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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:27

"We did," answered Agee.

"You mean, you did," said Carl Lee.

"Well, uh, right. I mean, each church gave the money to me, and I deposited it in a special bank account."

"Yeah, and you deposited every nickel you received?"

"Of course. Let me ask you this. How much of the money have you offered to my wife and kids?"

Agee looked a bit pale, or as pale as possible, and quickly searched the faces of the other reverends, who, at the moment, were preoccupied with a stink bug on the carpet. They offered no help. Each knew Agee had been taking his cut, and each knew the family had received nothing. Agee had profited more .than the family. They knew it, and Carl Lee knew it.

"How much, Reverend?" repeated Carl Lee.

"Well, we thought the money-"

"The money is gonna be spent on lawyer fees and stuff like that."

"That ain't what you told your church, is it? You said it was for the support of the family. You almost cried when you talked about how my family might starve to death if the folks didn't donate all they could. Didn't you, Reverend?"

"The money's for you, Carl Lee. You and your family. Right now we think it could be better spent on your defense."

"And what if I don't want your lawyers? What happens to the twenty thousand?"

Jake chuckled. "Good question. What happens to the money if Mr. Hailey doesn't hire you, Mr. Reinfeld?"

"It's not my money," answered Reinfeld.

"Reverend Agee?" asked Jake.

The reverend had had enough. He grew defiant and belligerent. He pointed at Carl Lee. "Listen here, Carl Lee. We busted our butts to raise this money. Six thousand bucks

from the poor people of this county, people who didn't have it to give. We worked hard for this money, and it was given by poor people, your people, people on food stamps and welfare and Medicaid, people who couldn't afford to donate a dime. But they gave for one reason, and only one reason: they believe in you and what you did, and they want you to walk outta that courtroom a free man. Don't say you don't want the money."

"Don't preach to me," Carl Lee replied softly. "You say the poor folks of this county gave six thousand?"

"Where'd the rest of the money come from?"

"NAACP. Five thousand from Atlanta, five from Memphis, and five from national. And it's strictly for your defense fees."

"If I use Mr. Reinfeld here?"

"And if I don't use him, the fifteen thousand disappears?"

"What about the other six thousand?"

"Good question. We ain't discussed that yet. We thought you'd appreciate us for raisin' money and tryin' to help. We're offerin' the best lawyers and obviously you don't care."

The room was silent for an eternity as the preachers, the lawyers, and the sheriff waited for some message from the defendant. Carl Lee chewed on his lower lip and stared at the floor. Jake lit another cigar. He had been fired before, and he could handle it again.

"You gotta know right now?" Carl Lee asked finally.

"Yes," said Reinfeld. "The trial is less than three weeks away, and we're two months behind already. My time is too valuable to wait on you, Mr. Hailey. Either you hire me now or forget it. I've got a plane to catch."

"Well, I'll tell you what you do, Mr. Reinfeld. You go and catch your plane and don't ever worry 'bout comin' back to Clanton on my behalf. I'll take my chances with my friend Jake."

The Ford County Klavern was founded at midnight, Thursday, July 11, in a small pasture next to a dirt road deep in a forest somewhere in the northern part of the county. The six inductees stood nervously before the huge burning cross and repeated strange words offered by a wizard. A dragon and two dozen white-robed Klansmen watched and chanted when appropriate. A guard with a gun stood quietly down the road, occasionally watching the ceremony but primarily watching for uninvited guests. There were none.

Precisely at midnight the six fell to their knees and closed their eyes as the white hoods were ceremoniously placed onto their heads. They were Klansmen now, these six. Freddie Cobb, brother of the deceased, Jerry Maples, Clifton Cobb, Ed Wilburn, Morris Lancaster, and Terrell Grist. The grand dragon hovered above each one and chanted the sacred vows of klanhood. The flames from the cross scorched the faces of the new members as they knelt and quietly suffocated under the heavy robes and hoods. Sweat dripped from their red faces as they prayed fervently for the dragon to shut up with his nonsense and finish the ceremony. When the chanting stopped, the new members rose and quickly retreated from the cross. They were embraced by their new brothers, who grabbed their shoulders firmly and pounded primal incantations onto their sweaty collarbones. The heavy hoods were removed, and the Klansmen, both new members and old, walked proudly from the pasture and into the rustic cabin across the dirt road. The same guard sat on the front steps as the whiskey was poured around the table and plans were made for the trial of Carl Lee Hailey.

Deputy Pirtle pulled the graveyard shift, ten to six, and had stopped for coffee and pie at Gurdy's all-night diner on the highway north of town when his radio blared out the news

that he was wanted at the jail. It was three minutes after midnight, Friday morning.

Pirtle left his pie and drove a mile south to the jail. "What's up?" he asked the dispatcher.

"We got a call a few minutes ago, anonymous, from someone lookin' for the sheriff. I explained that he was not on duty, so they asked for whoever was on duty. That's you. They said it was very important, and they'd call back in fifteen minutes."

Pirtle poured some coffee and relaxed in Ozzie's big chair. The phone rang. "It's for you," yelled the dispatcher.

