Diary of a Small Fish – Opening
Unexpected Company, Muckraking and Junk Mail
I used to play an obscene amount of golf at the exclusive Hyannisport Club. I knew at the time it was irresponsible and over-indulgent, but I never thought it was a federal crime.
At the beginning of a perfectly glorious Labor Day weekend, I sat on the back deck of my Cotuit home, cleaning my Pings, preparing for the typical holiday Friday afternoon: eighteen holes, a few martinis and a well-aged New York strip.
Life was good. Then the doorbell rang.
When I opened the door, a massive United States Marshal glared at me with a stone face. He wore a black suit with a badge the size of a pastrami sandwich. His jacket was pulled back on the side to display a gun on his hip.
“Paul B. Forté?” he said in a gravelly voice, deep and mean.
I felt the skin of my face go cold. “Yes?”
He reached inside his suit coat and withdrew a piece of paper.
“You are hereby served.” He shoved the paper in my chest.
Stunned, I took the document.
“Have a nice day,” he said. He turned, marched to the black sedan idling in the driveway, and got in. I watched as it roared backward into the street, slinging the white clamshells onto my lawn, shifted into drive and squealed rubber.
My throat fought to swallow, but it was dry as gin. “Thank you,” I croaked.
I looked down at the document quaking in my hand. It was folded in thirds, the outside with large block letters:
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
SUBPOENA TO TESTIFY BEFORE A GRAND JURY
I sat on my front step, stared at the heading for a minute or so until I mustered the courage to open it.
TO: PAUL B. FORTÉ
300 OCEAN AVENUE
COTUIT, MA, 02635
You are COMMANDED to appear in this United States District Court at One Post Office Square, Boston, Massachusetts, on Thursday, September 30, 1993 at one-thirty in the afternoon (1:30 p.m.) to give evidence in the matter of United States of America versus Raymond L. Stackhouse, U.S.D.C. No. GJ1993-0427. If you fail to appear, a warrant may issue for your arrest.
My friend, my golf buddy, the target of indictment. And I, a witness against him. I stared at the words as they swam around on the page. Shit! If what Ray had done was a crime, could I be charged too? Should I testify? What about the Fifth? Would my answers to their questions incriminate me? What was the crime in playing golf, for crissakes?
I needed to hire a good criminal lawyer, and fast.
I struggled to my feet, my knees – my whole body – wobbled as I stumbled through the house, back to the deck where my clubs leaned against the railing, all in a nice, neat row and glistening in the sun. I remembered the first time I walked the fairway of the local municipal course with Dad and Mom. Dad explained how golf was a game of honor and I must know the rules and always play by them. I thought I’d done that – in golf and everything else.
I walked to the railing, leaned against it, and threw up on the azalea below.
How did it ever come to this?