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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:15

"Threatened to kill him."

"Started cryin'. Cried like a baby. Cried 'bout his momma and prison and all this and that. Promised he'd never screw up again."

"Naw, I just couldn't. I talked real ugly to him and threatened him some more. I put him on probation right there in his bathroom. He's been fun to work with ever since."

They drove by Huey's and saw Cobb's truck in the gravel parking lot with a dozen other pickups and four-wheel drives. They parked behind a black church on a hill up the highway from Huey's, where they had a good view of the honky tonk, or tonk, as it was affectionately called by the patrons. Another patrol car hid behind some trees at the other end of the highway. Moments later Bumpous flew by and wheeled into the parking lot. He locked his brakes, spraying gravel and dust, then backed next to Cobb's truck. He looked around and casually entered Huey's. Thirty minutes later the dispatcher advised Ozzie that the informant had found the subject, a male white, at Huey's, an establishment on Highway 305 near the lake. Within minutes two more patrol cars were hidden close by. They waited.

"What makes you so sure it's Cobb?" Hastings asked.

"I ain't sure. I just got a hunch. The little girl said it was a truck with shiny wheels and big tires."

"That narrows it down to two thousand."

"She also said it was yellow, looked new, and had a big flag hangin' in the rear window."

"That brings it down to two hundred."

"Maybe less than that. How many of those are as mean as Billy Ray Cobb?"

"What if it ain't him?"

"We'll know shortly. He's got a big mouth, 'specially when he's drinkin'."

For two hours they waited and watched pickups come and go. Truck drivers, pulpwood cutters, factory workers, and farmhands parked their pickups and jeeps in the gravel and strutted inside to drink, shoot pool, listen to the band, but mainly to look for stray women. Some would leave and walk next door to Ann's Lounge, where they would stay for a few minutes and return to Huey's. Ann's Lounge was darker both inside and out, and it lacked the colorful beer signs and live music that made Huey's such a hit with the locals. Ann's

was known for its drug traffic, whereas Huey's had it all- music, women, happy hours, poker machines, dice, dancing, and plenty of fights. One brawl spilled through the door into the parking lot, where a group of wild rednecks kicked and clawed each other at random until they grew winded and returned to the dice table.

"Hope that wasn't Bumpous," observed the sheriff.

The restrooms inside were small and nasty, and most of the patrons found it necessary to relieve themselves between the pickups in the parking lot. This was especially true on Mondays when ten-cent beer night drew rednecks from four counties and every truck in the parking lot received at least three sprayings. About once a week an innocent passing motorist would get shocked by something he or she saw in the parking lot, and Ozzie would be forced to make an arrest. Otherwise, he left the places alone.

Both tonks were in violation of numerous laws. There was gambling, drugs, illegal whiskey, minors, they refused to close on time, etc. Shortly after he was elected the first time Ozzie made the mistake, due in part to a hasty campaign promise, of closing all the honky tonks in the county. It was a horrible mistake. The crime rate soared. The jail was packed. The court dockets multiplied. The rednecks united and drove in caravans to Clanton, where they parked around the courthouse on the square. Hundreds of them. Every night they invaded the square, drinking, fighting, playing loud music, and shouting obscenities at the horrified town folk. Each morning the square resembled a landfill with cans and bottles thrown everywhere. He closed the black tonks too, and break-ins, burglaries, and stabbings tripled in one month. There were two murders in one week.

Finally, with the city under siege, a group of local ministers met secretly with Ozzie and begged him to ease up on the tonks. He politely reminded them that during the campaign they had insisted on the closings. They admitted they were wrong and pleaded for relief. Yes, they would support him in the next election. Ozzie relented, and life returned to normal in Ford County.

Ozzie was not pleased that the establishments thrived in his county, but he was convinced beyond any doubt that his law-abiding constituents were much safer when the tonks were open.

At ten-thirty the dispatcher radioed that the informant was on the phone and wanted to see the sheriff. Ozzie gave his location, and a minute later they watched Bumpous emerge and stagger to his truck. He spun tires, slung gravel, and raced toward the church.

