The Client (novel)
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The Client begins with an eleven-year old boy, Mark Sway and his younger brother Ricky, who is eight, going into the woods near the Tucker Wheel Estates, a mobile home park where they live with their mother, Dianne. Ricky had earlier caught Mark with some cigarettes and now to keep Ricky's silence, Mark is going to teach Ricky how to smoke. While they are in the woods, a shiny black 4-door Lincoln (a black 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham in the film) arrives, and soon W. Jerome "Romey" Clifford, a 44-year old lawyer from New Orleans, Louisiana, gets out of the car. His only client at the moment is Barry "The Blade" Muldanno, and now here in the woods of northeast Memphis, Tennessee, he is attempting to commit suicide. Mark and Ricky Sway sit hidden from Clifford and watching him from behind the shiny black car. Clifford, noticeably drunk, puts one end of a garden hose in the exhaust pipe of the car and the other end into a rear passenger window, and rolls up the window, trying to kill himself with carbon monoxide poisoning. Mark, sneaks up, crawling on his stomach, and pulls the hose from the exhaust trying to stop him. After some time Clifford gets out of the car, cursing, and puts the hose back in. Mark repeats pulling the hose from the tailpipe. On the third attempt, Clifford sees the grass moving in the rear view mirror, leaps from the car grabs Mark and pushes him into the car. Jerome then tells Mark why he wants to kill himself, he is convinced that Muldanno is going to murder him anyway and wants to die on his own terms. Clifford is defending Muldanno for the murder of U.S. Senator Boyd Boyette. But the prosecutors, led by the "Reverend" (for his preaching style in court) Roy Foltrigg, don't have a body. Muldanno had previously told Clifford that the he buried the body in concrete in Clifford's detached garage, under a boat, while Clifford was on vacation, skiing in Colorado. In the car, Clifford keeps drinking Jack Daniels, and taking dalmane and codeine. After a while, the effects of the booze and pills start to make Clifford pass out and Mark manages to escape. After Clifford realizes this and attempts to go after Mark, he looks around but soon gives up and slides up on the trunk of the car, puts a .38 Special pistol in his mouth, and shoots himself.
Upon witnessing the suicide, Ricky, Mark's younger brother, goes into shock. Mark calls the police and is later found at the scene. Police and the FBI discover that Mark was in the car and may have spoken with Jerome Clifford. Clifford knew where the body was buried and the FBI needs this information. The FBI is now after Mark because they believe he knows where the body is. Mark hires a lawyer named Reggie Love (a woman, despite the name) to help him. Barry Blade's people burn Mark's house. Mark is reluctant to tell the FBI what he knows because the Mafia has threatened him that if he tells anyone, they will kill him and his family.
Mark is placed in juvenile lock-up (partly to protect him, partly to make him talk) but escapes and runs away to New Orleans and decides to look for the body with Reggie. If the body is not where he knows it should be, he will no longer be in danger of being killed by the Mafia. He decides to travel to New Orleans to search for it. It's very early in the morning when they arrive and while approaching the area of the corpse, the boy and his lawyer observe some Mafia henchmen trying to relocate the body. Mark throws rocks at a neighbor's house, breaking a window. The neighbor comes out with a shotgun and the henchmen run away. Mark and Reggie hide in the woods until they are sure the neighbor is back asleep. They then re-approach the corpse and run away when they see the decaying face of Senator Boyette. Reggie later tells the FBI where the body is, but only after Mark and his family are entered into the United States Federal Witness Protection Program. The Sway family retreats to a revered hospital in Phoenix to tend to Ricky's severe condition and Mark never sees Reggie again.
Reggie Love: A female lawyer who has been practicing for five years. Her original name is Regina Cardoni. She divorced the husband of her current. She was a former active alcoholic. She is an older woman in the novel, but the movie incarnation played by Susan Sarandon is slightly younger.
Barry Muldanno: Mafia member who is accused of killing a senator. A cold-blooded man, he plans on killing eleven-year old Mark.
Roy Foltrigg: U.S. government lawyer whose job is to prove that Barry Muldanno killed the senator. He tries everything to make Mark talk and at the end he proposes to take Mark to court in New Orleans where he was sure that they could make him talk. He is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Louisiana.
Slick Moeller: A crime reporter who works on the Memphis Press. His real name is actually Alfred but nobody in the book knows this. He never names a person who trusted him with information and he knows everything about every crime committed, even before the cops.
Paul Gronke: A close associate of Barry Muldanno. He is a tough thug, but not a killer like Barry Muldanno.
Mac Bono: A close associate of the Sulari family. He is a convicted murderer and participates in the search for Mark Sway.
Gary Pirini: A close associate of the Sulari family. He participates in the search for Mark Sway.
Jack Nance and Calvin "Cal" Sisson: So-called "security specialists", they are actually thugs who do dirty work for the people who pay them. They are hired by Paul Gronke to help them for the search of Mark Sway.
Thomas Fink: An assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Louisiana. He argued a case before the Tennessee juvenile court to have Mark placed in the juvenile detention center.
George Ord: U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. He helped Thomas Fink argue the case to have Mark placed on the juvenile detention center.
Dr. Greenway: The doctor that attempts to cure Ricky of his coma.
Clint Van Hooser: Secretary to Reggie Love, he was a former drug abuser.
Harry Roosevelt: A judge of the Tennessee Juvenile Court. He tries to protect children since he was a neglected child himself when he was a boy.
Johnny Sulari: Boss of the Sulari family. An aging gangster, he nonetheless rules with an iron fist. Uncle of Barry Muldanno.
Jerome Clifford: A very important lawyer. His client was Barry Muldano. Committed suicide at the beginning, witnessed by Mark and Ricky.