F ranklin Braunegg was just biting into a BLT when Gage pulled up a third chair to his table for two at the Hidden Valley Country Club. Over the years, Gage had watched Braunegg try to transform himself from a personal injury street fighter into a white-collar sophisticate, but he only ended up looking slick. Eyes too predatory. Hair dyed too dark. Too many rings on his clawlike hands.
“Where’s your pal, Peterson?” Gage asked, glancing at the half-eaten Cobb salad across the table from Braunegg.
Gage knew the answer. He’d spotted an FBI agent driving Peterson away a few minutes earlier.
“Hadda go inta the offish,” Braunegg said, trying to chew and answer at the same time. Braunegg swallowed hard, then took a sip of ice tea. “How ya doing, Graham?”
“I’m a little concerned about a friend of mine.”
“So I heard.”
Gage tilted his head toward the parking lot. “From Peterson?”
“A little bird.”
“I think Peterson would find that description insulting.”
Braunegg laughed, spitting out a piece of bacon that landed in Peterson’s abandoned salad.
“So what do you want?” Braunegg asked.
“I want you to lay off Burch. Withdraw your subpoena and don’t name him as a defendant for a few months.”
“Not possible.” Braunegg sucked on his teeth. “I’ve got a thousand plaintiffs who want his head. And, of course, his money, which he has a lot of. I need to keep the clients happy. Happy clients are grateful clients. Grateful clients refer friends and family.”
“But that’s not how you got SatTek.”
Braunegg shrugged. “I don’t know how we got it. The case just came in. Maybe the shareholders saw me on FOX News and liked my spiel.”
“I don’t think so,” Gage said, finally repaying the wink.
“What are you suggesting?” Braunegg’s face flared. “I don’t need to sit here-”
“Then get up.”
Braunegg threw his napkin onto his plate, but didn’t rise.
“Peterson fed you SatTek just like he fed you your last three securities fraud cases.”
“I’d like to see you prove it.”
“No you wouldn’t. That’s the last thing you want me to do.”
Braunegg glanced around the restaurant. Gage imagined that he was worried that members seated near them had noticed his loss of control in throwing down his napkin.
“You want to take a little walk?” Gage asked.
Braunegg signaled a waiter and signed his tab, then Gage led him out to the parking lot.
“So what if Peterson sent over the plaintiffs,” Braunegg said, as they stood next to Gage’s car. “It’s not a crime.”
“Depends on what?”
“What else got put on your tab besides an overpriced salad and whether he also sent over grand jury material.”
“You’d have a hard time proving either one.”
“Not so hard.” Gage leaned in close, pointing at Braunegg’s chest. “You’re too flashy. It’s the reason why you never did well in trial. You show your hand too soon, no self-control.”
Braunegg drew back. “Look, Gage, I don’t have to stand here and take this shit from you.”
“First you don’t want to sit, now you don’t want to stand. Which is it?”
“How about just show me your cards and let’s get this over with?”
“I talked to Hackett. Matson isn’t cooperating with you. I talked to Granger’s lawyer and Granger wasn’t cooperating with you, either.”
Braunegg remained silent. His face set. Not sure where Gage was headed.
“Read over your complaint. You have allegations in there that could’ve only come from Matson and Granger. And only Matson was talking-and not to you.”
“The alleged connection between Burch and Fitzhugh. That went from Matson to Peterson to you.”
Braunegg blanched like he just got caught stuffing jumbo shrimp into his wife’s purse at a cocktail party.
“And that’s all you want? We hold off of Burch? Why not just go to the press? Take a shot at making us pull out of the case? You might even get Peterson fired.”
“Because somebody else would take it over and I’d just have to come up with a way to lean on them-and I don’t have time. And it doesn’t help me to end Peterson’s career. Another U.S. Attorney would just come into the case and we’re back where we started.”
Braunegg looked toward the parking lot exit, as if there was a street sign in the distance to tell him which way to turn, then decided to call for help. “I’ll talk to my partner.”
Gage pulled out his business card, wrote a telephone number on the back, then handed it to Braunegg. “This is the telephone number of Kenny Leals at the New York Times. You can either call me in one hour agreeing or call him in two hours explaining. Do yourself and Peterson a favor. Call me in one.”
Gage had driven less than a mile away from the Hidden Valley Country Club when his cell phone rang.
“You’ve got a deal. Two months. But someday the shoe’s going to be on the other foot,” Braunegg said. “What goes around comes around.”
There was only one type of person Gage hated more than liars: people who thought in cliches. They couldn’t help but lie to themselves.
“No it won’t and no it doesn’t.”
“You better watch your back.”
Not another one. Better answer in a way he understands.
“You couldn’t sneak up on the dead.”