"He's drunk," said Hastings.

He wheeled through the church parking lot and came to a screeching stop a few feet from the patrol car. "Howdy, Sheriff!" he yelled.

Ozzie walked to the pickup. "What took so long?"

"You told me to take all night."

"You found him two hours ago."

"That's true, Sheriff, but have you ever tried to spend twenty dollars on beer when it's fifty cents a can?"

"Naw, just havin' a good time. Could I have another twenty?"

"What'd you find out?"

"Oh, he's in there all right."

"I know he's in there! What else?"

Bumpous quit smiling and looked at the tonk in the distance. "He's laughin' about it, Sheriff. It's a big joke. Said he finally found a nigger who was a virgin. Somebody asked how old she was, and Cobb said eight or nine. Everybody laughed."

Hastings closed his eyes and dropped his head. Ozzie gritted his teeth and looked away. "What else did he say?"

"He's bad drunk. He won't remember any of it in the mornin'. Said she was a cute little nigger."

"Yep, they're both laughin' about it."

"Left-hand side, next to the pinball machines."

Ozzie smiled. "Okay, Bumpous. You did good. Get lost."

Hastings called the dispatcher with the two names. The dispatcher relayed the message to Deputy Looney, who was parked in the street in front of the home of County Judge Percy Bullard. Looney rang the doorbell and handed the judge two affidavits and two arrest warrants. Bullard scribbled on the warrants and returned them to Looney, who thanked His Honor and left. Twenty minutes later Looney handed the warrants to Ozzie behind the church.

At exactly eleven, the band quit in mid-song, the dice disappeared, the dancers froze, the cue balls stopped rolling, and someone turned on the lights. All eyes followed the big sheriff as he and his men swaggered slowly across the dance floor to a table by the pinball machines. Cobb, Willard, and two others sat in a booth, the table littered with empty beer cans Ozzie walked to the table and grinned at Cobb.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't allow niggers in here," Cobb blurted out, and the four burst into laughter. Ozzie kept grinning.

When the laughing stopped, Ozzie said, "You boys havin' a good time, Billy Ray?"

"Looks like it. I hate to break things up, but you and Mr. Willard need to come with me."

"Where we goin'?" Willard asked.

"I ain't movin'," Cobb vowed. With that, the other two scooted from the booth and joined the spectators.

"I'm placin' you both under arrest," Ozzie said.

"You got warrants?" Cobb asked.

Hastings produced the warrants, and Ozzie threw them among the beer cans. "Yeah, we got warrants. Now get up."

Willard stared desperately at Cobb, who sipped a beer and said, "I ain't goin' to jail."

Looney handed Ozzie the longest, blackest nightstick ever used in Ford County. Willard was panic-stricken. Ozzie cocked it and struck the center of the table, sending beer and cans and foam in all directions. Willard bolted upright, slapped his wrists together and thrust them at Looney, who was waiting with the handcuffs. He was dragged outside and thrown into a patrol car.

Ozzie tapped his left palm with the stick and grinned at

Cobb. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in court. You have the right to a lawyer. If you can't afford one, the state'll furnish one. Any questions?"

"Yeah, what time is it?"

"Time to go to jail, big man."

"Go to hell, nigger."

Ozzie grabbed his hair and lifted him from the booth, then drove his face into the floor. He jammed a knee into his spine and slid his nightstick under his throat, and pulled upward while driving the knee deeper into his back. Cobb squealed until the stick began crushing his larynx.

The handcuffs were slapped into place, and Ozzie dragged him by his hair across the dance floor, out the door, across the gravel and threw him into the back seat with Wil-lard.

News of the rape spread quickly. More friends and relatives crowded into the waiting room and the halls around it. Tonya was out of surgery and listed as critical. Ozzie talked to Gwen's brother in the hall and told of the arrests. Yes, they were the ones, he was sure.

