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

"You think it's the Klan?"

"Sure looks like it. If it was just one or two freelancers, then who else would know about it? The bigger the group, the better the chance of someone tippin' us off."

"That makes sense, but for some reason I'm not comforted by it."

"Of course, it could be a joke."

"You gonna tell your wife?"

"Yeah. I'd better go do that."

"I would too. But don't be turnin' on lights. You might scare them off."

"But I would like to scare them off."

"And I'd like to catch them. If we don't catch them now, they'll try again, and next time they might forget to call us ahead of time."

Carla dressed hurriedly in the dark. She was terrified. Jake laid Hanna on the couch in the den, where she mumbled something and went back to sleep. Carla held her head and watched Jake load a rifle.

"I'll be upstairs in the guest room. Don't turn on any lights. The cops have the place surrounded, so don't worry."

"Don't worry! Are you crazy?"

"Try to go back to sleep."

"Sleep! Jake, you've lost your mind."

They didn't wait long. From his vantage point somewhere deep in the shrubs in front of the house, Ozzie saw him first: a lone figure walking casually down the street from the direction opposite the square. He had in his hand a small box or case of some sort. When he was two houses away, he left the street and cut through the front lawns of the neighbors. Ozzie pulled his revolver and nightstick and watched the man walk directly toward him. Jake had him in the scope of his deer rifle. Pirtle crawled like a snake across the porch and into the shrubs, ready to strike.

Suddenly, the figure darted across the front lawn next door and to the side of Jake's house. He carefully laid the small suitcase under Jake's bedroom window. As he turned to run, a huge black nightstick crashed across the side of his head, ripping his right ear in two places, each barely hanging to his head. He screamed and fell to the ground.

"I got him!" Ozzie yelled. Pirtle and Nesbit sprinted to the side of the house. Jake calmly walked down the stairs.

"I'll be back in a minute," he told Carla.

Ozzie grabbed the suspect by the neck and sat him next to the house. He was conscious but dazed. The suitcase was inches away.

"What's your name?" Ozzie demanded.

He moaned and clutched his head and said nothing.

"I asked you a question," Ozzie said as he hovered over his suspect. Pirtle and Nesbit stood nearby, guns drawn, too frightened to speak or move. Jake stared at the suitcase.

"I ain't sayin'," came the reply.

Ozzie raised the nightstick high over his head and drove it solidly against the man's right ankle. The crack of the bone was sickening.

He howled and grabbed his leg. Ozzie kicked him in the face. He fell backward and his head smashed into the side of the house. He rolled to his side and groaned in pain.

Jake knelt above the suitcase and put his ear next to it. He jumped and retreated. "It's ticking," he said weakly.

Ozzie bent over the suspect and laid the nightstick softly against his nose. "I've got one more question before I break ever bone in your body. What's in the box?"

Ozzie recoiled the nightstick and broke the other ankle. "What's in the box!" he shouted.

"Dynamite!" came the anguished reply.

Pirtle dropped his gun. Nesbit's blood pressure shot through his cap and he leaned on the house. Jake turned white and his knees vibrated. He ran through the front door yelling at Carla. "Get the car keys! Get the car keys!"

"What for?" she asked nervously.

"Just do as I say. Get the car keys and get in the car."

He lifted Hanna and carried her through the kitchen, into the carport, and laid her in the back seat of Carla's Cutlass. He took Carla by the arm and helped her into the car. "Leave, and don't come back for thirty minutes."

"Jake, what's going on?" she demanded.

"I'll tell you later. There's no time now. Just leave. Go drive around for thirty minutes. Stay away from this street."

"But why, Jake? What have you found?"

She backed out of the driveway and disappeared.

When Jake returned to the side of the house, the suspect's left hand had been handcuffed to the gas meter next to the window. He was moaning, mumbling, cursing. Ozzie carefully lifted the suitcase by the handle and sat it neatly between the suspect's broken legs. Ozzie kicked both legs to spread them. He groaned louder. Ozzie, the deputies, and Jake backed away slowly and watched him. He began to cry.

"I don't know how to defuse it," he said through clenched teeth.

"You'd better learn fast," Jake said, his voice somewhat stronger.

The suspect closed his eyes and lowered his head. He bit his lip and breathed loudly and rapidly. Sweat dripped from his chin and eyebrows. His ear was shredded and hung like a falling leaf. "Give me a flashlight."

Pirtle handed him a flashlight.

"I need both hands," he said.

"Try it with one," Ozzie said.

He placed his fingers gently on the latch and closed his eyes.

"Let's get outta here," Ozzie said. They ran around the corner of the house and into the carport, as far away as possible.

"Where's your family?" Ozzie asked.

"Gone. Recognize him?"

"I never seen him," said Nesbit.

Pirtle shook his head.

Ozzie called the dispatcher, who called Deputy Riley, the self-trained explosives man for the county.

"What if he passes out and the bomb goes off?" Jake asked.

"You got insurance, don't you, Jake?" asked Nesbit.

"We'll give him a few minutes, then Pirtle can go check on him," said Ozzie.

"Okay, Nesbit can go."

