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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:32

Next to the door was a small stage, where a beautiful old black lady, Merle, sat at her piano and sang "Rainy Night in Georgia." Three long rows of tables ran to the front and stopped next to the stage. The tables were half full, and* a waitress in the back poured beer from a pitcher and motioned for them to come on in. She seated them in the rear, at a small table with a red-checkered tablecloth.

"Y'all want some fried dill pickles, honey?" she asked Jake.

Ellen frowned and looked at Jake. "Fried dill pickles?"

"Yes, of course. They don't serve them in Boston?"

"Do you people fry everything?"

"Everything that's worth eating. If you don't like them, I'll eat them."

A yell went up from the table across the aisle. Four couples toasted something or somebody, then broke into riotous laughing. The restaurant maintained a constant roar of yelling and talking.

"The good thing about the Hollywood," Jake explained, "is that you can make all the noise you want and stay as long as you want, and nobody cares. When you get a table here, it's yours for the night. They'll start singing and dancing in a minute."

Jake ordered sauteed shrimp and charbroiled catfish for both of them. Ellen passed on the frog legs. The waitress hurried back with the Chablis and two chilled glasses. They toasted Carl Lee Hailey and his insane mind.

"Whatta you think of Bass?" Jake asked.

"He's the perfect witness. He'll say anything we want him to say."

"Does that bother you?"

"It would if he was a fact witness. But he's an expert, and he can get by with his opinions. Who will challenge him?"

"When he's sober. We talked twice this week. On lues-day he was lucid and helpful. On Wednesday, he was drunk and indifferent. I think he'll be as helpful as any psychiatrist we could find. He doesn't care what the truth is, and he'll tell us what we want to hear."

"Does he think Carl Lee was legally insane?"

"No. Row Ark, Carl Lee told me five days before the 'killings that he would do it. He showed me the exact place where he would ambush them, although at the time I didn't realize it. Our client knew exactly what he was doing."

"Why didn't you stop him?"

"Because I didn't believe him. His daughter had just been raped and was fighting for her life."

"Would you have stopped him if you could?"

"I did tell Ozzie. But at the time neither of us dreamed it could happen. No, I would not have stopped him if I knew for certain. I would have done the same thing."

"Exactly as he did it. It was very easy."

Ellen approached a fried dill pickle with her fork and played with it suspiciously. She cut it in half, pierced it with the fork, and sniffed it carefully. She put it in her mouth and chewed slowly. She swallowed, then pushed her pile of pickles across the table toward Jake.

"Typical yankee," he said. "I don't understand you, Row Ark. You don't like fried dill pickles, you're attractive, very bright, you could go to work with any blue-chip law firm in the country for megabucks, yet you want to spend your career losing sleep over cutthroat murderers who are on death row and about to get their just rewards. What makes you tick, Row Ark?"

"You lose sleep over the same people. Now it's Carl

Lee Hailey. Next year it'll be some other murderer who everybody hates but you'll lose sleep over him because he happens to be your client. One of these days, Brigance, you'll have a client on death row, and you'll learn how terrible it is. When they strap him in the chair and he looks at you for the last time, you'll be a changed man. You'll know how barbaric the system is, and you'll remember Row Ark."

"Then I'll grow a beard and join the ACLU."

"Probably, if they would accept you."

The sauteed shrimp arrived in a small black skillet. It simmered in butter and garlic and barbeque sauce. Ellen dipped spoonfuls onto her plate and ate like a refugee. Merle lit into a stirring rendition of "Dixie," and the crowd sang and clapped along.

The waitress ran by and threw a platter of battered and crunchy frog legs on the table. Jake finished a glass of wine and grabbed a handful of the frog legs. Ellen tried to ignore them. When they were full of appetizers, the catfish was served. The grease popped and fizzed and they did not touch the china. It was charbroiled to a deep brown crisp with black squares from the grill burned on each side. They ate and drank slowly, watching each other and savoring the delicious entree.

At midnight, the bottle was empty and the lights were dimmed. They said good night to the waitress and to Merle. They walked carefully down the steps and to the car. Jake buckled his seat belt.

"I'm too drunk to drive," he said.

"So am I. I saw a little motel not far down the road."

"I saw it too, and there were no vacancies. Nice try, Row Ark. Get me drunk and try to take advantage of me."

"I would if I could, mister."

For a moment their eyes met. Ellen's face reflected the red light cast by the neon sign that flashed HOLLYWOOD atop the restaurant.

The moment grew longer and then the sign was turned off. The restaurant had closed.

Jake started the Saab, let it warm, and raced away into the darkness.

Mickey Mouse called Ozzie early Saturday morning at his home and promised more trouble from the Klan. 'file riot on Thursday had not been their fault, he explained, yet they were being blamed for it. They had marched in peace, and now their leader lay near death with seventy percent of his body covered with third-degree burns. There would be retaliation; it had been ordered from above. Reinforcements were on the way from other states, and there would be violence. No specifics now, but he would call later when he knew more.