"Hello," answered Pirtle.

"Who's this?" asked the voice.

"Deputy Joe Pirtle. Who's this?"

"Where's the sheriff?"

"Okay listen, and listen real good because this is important and I ain't callin' again. You know that Hailey nigger?"

"You know his lawyer, Brigance?"

"Then listen. Sometime between now and three A.M., they're gonna blow up his house."

"No, I mean who's gonna blow up his house?"

"Don't worry about that, Deputy, just listen to me. This ain't no joke, and if you think it's a joke, just sit there and wait for his house to go up. It may happen any minute."

The voice became silent but did not disappear. Pirtle listened. "You still there?"

"Good night, Deputy." The receiver clicked.

Pirtle jumped to his feet and ran to the dispatcher. "Did you listen?"

"Call Ozzie and tell him to get down here. I'll be at the Brigance house."

Pirtle hid his patrol car in a driveway on Monroe Street and walked across the front lawns to Jake's house. He saw noth-

ing. It was 12:55 A.M. He walked arouno me nuusc wim "." flashlight and noticed nothing unusual. Every house on the street was dark and asleep. He unscrewed the light bulb on the front porch and took a seat in a wicker chair. He waited. The odd-looking foreign car was parked next to the Oldsmo-bile under the veranda. He would wait and ask Ozzie about notifying Jake.

Headlights appeared at the end of the street. Pirtle slumped lower in the chair, certain he could not be seen. A red pickup moved suspiciously toward the Brigance house but did not stop. He sat up and watched it disappear down the street.

Moments later he noticed two figures jogging from the direction of the square. He unbuttoned his holster and removed his service revolver. The first figure was much larger than the second, and seemed to run with more ease and grace. It was Ozzie. The other was Nesbit. Pirtle met the two in the driveway and they retreated into the darkness of the front porch. They whispered and watched the street.

"What exactly did he say?" asked Ozzie.

"Said someone's gonna blow up Jake's house between now and three A.M. Said it was no joke."

"Yep. He wasn't real friendly."

"How long you been here?"

Ozzie turned to Nesbit. "Give me your radio and go hide in the backyard. Stay quiet and keep your eyes open."

Nesbit scurried to the rear of the house and found a small opening between the shrubs along the back fence. Crawling on all fours, he disappeared into the shrubs. From his nest he could see the entire rear of the house.

"You gonna tell Jake?" asked Pirtle.

"Not yet. We might in a minute. If we knock on the door, they'll be turnin' on lights and we don't need that right now."

"Yeah, but what if Jake hears us and comes through the door firin' away. He might think we're just a couple of niggers tryin' to break in."

Ozzie watched the street and said nothing.

"Look, Ozzie, put yourself in his place. The cops have

your house surrounded at one o'clock in the mornin' waitin' for somebody to throw a bomb. Now, would you wanna stay in bed asleep or would you wanna know about it?"

Ozzie studied the houses in the distance.

"Listen, Sheriff, we better wake them up. What if we don't stop whoever's plannin' this, and somebody inside the house gets hurt? We get blamed, right?"

Ozzie stood and punched the doorbell. "Unscrew that light bulb," he ordered, pointing at the porch ceiling.

Ozzie punched the doorbell again. The wooden door swung open, and Jake walked to the storm door and stared at the sheriff. He was wearing a wrinkled nightshirt that fell just below his knees, and he held a loaded .38 in his right hand. He slowly opened the storm door.

"What is it, Ozzie?" he asked.

"Yeah. What's going on?"

"Stay here on the porch," Ozzie told Pirtle. "I'll be just a minute."

Ozzie closed the front door behind them and turned off the light in the foyer. They sat in the dark living room overlooking the porch and the front yard.

"Start talking," Jake said.

" 'Bout a half hour ago we took an anonymous call from someone who said that someone planned to blow up your house between now and three A.M. We're takin' it serious."

"I've got Pirtle on the front porch and Nesbit in the backyard. 'Bout ten minutes ago Pirtle saw a pickup drive by real interested like, but that's all we've seen."

"Have you searched around the house?"

"Yeah, nothin'. They ain't been here yet. But somethin' tells me this is the real thing."

Jake laid the .38 beside him on the couch and rubbed his temples. "What's your suggestion?"

"Sit and wait. That's all we can do. You got a rifle?"

"I've got enough guns to invade Cuba."

"Why don't you get it and get dressed. Take a position

in one of those cute little windows upstairs. We'll niae oui-side and wait,"

"Have you got enough men?"

"Yeah, I figure there'll only be one or two of them."

"Don't know. Could be the Klan, could be some freelancers. Who knows?"

Both men sat in deep thought and stared at the dark street. They could see the top of Pirtle's head as he slumped in the wicker chair just outside the window.

"Jake, you remember those three civil rights workers killed by the Klan back in '64? Found them buried in a levee down around Philadelphia."

"Sure. I was a kid, but I remember."

"Those boys woulcPve never been found if someone hadn't told where they was. That someone was in the Klan. An informant. Seems like that always happened to the Klan. Somebody on the inside was always squealin'."