Jake Brigance rolled across his wife and staggered to the small bathroom a few feet from his bed, where he searched and groped in the dark for the screaming alarm clock. He found it where he had left it, and killed it with a quick and violent slap. It was 5:30 A.M., Wednesday, May 15.

He stood in the dark for a moment, breathless, terrified, his heart pounding rapidly, staring at the fluorescent numbers glowing at him from the face of the clock, a clock he hated. Its piercing scream could be heard down the street. He flirted with cardiac arrest every morning at this time when the thing erupted. On occasion, about twice a year, he was successful in shoving Carla onto the floor, and she would maybe turn it off before returning to bed. Most of the time, however, she was not sympathetic. She thought he was crazy for getting up at such an hour.

The clock sat on the windowsill so that Jake was required to move around a bit before it was silenced. Once up, Jake would not permit himself to crawl back under the covers. It was one of his rules. At one time the alarm was on the nightstand, and the volume was reduced. Carla would reach and turn it off before Jake heard anything. Then he would sleep until seven or eight and ruin his entire day. He would miss being in the office by seven, which was another rule. The alarm stayed in the bathroom and served its purpose.

Jake stepped to the sink and splashed cold water on'his face and hair. He switched on the light and gasped in horror at the sight in the mirror. His straight brown hair shot in all directions, and the hairline had receded at least two inches during the night. Either that or his forehead had grown. His eyes were matted and swollen with the white stuff packed in the corners. A seam in a blanket left a bright red scar along the left side of his face. He touched, then rubbed it and wondered if it would go away. With his right hand he pushed his hair back and inspected the hairline. At thirty-two, he had no gray hair. Gray hair was not the problem. The problem was pattern baldness, which Jake had richly inherited from both sides of his family. He longed for a full, thick hairline beginning an inch above his eyebrows. He still had plenty of hair, Carla told him. But it wouldn't last long at the rate it was disappearing. She also assured him he was as handsome as ever, and he believed her. She had explained that a receding hairline gave him a look of maturity that was essential for a young attorney. He believed that too.

But what about old, bald attorneys, or even mature, middle-aged bald attorneys? Why couldn't the hair return after he grew wrinkles and gray sideburns and looked very mature?

Jake pondered these things in the shower. He took quick showers, and he shaved and dressed quickly. He had to be at the Coffee Shop at 6:00 A.M.-another rule. He turned on lights and slammed and banged drawers and closet doors in an effort to arouse Carla. This was the morning ritual during the summer when she was not teaching school. He had explained to her numerous times that she had all day to catch up on any lost sleep, and that these early moments should be spent together. She moaned and tunneled deeper under the covers. Once dressed, Jake jumped on the bed with all fours and kissed her in the ear, down the neck, and all over the face until she finally swung at him. Then he yanked the covers off the bed and laughed as she curled up and shivered and begged for the blankets. He held them and admired her dark, tanned, thin, almost perfect legs. The bulky nightshirt covered nothing below the waist, and a hundred lewd thoughts danced before him.

About once a month this ritual would get out of hand. She would not protest, and the blankets would be jointly removed. On those mornings Jake undressed even quicker and broke at least three of his rules. That's how Hanna was conceived.

But not this morning. He covered his wife, kissed her gently, and turned out the lights. She breathed easier, and fell asleep.

Down the hall he quietly opened Hanna's door and knelt beside her. She was four, the only child, and there would be no others. She lay in her bed surrounded by dolls and stuffed animals. He kissed her lightly on the cheek. She was as beautiful as her mother, and the two were identical in looks and manners. They had large bluish-gray eyes that could cry instantly, if necessary. They wore their dark hair the same way-had it cut by the same person at the same time. They even dressed alike.

Jake adored the two women in his life. He kissed the second one goodbye and went to the kitchen to make coffee for Carla. On his way out he released Max, the mutt, into the backyard, where she simultaneously relieved herself and barked at Mrs. Pickle's cat next door.

Few people attacked the morning like Jake Brigance. He walked briskly to the end of the driveway and got the morning papers for Carla. It was dark, clear, and cool with the promise of summer rapidly approaching.

