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One October night one of the liberal Judges, A. Rosenberg, is shot in the head while sleeping in his Georgetown home. Two hours later G. Jensen, the Court's youngest and most conservative judge, is strangled, possibly by the same assassin. America is in shock, the F.B.I. has no clues.
Darby Shaw is a brilliant law student at Tulane University in New Orleans when she heard about the two murders. One of the victims, Rosenberg, is the most admired and often quoted law scholar by Thomas Callahan, her constitutional law professor and also her lover. The speculation is that conservatives will be appointed to replace the two Judges.
Darby secluded herself for four days in a law library, digging through briefs, dissents, books, newspapers, essays, and law opinions, trying to discover what the two murdered Judges had in common. By accident, she stumbles upon a topic that the two assassinated Judges had in common: the environment. She has a theory about who's responsible for the killings so she develops what is later called "The Pelican Brief." She gave the brief to her law professor who shared the suppositions with a lawyer friend from his law school days, Gavin Verheek, who now works for the F.B.I. The head of the F.B.I. discovered the suspect had donated money to the President's last re-election campaign, all of which was deemed legal. The accusations against the suspect were dismissed as more speculation by the White House.
Darby's suspect has powerful friends. One evening, outside a New Orleans restaurant, she narrowly escapes an assassin's car bomb. Someone has read her brief. Someone who wants her dead. Alone and frightened, Darby disappears.
After reading an alarming story about the assassinations, including Thomas's, in the Washington Post, she contacts investigative reporter Gray Grantham and convinces him that the F.B.I., the President, and the whole country try to cope with the deaths of two powerful men.
One day Grantham receives a call from a guy nicknamed Garcia who has heard apparently something important about the Judges murders. Grantham didn't put a lot of attention in the calls because this guy didn't say anything relevant. So with no much information that Garcia give him, Grantham met with a security guard that works in the White House, this guard named Sarge gave to Grantham a copy of a document that has information of Khamel an assassin that has to many faces, names, costumes and it was one of the most important targets from the F.
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When she was a little bit calm down, she contacted Verheek and told him about the car bomb, Thomas, the brief and she couldn't hide her fear so Verheek went to New Orleans to rescue her, but Darby was scare and she continue hiding in different hotels. She finally was going to meet Verheek in a very concurrent place, the assassin of the Judges killed him in his hotel and he took the place of Verheek. Darby arrives early to the meeting and Khamel (the assassin) arrives looking like Gavin; they had a walk and suddenly Khamel fell down, somebody killed Khamel but Darby didn't know that Khamel was taking the place of Verheek so she thought that the person was Gavin so she was practically hysteric.
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After talking all night long Darby and Grantham started to figure a plan out so she couldn't be catch and he could help her. They had to know who Garcia was and if he is involved in these murders or if he worked for Mattiece but for that they have to take a look in the library to search names from the people of the oil department.
When they arrive to the building where White and Blazevich's offices Darby asked for Curtis Morgan (the real name of Garcia) the secretary disappeared and a man came into the room. The man was Jarreld Schwabe one of the partners of the firm, he had a talk with Darby and he said that Curtis was dead; he was mugged in the street.
Gray found Curtis address in the suburbs and they drove out together to the house. Mrs. Morgan's father refused to let them in to see her. Beverly Morgan called Gray at 4 o'clock the next morning. He spoke to her patiently for a along time, until he won her confidence. Mrs. Morgan said something about a bank and their lock box. The next morning Gray and Darby drove to the bank. Mrs. Morgan had given Gray written permission to open the lock box, so the clerk let them into the strong room. It didn't take long to empty the box: all it held was a thin envelope. In the document Morgan described who he was and where he worked. He said that he often worked for one of the firm's client who was called Victor Mattiece. Morgan explained the Louisiana case and how important it was to Mr. Mattiece. It was important to White and Blazevich too, since Mattiece had promised them a share of the profits from the oil.
On 28 September Morgan had been in Wakefield's office collecting some files. When he returned to his own office, he found that by mistake he had picked up a note from Wakefield's desk together with the files. That night he left the papers on his desk very tidy. The next morning he could see that someone had searched his desk. He began to see a man in Wakefield's office more than usual. Wakefield stopped him working for Mattiece. Then Rosenberg and Jensen were killed. He was sure that Mattiece had ordered the killings. He thought that people were following him. He had decided to hide his copy of the note together with this document in a bank, in case he was killed. He was very frightened. That was the end of the document.
Smith Keen and the Post's lawyer, Vincent Litsky, read through Morgan's document. Keen and Litsky looked each other. They want that story print. With Darby's help, Gray finished the story on time. Keen and Litsky read and made some changes.
Two people from the department of investigation from the White House entered to the room with Keen, he introduced Darby and Gray. The people from the White House didn't want the story printed so they had an important talk with Darby and Gray saying a lot of things that anybody could know, but Gray recorded everything and they could use the information to developed more information in the press; Darby made an arrangement with the people from the White House and she went to spent the rest of her day to Virgin Islands.
Finally, America knew the truth about what the Pelican Brief was.