stare back. "All right, Sergeant." The MPs scuttled from the room as I turned to examine the prisoner. It had been over ten years, and the changes were barely detectablea tad more gray, perhaps, but he was still strikingly handsome in that chisel-featured, dark-haired, deepeyed way some women find attractive. His athlete's body had softened, but those wide shoulders and slim waist were mostly intact. He'd always been a gym rat.
His psyche was a burned-out wreck; shoulders slumped, chin resting on his chest, arms hanging limply at his sides. Not goodlittle wonder they had stolen his shoelaces and belt. I bent forward and squeezed his shoulder. "Bill, look at me." Nothing. More sharply, I said, "Damn it, Billy, it's Sean Drummond. Pull yourself together and look at me."
Not so much as a twitch. The harsh tack wasn't punching through that wall of depressionperhaps something warmer, more conversational? I said, "Billy, listen. . . Mary called the day after your arrest and asked me to get out here right away. She said you want me to represent you."
The "here" was the military penitentiary tacked onto the backside of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
"Mary"was his wife of the past thirteen years, and the man I was speaking to was Brigadier General William T. Morrison, until recently the U.S. military attach? in our Moscow embassy. The "day after your arrest" had been two long and miserable days earlier, the "arrest" being the one CNN had replayed over and over, of an Army general being dragged out the side door of the Moscow embassy, surrounded by FBI agents in bulletproof vests, his face a tangle of frustration and fury. Since then there had been countless newspaper articles detailing what a despicably awful bastard he was. If the reports were true, I was seated across from the most monstrous traitor since-well, I suppose since ever.
He mumbled, "How is she?" "She flew in from Moscow yesterday. She's staying with her father."
This got a dull nod, and I added, "The kids are fine. Her father has some pull with Sidwell Friends Academy, a private school that caters to celebrity children. They're hoping to get them in."
Shouldn't it help to make him think of his wife and family? He was locked down in a special isolation wing and denied any contact with the outside world: no phone calls, no letters, no notes.The authorities said the quarantine was to keep him from exposing more information or receiving smuggled-in cues from his Russian handlers. Perhaps. Unmentioned, of course, was that they hoped the social starvation would drive him babbling into the arms of his interrogators.
I crossed my legs and said, "Bill, let's consider this rationally. These are damned serious offenses. I win more than I lose, but you can find plenty of lawyers who are better. I'll name some if you'd prefer."
The response was a foot shuffle. What was he thinking? He should be wondering why I wasn't blowing ten miles of smoke up his ass. Most guys in my position would flap their arms, boast and brag, and beg and plead to represent him. The man was a lawyer's wet dream. I mean, how many general officers do you think get accused of betraying their country? I actually checked before I flew out here-Benedict Arnold was the last, and please recall that he fled to England before he could be tried, so nobody got a piece of his action.
When Morrison didn't reply, I said, "Though, if you'd like to consider me, I know you and your wife. This is personal. I'll put my heart and soul into defending you."
I paused to let that filter in and got. . . nothing. "Look, is there somebody else you want? Just say so. It won't hurt my feelings. Hell, I'll even help arrange it." And indeed I would. I'd throw my heart and soul into it. I wasn't there because he'd asked for me, but because Mary begged me. And if you want the whole squalid truth, that left me conflicted, because she and I had once been, uh. . . how do I delicately put this? Involved? What do you want to bet that a lawyer was the first one to utter that particular word that particular way?
Were they in the same chess club? Or did they have a torrid love affair that lasted three incredible years? Yes, incidentally, on the last point. His lips made a faint flutter, and I said, "I'm sorry. . . what was that again?" "I said, I want you." "You're sure, Billy?"
His head jerked up. "God damn it, call me Billy again and I'll knock you flat on your ass.You're still a major and I'm still a general, you stupid asshole."
Well. . . now there was a dose of the old William Morrison I knew, and never could stand. I was his wife's old slumber buddy, and trust me on this point: This is hardly a male-bonding thing. Nor would we have been pals, anyway, as he was a general and I was a major, and in the Army that's some hard frost, socially speaking. Besides, William T. Morrison was a stuck-up, overambitious, pretty-boy prick, and what in the hell was Mary thinking when she married him?
She could've done so much better. Like me. I reached into my briefcase and withdrew a few papers. "Okay, sign these forms. The top one requests the JAG to name me as your attorney.The second allows me to root through your records and investigate your background." I held out a pen. "But first promise you're not going to use this to stab yourself or some such shit."
He yanked it out of my hand, scratched his name on both forms, then threw the pen at me. I mumbled, "Thanks." He mumbled, "Fuck you, Drummond. I mean. . . fuck you." Was this getting off on the right foot or what? I asked, "Have you admitted anything yet?" "No. . . of course not. What kind of stupid asshole do you take me for?"
The man is dressed in ugly orange coveralls and is chained to a table in a high-security prison. Can this be a serious question? I said, "Keep it that way. Don't say a thing without me present. Don't hint, sidestep, deny, or evade. Guilty or innocent, your only leverage is what's locked in your head and we need to preserve that. Understand?"
"Drummond, this is my field, remember? Like I need some stupid asshole telling me how it's done? I'll run circles around any jerk-off they bring in here."
The grating arrogance I remembered so well was definitely creeping back to the surface.Was this good or bad? Other considerations aside, I suppose good. It surely helped that some semblance of his internal spirit was flogging its way into his cerebral cortex. A moment before he'd been a suicidal husk, and if something didn't seep into that vacuum, his whole being might get sucked into nothing.
Anyway, I'd done my duty. I'd warned him, and it was time to complete my spiel."The Army's facing a time clock of thirty days to formalize your charges and get us into court to plead. A month or so later, there'll be a trial. If you're found guilty, there'll be a sentencing hearing shortly thereafter. Do I need to tell you the ultimate penalty for treason?"
This is the kind of sly query we lawyers employ when our clients are assholes. He frowned, shook his head, and I continued, "Here's how we're going to do this. I'll get a co-counsel who speaks Russian, and I'll set up a satellite office here. Then I'll start my discovery process.You understand how that works?" "Of course."
"Well, espionage cases are. . . different. It's going to be a real tug-of-war."
He nodded that he understood, though really he didn't understand squat. He was going to discover that his fate hung on a bunch of secret evidence the government's most tightfisted agencies would fight tooth and nail not to release, even to his attorney; that, unlike with nearly every other type of criminal case, his chances of defending himself were crippled by security rules and stubborn bureaucrats and the government's very strong desire to burn him at the stake.
I mentioned none of this to himyet.He was already on suicide watch, and I didn't want to send him hurtling off the ledge into eternity. I stood up and said, "I better get going. I'll stay in touch."
He looked up at me with tortured eyes. "Drummond, listen, I'm completely" "Innocent. . . right?" "Yes. Really, this whole thing is" I held up a hand to cut him off.
I wasn't his attorney of record and had no business getting into any of this yet. Later he could tell me as many whoppers as he could dream up, and I would patiently sort the exceptionally unbelievable from the barely credible, until we settled on exactly which pack of lies we'd use for his defense.
But in retrospect I should've walked out and never returned.