Ozzie sat on the side of his bed, rubbed the swollen hump on the back of his neck and called the mayor. And he called Jake. An hour later they met in Ozzie's office.

"The situation is about to get outta hand," Ozzie said, holding an ice pack to his neck and grimacing with every word. "I've got it from a reliable informant that the Klan plans to retaliate for what happened Thursday. They're supposed to bring fresh troops from other states."

"Do you believe it?" asked the mayor.

"I'm afraid not to believe it."

"Same informant?" asked Jake.

"Somebody said there was talk of movin' or postponin' the trial," Ozzie said. "Any chance of it?"

"No. I met with Judge Noose yesterday. It won't be moved and it'll start Monday."

"Did you tell him about the burnin' crosses?"

"I told him everything."

"Is he crazy?" asked the mayor.

"Yes, and stupid. But don't quote me on that."

"Is he on solid legal ground?" asked Ozzie.

Jake shook his head. "More like quicksand."

"What have you got in mind?" asked the mayor.

Ozzie changed ice packs and carefully rubbed his neck. He spoke with pain. "I have a strong desire to prevent another riot. Our hospital is not big enough to allow this crap to continue. We must do something. The blacks are angry and volatile, and it wouldn't take much to ignite them. Some

blacks are just lookin' for a reason to start shootin', and those white robes are good targets. I've got a hunch the Klan may do somethin' really stupid, like try to kill somebody. They're gettin' more national exposure off this than they've had in ten years. The informant told me that after Thursday they've had calls from all over the country from volunteers wantin' to come down here and join the fun."

He slowly rolled his head around his shoulders and changed ice packs again. "I hate to say it, Mayor, but I think you should call the governor and ask for the National Guard. I know it's a drastic step, but I'd hate to get someone killed."

"The National Guard!" the mayor repeated in disbelief.

"That's what I said."

"Occupying Clanton?" .

"Yep. Protectin' your people."

"Patrolling the streets?"

"Yep. With guns and everthing."

"Oh my, this is drastic. Aren't you overreacting a bit?"

"No. It's evident I don't have enough men to keep peace around here. We couldn't even stop a riot that happened right in front of us. The Klan's burnin' crosses all over the county, and we can't do anything about it. What will we do when the blacks decide to start some trouble? I don't have enough men, Mayor. I need some help."

Jake thought it was a marvelous idea. How could a fair and impartial jury be chosen when the National Guard had the courthouse surrounded? He thought of the jurors arriving for court Monday and walking past the soldiers with guns and jeeps and maybe even a tank or two parked in front of the courthouse. How could they be fair and impartial? How could Noose insist on trying the case in Clanton? How could the Supreme Court refuse to reverse if, heaven forbid, there was a conviction? It was a great idea.

"Whatta you think, Jake?" asked the mayor, looking for help.

"I don't think you have a choice, Mayor. We can't stand another riot. It could hurt you politically."

"I'm not worried about politics," the mayor replied angrily, knowing Jake and O/zie knew better. The mayor had been reelected last time by less than fifty votes and did not

make a move without weighing the political fallout. Ozzie caught a grin from Jake as the mayor squirmed with the thought of having his quiet little town occupied by the army.

After dark Saturday, Ozzie and Hastings led Carl Lee out the rear door of the jail and into the sheriff's patrol car. They talked and laughed as Hastings drove in slow motion out into the country, past Bates Grocery and onto Craft Road. The Haileys' front yard was covered with cars when they arrived, so he parked in the road. Carl Lee walked through his front door like a free man and was immediately embraced by a mob of kinfolks, friends, and his children. They had not been told he was coming. He hugged them desperately, all four at the same time in one long bear hug as if there might be no more for a long time. The crowd watched in silence as this huge man knelt on the floor and buried his head among his weeping children. Most of those in the crowd wept too.

The kitchen was covered with food, and the guest of honor was seated in his usual chair at the head of the table with his wife and children seated around him. Reverend Agee returned thanks with a short prayer of hope and home-coming. A hundred friends waited on the family. Ozzie and Hastings filled their plates and retreated to the front porch, where they swatted mosquitoes and planned strategy for the trial. Ozzie was deeply concerned about Carl Lee's safety while they moved him from the jail to court and back each day. The defendant himself had proven clearly that such journeys are not always safe.

After supper the crowd spilled out into the front yard. The children played while the adults stayed on the porch, as close as possible to Carl Lee. He was their hero, the most famous man most of them would ever see, and they knew him personally. To his people he was on trial for one reason only. Sure he killed those boys, but that wasn't the issue. If he was white, he would receive civic awards for what he did. They would half-heartedly prosecute him, but with a white jury the trial would be a joke. Carl Lee was on trial because he was black. And if they convicted him, it would be because he was black. No other reason. They believed that. They

listened carefully as he talked about the trial. He wanted their prayers and support, and wanted them all to be there and watch it and to protect his family.

They sat for hours in the sweltering humidity; Carl Lee and Gwen in the swing rocking slowly, surrounded by admirers all wanting to be near this great man. When they began to leave they all embraced him and promised to be there Monday. They wondered if they would see him again sitting on his front porch.

