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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:22

Jake slipped silently into starched khakis and a button-down. His wife was still lost somewhere deep in the bed. He would tell her later. He took the paper and drove to the office. The Coffee Shop would not be safe. At Ethel's desk he read the story again and stared at his picture on the front page.

Lucien had a few words of comfort. He knew Marsharf-sky, or "The Shark," as he was known. He was a sleazy crook with polish and finesse. Lucien admired him.

Moss Junior led Carl Lee into Ozzie's office, where Jake waited with a newspaper. The deputy quickly left and closed the door. Carl Lee sat on the small black vinyl couch.

Jake threw the newspaper at him. "Have you seen this?" he demanded.

Carl Lee glared at him and ignored the paper.

"I don't have to explain, Jake."

"Yes, you do. You didn't have the guts to call me like a man and tell me. You let me read it in the paper. I demand an explanation."

"You wanted too much money, Jake. You're always gripin' over the money. Here I am sittin' in jail and you're bitchin' 'bout somethin' I can't help."

"Money. You can't afford to pay me. How can you afford Marsharfsky?"

"I ain't gotta pay him."

"You heard me. I ain't payin' him."

"I guess he works for free."

"Nope. Somebody else is payin'."

"I ain't tellin'. It ain't none of your business, Jake."

"You've hired the biggest criminal lawyer in Memphis, and someone else is payin' his bill?"

The NAACP, thought Jake. No, they wouldn't hire Marsharfsky. They've got their own lawyers. Besides,xhe was too expensive for them. Who else?

Carl Lee took the newspaper and folded it neatly. He was ashamed, and felt bad, but the decision had been made. He had asked Ozzie to call Jake and convey the news, but the sheriff wanted no part of it. He should have called, but he was not going to apologize. He studied his picture on the front page. He liked the part about the vigilante business.

"And you're not going to tell me who?" Jake said, somewhat quieter.

"Naw, Jake. I ain't tellin'."

"Did you discuss it with Lester?"

The glare returned to his eyes. "Nope. He ain't on trial, and it ain't none of his business."

"Chicago. Left yesterday. And don't you go call him. I've made up my mind, Jake."

We'll see, Jake said to himself. Lester would find out shortly.

Jake opened the door. "That's it. I'm fired. Just like that."

Carl Lee stared at his picture and said nothing.

Carla was eating breakfast and waiting. A reporter from Jackson had called looking for Jake, and had told her about Marsharfsky.

There were no words, just motions. He filled a cup with coffee and went to the back porch. He sipped from the steaming cup and surveyed the unkempt hedges that lined the boundary of his long and narrow backyard. A brilliant sun baked the rich green Bermuda and dried the dew, creating a sticky haze that drifted upward and hung to his shirt. The hedges and grass were waiting on their weekly grooming. He kicked off his loafers-no socks-and walked through the soggy turf to inspect a broken birdbath near a scrawny crepe myrtle, the only tree of any significance.

He took her hand and smiled. "You okay?" she asked.

"Did you talk to him?"

He shook his head and said nothing.

He nodded and stared at the birdbath.

"There will be other cases," she said without confidence.

"I know." He thought of Buckley, and could hear the laughter. He thought of the guys at the Coffee Shop, and vowed not to return. He thought of the cameras and reporters, and a dull pain moved through his stomach. He thought of Lester, his only hope of retrieving the case.

"Would you like some breakfast?" she asked.

"No. I'm not hungry. Thanks."

"Look on the bright side," she said. "We won't be afraid to answer the phone."

"I think I'll cut the grass," he said.

The Council of Ministers was a group of black preachers that had been formed to coordinate political activities in the black communities of Ford County. It met infrequently during the off years, but during election years it met weekly, on Sunday afternoons, to interview candidates and discuss issues, and, more importantly, to determine the benevolence of each office seeker. Deals were cut, strategies developed, money exchanged. The council had proven it could deliver the black vote. Gifts and offerings to black churches rose dramatically during elections.

The Reverend Ollie Agee called a special meeting of the council for Sunday afternoon at his church. He wrapped up his sermon early, and by 4:00 P.M. his flock had scattered when the Cadillacs and Lincolns began filling his parking lot. The meetings were secret, with only ministers who were council members invited. There were twenty-three black churches in Ford County, and twenty-two members were present when Reverend Agee called the meeting to order. The meeting would be brief, since some of the ministers, especially from the Church of Christ, would begin their evening services shortly.

