Wright stood for the first time, stretched, and stepped to a corner where a small cardboard box was waiting. It was white, and in a neat hand someone had printed, with a black marker, the words ”IN RE: KYLE L. MCAVOY et al.” Kyle McAvoy and others. Wright fetched something from the box, and with the steady purpose of an executioner preparing to pull the switch, he removed a disc from its sleeve, slid it into the drive on the laptop, punched a couple of keys, then took his seat. Kyle could barely breathe.
As the computer clicked and hummed, Wright began talking. ”The phone was a Nokia 6000 smartphone, manufactured in 2003, with ETI Camcorder software installed, one-gigabyte memory card that holds about three hundred minutes of compressed video, mega pixel quality at fifteen FPS, voice commands, voice activated, state of the art for the time. A really nice cell phone.”
Wright shot him a smart-ass grin and said, ”Sorry, Kyle.”
For some reason, Wright thought it would be helpful to show the phone itself. He punched a key, and a still photo of the Nokia appeared on the screen. ”Ever see this?” he asked.
”Didn’t think so. Here’s the scene, Kyle, in case you’re a little fuzzy on the details. It’s April 25, 2003, last day of classes, final exams start in a week. It’s a Friday, unseasonably warm for Pittsburgh, high of eighty-five that day, almost set a record, and the kids at Duquesne decide to do what all good college kids do everywhere. They start drinking in the afternoon and have big plans to drink all night. A crowd gathers at the apartment complex where you rent a place with three others. A party materializes by the pool. It’s mostly Beta brothers and a few girls. You go for a swim, get some rays, drink some beer, listen to Phish. The girls are in bikinis. Life is good. Sometime after dark, the party moves inside, to your apartment. Pizza is ordered. The music, Widespread Panic by this time, is loud. More beer. Somebody shows up with two bottles of tequila, and of course this is consumed as fast as possible. Remember any of this?”
”Most of it.”
”You’re twenty years old, just finishing your sophomore year—”
”The tequila gets mixed with Red Bull, and you and the gang start doing shots. I’m sure you’ve had a few shots.”
Kyle nodded, his eyes never leaving the screen. <p.''At some point, clothes start coming off, and the owner of the cell phone decides to secretly record this. Guess he wanted his own little video of the girls without their tops. Do you remember the apartment, Kyle?''
”Yes, I lived there for a year.”
”We’ve examined the place. It’s a dump, of course, like a lot of college housing, but, according to the landlord, hasn’t changed. Our best guess is that the guy with the cell phone placed it on the narrow counter that separates the small kitchen from the den. The counter seems to be a catchall for textbooks, phone books, empty beer bottles, pretty much everything that passed through the apartment at one time or another.”
”So our man pulls out his cell phone and sneaks over to the counter, and in the midst of a wild party he turns it on and hides it next to a book. The opening scene is pretty wild. We’ve studied it carefully, and there are six girls and nine boys, all dancing and in various stages of undress. Ring a bell, Kyle?”
”Some of it, yes.”
”We know all the names.”
”You gonna show it to me or just talk about it?”
”Don?t be so anxious to see it.” With that, Wright punched another key. ”It’s 11:14 p.m. when the video begins,” he said, then hit another key. The screen suddenly exploded into a frenzy of loud music — Widespread Panic playing ”Aunt Avis” from Bombs and Butterflies — and gyrating bodies. Somewhere in the back of his brain Kyle had hoped for a dim, grainy, fuzzy clip of a bunch of Beta idiots drinking in the dark. Instead, he gawked at a remarkably clear video shot from a tiny phone camera. The angle chosen by the unknown owner of the phone provided a view of almost the entire den at 4880 East Chase, apartment 6B.
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Excerpted from THE ASSOCIATE by John Grisham
Published by Doubleday
Reprinted by permission of the publisher
Copyright © 2009 by Belfry Holdings, Inc
THE ASSOCIATE is on sale January 27, 2009 wherever books are sold