"I think Jake should go," said Nesbit. "It's his house."

"Very funny," said Jake.

They waited and chatted nervously. Nesbit made another stupid remark about insurance. "Quiet!" Jake said. "I heard something."

They froze. Seconds later the suspect yelled again. They ran back across the front yard, then slowly turned the corner. The empty suitcase had been tossed a few feet away. Next to the man was a neat pile of a dozen sticks of dynamite. Between his legs was a large, round-faced clock with wires bound together with silver electrical tape.

"Is it defused?" Ozzie asked anxiously.

"Yeah," he replied between heavy, rapid breaths.

Ozzie knelt before him and removed the clock and the wires. He did not touch the dynamite. "Where are your buddies?"

He removed his nightstick and moved closer to the man. "I'm gonna start breakin' ribs one at a time. You better start talkin'. Now where are your buddies?"

Ozzie stood and quickly looked around, not at Jake and the deputies, but at the house next door. Seeing nothing, he raised the nightstick. The suspect's left arm hung from the gas meter, and Ozzie planted the stick just below the left armpit. He squealed and jerked to the left. Jake almost felt sorry for him.

"Where are they?" Ozzie demanded.

Jake turned his head as the sheriff landed another blow to the ribs.

Ozzie raised the nightstick.

"Stop . . . please stop," the suspect begged.

"Down that way. A couple of blocks."

"Get the patrol cars," Ozzie ordered.

Jake waited impatiently under the carport for his wife to return. At two-fifteen she drove slowly into the driveway and parked.

"Is Hanna asleep?" Jake asked as he opened the door.

"Good. Leave her there. We'll be leaving in a few minutes."

"Where are we going?"

"We'll discuss it inside."

Jake poured the coffee and tried to act calm. Carla was scared and shaking and angry and making it difficult to act calm. He described the bomb and suspect and explained that Ozzie was searching for the accomplice.

"I want you and Hanna to go to Wilmington and stay with your parents until after the trial," he said.

She stared at the coffee and said nothing.

"I've already called your dad and explained everything.

They're scared too, and they insist you stay with them until this thing is over."

"And what if I don't want to go?"

"Please, Carla. How can you argue at a time like this?"

"I'll be fine. Ozzie will give me a bodyguard and they'll watch the house around the clock. I'll sleep at the office some. I'll be safe, I promise."

She was not convinced.

"Look, Carla, I've got a thousand things on my mind right now. I've got a client facing the gas chamber and his trial is ten days away. I can't lose it. I'll work night and day from now until the twenty-second, and once the trial starts you won't see me anyway. The last thing I need is to be worried about you and Hanna. Please go."

"They were going to kill us, Jake. They tried to kill us."

"You promised to withdraw if the danger became real."

"It's out of the question. Noose would never allow me to withdraw at this late date."

"I feel as though you've lied to me."

"That's not fair. I think I underestimated this thing, and now it's too late."

She walked to the bedroom and began packing.

"The plane leaves Memphis at six-thirty. Your father will meet you at the Raleigh airport at nine-thirty."

Fifteen minutes later they left Clanton. Jake drove and Carla ignored him. At five, they ate breakfast in the Memphis airport. Hanna was sleepy but excited about seeing her grandparents. Carla said little. She had much to say, but as a rule, they didn't argue in front of Hanna. She ate quietly and sipped her coffee and watched her husband casually read the paper as if nothing had happened.

Jake kissed them goodbye and promised to call every day. The plane left on time. At seven-thirty he was in Ozzie's office.

"Who is he?" Jake asked the sheriff.

"We have no idea. No wallet, no identification, nothin'. And he ain't talkin'."

"Does anybody recognize him?"

Ozzie thought for a second. "Well, Jake, he's kinda hard to recognize right now. Got a lot of bandages on his face."

Jake smiled. "You play rough, don't you, big guy?"

"Only when I have to. I didn't hear you object."

"No, I wanted to help. What about his friend?"

"We found him sleepin' in a red GMC 'bout a half a mile from your house. Terrell Grist. Local redneck. Lives out from Lake Village. I think he's a friend of the Cobb family."

Jake repeated the name a few times. "Never heard of him. Where is he?"

"Hospital. Same room with the other."

"My God, Ozzie, did you break his legs too?"

"Jake, my friend, he resisted arrest. We had to subdue him. Then we had to interrogate him. He didn't want to cooperate."

"Not much. Don't know nothin'. I'm convinced he doesn't know the guy with the dynamite."

"You mean they brought in a professional?"

"Could be. Riley looked at the firecrackers and timin' device and said it was pretty good work. We'd have never found you, your wife, your daughter, probably never found your house. It was set for two A.M. Without the tip, you'd be dead, Jake. So would your family."

Jake felt dizzy and sat on the couch. Reaction set in like a hard kick to the groin. A case of diarrhea almost manifested itself, and he was nauseated.

"You get your family off?"

"Yeah," he said weakly.

"I'm gonna assign a deputy to you full-time. Got a preference?"

"One other thing. I guess you want this kept quiet?"

"If possible. Who knows about it?"