The purpose of the meeting, he explained, was to organize moral, political, and financial support of Carl Lee Hai-ley, a member in good standing of his church. A legal defense fund must be established to assure the best legal representation. Another fund must be established to provide support for his family. He, Reverend Agee, would chair the fund-raising efforts, with each minister responsible for his own congregation, as usual. A special offering would be taken during the morning and evening services, starting next Sunday. Agee would use his discretion in disbursing the money to the family. Half of the proceeds would go to the defense fund. Time was important. The trial was next month. The money had to be raised quickly while the issue was hot, and the people were in a giving mood.

cuuncn unanimously agreed witn Keverend Agee. He continued.

The NAACP must become active in the Hailey case. He would not be on trial if he was white. Not in Ford County. He was on trial only because he was black, and this must be addressed by the NAACP. The national director had been called. The Memphis and Jackson chapters had promised help. Press conferences would be held. Demonstrations and marches would be important. Maybe boycotts of white-owned businesses-that was a popular tactic at the moment, and it worked with amazing results.

This must be done immediately, while the people were willing and in a giving mood. The ministers unanimously agreed and left for their evening services.

In part due to fatigue, and in part due to embarrassment, Jake slept through church. Carla fixed pancakes, and they enjoyed a long breakfast with Hanna on the patio. He ignored the Sunday papers after he found, on the front page of the second section of The Memphis Post, a full-page spread on Marsharfsky and his famous new client. The story was complete with pictures and quotes from the great lawyer. The Hailey case presented his biggest challenge, he said. Serious legal and social issues would be addressed. A novel defense would be employed, he promised. He had not lost a murder case in twelve years, he boasted. It would be difficult, but he had confidence in the wisdom and fairness of Mississippi jurors.

Jake read the article without comment and laid the paper in the trash can.

Carla suggested a picnic, and although he needed to work he knew better than to mention it. They loaded the Saab with food and toys and drove to the lake. The brown, muddy waters of Lake Chatulla had crested for the year, and within days would begin their slow withdrawal to the center. The high water attracted a flotilla of skiboats, bass rigs, catamarans, and dinghies.

Carla threw two heavy quilts under an oak on the side of a hill while Jake unloaded the food and doll house. Hanna arranged her large family with pets and automobiles

on one quilt and began giving orders and setting up house. Her parents listened and smiled. Her birth had been a harrowing, gut-wrenching nightmare, two and a half months premature and shrouded with conflicting symptoms and prognoses. For eleven days Jake sat by the incubator in ICU and watched the tiny, purple, scrawny, beautiful three-pound body cling to life while an army of doctors and nurses studied the monitors and adjusted tubes and needles, and shook their heads. When he was alone he touched the incubator and wiped tears from his cheeks. He prayed as he had never prayed. He slept in a rocking chair near his daughter and dreamed of a beautiful blue-eyed, dark-haired little girl playing with dolls and sleeping on his shoulder. He could hear her voice.

After a month the nurses smiled and the doctors relented. The tubes were removed one at a time each day for a week. Her weight ballooned to a hearty four and a half pounds, and the proud parents took her home. The doctors suggested no more children, unless adopted.

She was perfect now, and the sound of her voice could still bring tears to his eyes. They ate and chuckled as Hanna lectured her dolls on proper hygiene.

"This is the first time you've relaxed in two weeks," Carla said as they lay on their quilt. Wildly colored catamarans crisscrossed the lake below dodging a hundred roaring boats pulling half-drunken skiers.

"We went to church last Sunday," he replied.

"And all you thought about was the trial."

"Still thinking about it."

"It's over, isn't it?"

"Will he change his mind?"

' "He might, if Lester talks to him. It's hard to say. Blacks are so unpredictable, especially when they're in trouble. He's got a good deal, really. He's got the best criminal lawyer in Memphis, and he's free."

"Who's paying the bill?"

"An old friend of Carl Lee's from Memphis, a guy by the name of Cat Bruster."

f\. very ncn pimp, dope pusher, thug, thief. Marsharf-sky's his lawyer. A couple of crooks."

"Did Carl Lee tell you this?"

"No. He wouldn't tell me, so I asked Ozzie."

"What do you mean by that? You're not going to call him, are you?"

"Well, yes, I had planned to."

"That's going a bit far, isn't it?"

"I don't think so. Lester has a right to know, and-"

"Then Carl Lee should tell him."

"He should, but he won't. He's made a mistake, and he does not realize it."

"But it's his problem, not yours. At least not anymore."