He studied the darkness up and down Adams Street, then turned and admired his house. Two homes in Ford County were on the National Register of Historic Places, and Jake Brigance owned one of them. Although it was heavily mortgaged, he was proud of it nonetheless. It was a nineteenth-century Victorian built by a retired railroad man who died on the first Christmas Eve he spent in his new home. The facade was a huge, centered gable with hipped roof over a wide, inset front porch. Under the gable a small portico covered with bargeboard hung gently over the porch. The five supporting pillars were round and painted white and slate blue. Each column bore a handmade floral carving, each with a different flower-daffodils, irises, and sunflowers. The railing between the pillars was filled with lavish lacework. Upstairs, three bay windows opened onto a small balcony, and to the left of the balcony an octagonal tower with stained-glass windows protruded and rose above the gable until it peaked with an iron-crested finial. Below the tower and to the left of the porch, a wide, graceful veranda with ornamental railing extended from the house and served as a carport. The front panels were a collage of gingerbread, cedar shingles, scallops, fish scales, tiny intricate gables, and miniature spindles.

Carla had located a paint consultant in New Orleans, and the fairy chose six original colors-mostly shades of blue, teal, peach, and white. The paint job took two months and cost Jake five thousand dollars, and that did not include the countless hours he and Carla had spent dangling from ladders and scraping cornices. And although he was not wild about some of the colors, he had never dared suggest repainting.

As with every Victorian, the house was gloriously unique. It had a piquant, provocative, engaging quality derived from an ingenuous, joyous, almost childlike bearing. Carla had wanted it since before they married, and when the owner in Memphis finally died and the estate was closed, they bought it for a song because no one else would have it. It had been abandoned for twenty years. They borrowed heavily from two of the three banks in Clanton, and spent the next three years sweating and doting over their landmark. Now people drove by and took pictures of it.

The third local bank held the mortgage on Jake's car, the only Saab in Ford County. And a red Saab at that. He wiped the dew from the windshield and unlocked the door. Max was still barking and had awakened the army of blue-jays that lived in Mrs. Pickle's maple tree. They sang to him and called farewell as he smiled and whistled in return. He backed into Adams Street. Two blocks east he turned south on Jefferson, which two blocks later ran dead end into Washington Street. Jake had often wondered why every small Southern town had an Adams, a Jefferson, and a Washington, but no Lincoln or Grant. Washington Street ran east and west on the north side of the Clanton square.

Because Clanton was the county seat it had a square, and the square quite naturally had a courthouse in the center of it. General Clanton had laid out the town with much thought, and the square was long and wide and the courthouse lawn was covered with massive oak trees, all lined neatly and spaced equally apart. The Ford County courthouse was well into its second century, built after the Yankees burned the first one. It defiantly faced south, as if telling those from the North to politely and eternally kiss its ass. It was old and stately, with white columns along the front and black shutters around the dozens of windows. The original red brick had long since been painted white, and every four years the Boy Scouts added a thick layer of shiny enamel for their traditional summer project. Several bond issues over the years had allowed additions and renovations.

The lawn around it was clean and neatly trimmed. A crew from the jail manicured it twice a week.

Clanton had three coffee shops-two for the whites and one for the blacks, and all three were on the square. It was not illegal or uncommon for whites to eat at Claude's, the black cafe on the west side. And it was safe for the blacks to eat at the Tea Shoppe, on the south side, or the Coffee Shop on Washington Street. They didn't, however, since they were told they could back in the seventies. Jake ate barbecue every Friday at Claude's, as did most of the white liberals in Clanton. But six mornings a week he was a regular at the Coffee Shop.

He made his entrance at six, and it took five minutes to greet everyone, shake hands, slap backs, and say smart things to the waitresses. By the time he sat at his table his favorite girl, Dell, had his coffee and regular breakfast of toast, jelly, and grits. She patted him on the hand and called him honey and sweetheart and generally made a fuss over him. She griped and snapped at the others, but had a different routine for Jake.

