The Pelican Brief
HE SEEMED INCAPABLE of creating such chaos, but much of what he saw below could be blamed on him. And that was fine. He was ninety-one, paralyzed, strapped in a wheelchair and hooked to oxygen. His second stroke seven years ago had almost finished him off, but Abraham Rosenberg was still alive and even with tubes in his nose his legal stick was bigger than the other eight. He was the only legend remaining on the Court, and the fact that he was still breathing irritated most of the mob below.
He sat in a small wheelchair in an office on the main floor of the Supreme Court Building. His feet touched the edge of the window, and he strained forward as the noise increased. He hated cops, but the sight of them standing in thick, neat lines was somewhat comforting. They stood straight and held ground as the mob of at least fifty thousand screamed for blood.
“Biggest crowd ever!” Rosenberg yelled at the window. He was almost deaf. Jason Kline, his senior law clerk, stood behind him. It was the first Monday in October, the opening day of the new term, and this had become a traditional celebration of the First Amendment. A glorious celebration. Rosenberg was thrilled. To him, freedom of speech meant freedom to riot.
“Are the Indians out there?” he asked loudly.
Jason Kline leaned closer to his right ear. “Yes!”
“With war paint?”
“Yes! In full battle dress.”
“Are they dancing?”
The Indians, the blacks, whites, browns, women, gays, tree lovers, Christians, abortion activists, Aryans, Nazis, atheists, hunters, animal lovers, white supremacists, black supremacists, tax protestors, loggers, farmers – it was a massive sea of protest. And the riot police gripped their black sticks.
“The Indians should love me!”
“I’m sure they do.” Kline nodded and smiled at the frail little man with clenched fists. His ideology was simple; government over business, the individual over government, the environment over everything. And the Indians, give them whatever they want.
The heckling, praying, singing, chanting, and screaming grew louder, and the riot police inched closer together. The crowd was larger and rowdier than in recent years. Things were more tense.
Violence had become common. Abortion clinics had been bombed. Doctors had been attacked and beaten. One was killed in Pensacola, gagged and bound into the fetal position and burned with acid.
Street fights were weekly events. Churches and priests had been abused by militant gays. White supremacists operated from a dozen known, shadowy, paramilitary organizations, and had become bolder in their attacks on blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. Hatred was now America’s favorite pastime.
And the Court, of course, was an easy target. Threats, serious ones, against the justices had increased tenfold since 1990. The Supreme Court police had tripled in size. At least two FBI agents were assigned to guard each justice, and another fifty were kept busy investigating threats.
“They hate me, don’t they?” he said loudly, staring out the window.
“Yes, some of them do,” Kline answered with amusement.
Rosenberg liked to hear that. He smiled and inhaled deeply. Eighty percent of the death threats were aimed at him.
“See any of those signs?” he asked. He was nearly blind.
“Quite a few.”
“What do they say?”
“The usual. Death to Rosenberg. Retire Rosenberg. Cut Off the Oxygen.”
“They’ve been waving those same damned signs for years. Why don’t they get some new ones?”
The clerk did not answer.
John grisham. the pelican brief