"Carl Lee's too embarrassed to tell Lester. He knows Lester will cuss him and tell him he's made another mistake."

"So it's up to you to intervene in their family affairs."

"No. But I think Lester should know."

"I'm sure he'll see it in the papers."

"Maybe not," Jake said without any conviction. "I think Hanna needs some more orange juice."

"I think you want to change the subject."

"The subject doesn't bother me. I want the case, and I intend to get it back. Lester's the only person who can retrieve it."

Her eyes narrowed and he could feel them. He watched a bass rig drift into a mud bar on the near shore.

"Jake, that's unethical, and you know it." Her voice was calm, yet controlled and firm. The words were slow and scornful.

"That's not true, Carla. I'm a very ethical attorney."

"You've always preached ethics. But at this moment you're scheming to solicit the case. That's wrong, Jake."

"Retrieve, not solicit."

"What's the difference?"

"Soliciting is unethical. I've never seen a prohibition against retrieving."

"It's not right, Jake. Carl Lee's hired another lawyer and it's time for you to forget it."

"And I suppose you think Marsharfsky reads ethics opinions. How do you think he got the case? He's been hired by a man who's never heard of him. He chased the case, and he's got it."

"So that makes it okay if you chase it now?"

"Retrieve, not chase."

Hanna demanded cookies, and Carla searched through the picnic basket. Jake reclined on an elbow and ignored them both. He thought of Lucien. What would he do in this situation? Probably rent a plane, fly to Chicago, get Lester, slip him some money, bring him home, and convince him to browbeat Carl Lee. He would assure Lester that Marsharfsky could not practice in Mississippi, and since he was a foreigner, the rednecks on the jury wouldn't believe him anyway. He would call Marsharfsky and curse him for chasing cases and threaten him with an ethics complaint the minute he stepped into Mississippi. He would get his black cronies to call Gwen and Ozzie and persuade them that the only lawyer with a dog's chance in hell of winning the case was Lucien Wilbanks. Finally, Carl Lee would knuckle under and send for Lucien.

That's exactly what Lucien would do. Talk about ethics.

"Why are you smiling?" Carla interrupted.

"Just thinking about how nice it is out here with you and Hanna. We don't do this enough."

"You're disappointed, aren't you?"

"Sure. There will never be another case like this one. Win it, and I'm the greatest lawyer in these parts. We would never have to worry about money again."

"And if you lost it?"

"It would still be a drawing card. But I can't lose what I don't have."

"A little. It's hard to accept. Every lawyer in the county is laughing about it, except maybe Harry Rex. But I'll get over it."

"What should I do with the scrapbook?"

"Save it. You might fill it up yet."

unc, nine reel long and tour feet wide, made to fit inconspicuously in the long bed of a pickup. Much larger crosses were used for the rituals, but the small ones worked better in the nocturnal raids into residential areas. They were not used often, or often enough according to their builders. In fact, it had been many years since one had been used in Ford County. The last one was planted in the yard of a nigger accused of raping a white woman.

Several hours before dawn on Monday morning, the cross was lifted quietly and quickly from the pickup and thrust into a ten-inch, freshly dug slot in the front yard of the quaint Victorian house on Adams Street. A small torch was thrown at the foot of the cross, and in seconds it was in flames. The pickup disappeared into the night and stopped at a pay phone at the edge of town, where a call was placed to the dispatcher.

Moments later, Deputy Marshall Prather turned down Adams and instantly saw the blazing cross in Jake's front yard. He turned into the driveway and parked behind the Saab. He punched the doorbell and stood on the porch watching the flames. It was almost three-thirty. He punched it again. Adams was dark and silent except for the glow of the cross and the snapping and crackling of the wood burning fifty feet away. Finally, Jake stumbled through the front door and froze, wild-eyed and stunned, next to the deputy. The two stood side by side on the porch, mesmerized not only by the burning cross, but by its purpose.

"Mornin", Jake," Prather finally said without looking from the fire.

"Who did it?" Jake asked with a scratchy, dry throat.

"Don't know. They didn't leave a name. Just called and told us about it."

"When did they call?"

"Fifteen minutes ago."

Jake ran his fingers through his hair in an effort to keep it from blowing wild in the soft breeze. "How long will it burn?" he asked, knowing Prather knew as little or even less than he about burning crosses.

"No tellin'. Probably soaked in kerosene. Smells like it anyway. Might burn for a couple of hours. You want me to call a fire truck?"