He ate with Tim Nunley, a mechanic down at the Chevrolet place, and two brothers, Bill and Bert West, who worked at the shoe factory north of town. He splashed three drops of Tabasco on his grits and stirred them artfully with a slice of butter-. He covered the toast with a half inch of homemade strawberry jelly. Once his food was properly prepared, he tasted the coffee and started eating. They ate quietly and discussed how the crappie were biting.

In a booth by the window a few feet from Jake's table, three deputies talked among themselves. The big one, Marshall Prather, turned to Jake and asked loudly, "Say, Jake, didn't you defend Billy Ray Cobb a few years ago?"

The cafe was instantly silent as everyone looked at the lawyer. Startled not by the question but by its response, Jake swallowed his grits and searched for the name.

"Billy Ray Cobb," he repeated aloud. "What kind of case was it?"

"Dope," Prather said. "Caught him sellin' dope about four years ago. Spent time in Parchman and got out last year."

Jake remembered. "Naw, I didn't represent him. I think he had a Memphis lawyer."

Prather seemed satisfied and returned to his pancakes. Jake waited.

Finally he asked, "Why? What's he done now?"

"We picked him up last night for rape."

"Yeah, him and Pete Willard."

"You remember that Hailey nigger you got off in that murder trial a few years ago?"

"Lester Hailey. Of course I remember."

"You know his brother Carl Lee?"

"Sure. Know him well. I know all the Haileys. Represented most of them."

"Well, it was his little girl."

Jake's appetite disappeared as the cafe returned to normal. He played with his coffee and listened to the conversation change from fishing to Japanese cars and back to fishing. When the West brothers left, he slid into the booth with the deputies.

"How is she?" he asked.

"Pretty bad," said Prather. "She's in the hospital."

"We don't know everything. She ain't been able to talk much. Her momma sent her to the store. They live on Craft Road behind Bates Grocery."

"I know where they live."

"Somehow they got her in Cobb's pickup and took her out in the woods somewhere and raped her."

"Yeah, several times. And they kicked her and beat her real bad. Some of her kinfolks didn't know her, she was beat so bad."

Jake shook his head. "That's sick."

"Sure is. Worst I've ever seen. They tried to kill her. Left her for dead."

"Buncha niggers fishin' down by Foggy Creek. Saw her floppin' out in the middle of the road. Had her hands tied behind her. She was talkin' a little-told them who her daddy was and they took her home."

"How'd you know it was Billy Ray Cobb?"

"She told her momma it was a yellow pickup truck with a rebel flag hangin' in the rear window. That's about all Ozzie needed. He had it figured out by the time she got to the hospital."

Prather was careful not to say too much. He liked Jake, but he was a lawyer and he handled a lot of criminal cases.

"Who is Pete Willard?"

"Some friend of Cobb's."

"Where'd y'all find them?"

"That figures." Jake drank his coffee and thought of Hanna.

"Sick, sick, sick," Looney mumbled.

Prather wiped syrup from his mustache. "Personally, I don't know him, but I ain't ever heard anything bad about him. They're still at the hospital. I think Ozzie was with them all night. He knows them real well, of course, he knows all those folks real well. Hastings is kin to the girl somehow."

"When's the preliminary hearing?"

"Bullard set it for one P.M. today. Ain't that right, Looney?"

"Ain't been set yet. Bollard's gonna wait till the hearing. If she dies, they'll be lookin' at capital murder, won't they?"

"They can't have a bond for capital murder, can they, Jake?" Looney asked.

"They can but I've never seen one. I know Bullard won't set a bond for capital murder, and if he did, they couldn't make it."

"If she don't die, how much time can they get?" asked Nesbit, the third deputy.

Others listened as Jake explained. "They can get life sentences for the rape. I assume they will also be charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault."

"Then they can get twenty years for the kidnapping and twenty years for the aggravated assault."

"Yeah, but how much time will they serve?" asked Looney.