At midnight Ozzie said it was time to go. Carl Lee hugged Gwen and the kids one last time, then took his seat in Ozzie's car.

Bud Twitty died during the night. The dispatcher called Nes-bit, who told Jake. He made a note to send flowers.

Sunday. One day before trial. Jake awoke at 5:00 A.M. with a knot in his stomach that he attributed to the trial, and a headache that he attributed to the trial and a late Saturday night session on Lu-cien's porch with his law clerk and former boss. Ellen had decided to sleep in a guest room at Lucien's, so Jake spent the night on his couch in the office.

He lay on the couch and heard voices from the street below. He staggered in the dark to the balcony, and stopped in amazement at the scene around the courthouse. D-Day! The war was on! Patton had arrived! The streets around the square were lined with transport trucks, jeeps, and soldiers busy running here and there in an effort to get organized and look military. Radios squawked, and potbellied commanders yelled to their men to hurry and get organized. A command post was set up near the gazebo on the front lawn. Three squads of soldiers hammered on stakes and pulled ropes and strung up three enormous canvas camouflage pavilions. Barricades were set up on the four corners of the square, and sentries took their positions. They smoked cigarettes and leaned on the street lights.

Nesbit sat on the trunk of his car and watched the fortifying of downtown Clanton. He chatted with a few of the guardsmen. Jake made coffee and took him a cup. He was awake now, safe and secure, and Nesbit could go home and rest until dark. Jake returned to the balcony and watched the activity until dawn. Once the troops were unloaded, the transport trucks were moved to the National Guard armory north of town, where the men would sleep. He estimated their number at two hundred. They piddled around the courthouse and walked in small groups around the square, looking in shops, waiting for daylight and the hope of some excitement.

Noose would be furious. How dare they call the National Guard without asking him. It was his trial. The mayor had mentioned this, and Jake had explained that it was the

mayors responsiomiy 10 Keep laniun saie, iiui me iriai judge's. Ozzie concurred, and Noose was not called.

The sheriff and Moss Junior latum arrived and met with the colonel in the gazebo. They walked around the courthouse, inspecting troops and pavilions. Ozzie pointed in various directions and the colonel seemed to agree with whatever he wanted. Moss Junior unlocked the' courthouse so the troops would have drinking water and toilet facilities. It was after nine before the first of the vultures stumbled onto the occupation of downtown Clanton. Within an hour they were running everywhere with cameras and microphones gathering important words from a sergeant or a corporal.

"What is your name, sir?"

"Sergeant Drumwright."

"Where are you from?"

" 'Bout a hundred miles from here."

"Governor called us."

"Why did he call you?"

"Keep things under control."

"Are you expecting trouble?"

"How long will you be here?"

"Will you be here until the trial's over?"

"The governor, I reckon."

Word of the invasion spread quickly through the quiet Sunday morning, and after church the townfolk streamed to the square to verify for themselves that the army had indeed captured the courthouse. The sentries removed the barricades and allowed the curious to drive around their square and gawk at the real live soldiers with their rifles and jeeps. Jake sat on the balcony, drinking coffee and memorizing the notecards of his jurors.

He called Carla and explained that the National Guard

had been deployed, but he was still sate, in tact, ne naa never felt so safe. As he talked to her, he explained, there were hundreds of heavily armed army militiamen across Washington Street just waiting to protect him. Yes, he still had his bodyguard. Yes, the house was still standing. He doubted if the death of Bud Twitty had been reported yet, so he did not tell her. Maybe she would not hear of it. They were going fishing on her father's boat, and Hanna wanted her daddy to go. He said goodbye, and missed the two women in his life more than ever.

Ellen Roark unlocked the rear door of the office and placed a small grocery sack on the table in the kitchen. She pulled a file out of her briefcase and began looking for her boss. He was on the balcony, staring at notecards and watching the courthouse. "Evenin', Row Ark."

"Good evening, boss." She handed him a brief an inch thick. "It's the research you requested on the admissibility of the rape. It's a tough issue, and it got involved. I apologize for the size of it."

It was as neat as her other briefs, complete with a table of contents, bibliography, and numbered pages. He flipped through it. "Damn, Row Ark, I didn't ask for a textbook."

"I know you're intimidated by scholarly work, so I made a conscious effort to use words with fewer than three syllables."

"My, aren't we frisky today. Could you summarize this in a dissertation of, say, thirty pages or so?"

"Look, it's a thorough study of the law by a gifted law student with a remarkable ability to think and write clearly. It's a work of genius, and it's yours, and it's absolutely free. So quit bitching."

"Yes, ma'am. Does your head hurt?"

"Yes. It's been aching since I woke up this morning. I've typed on that brief for ten hours, and I need a drink. Do you have a blender?"

"Blender. It's a new invention we have up North. They're kitchen appliances."

. "There's one in the shelves next to the microwave."

she disappeared. It was almost dark, and the traffic had thinned around the square as the Sunday drivers had grown bored with the sight of soldiers guarding their courthouse. After twelve hours of suffocating heat and foglike humidity in downtown Clanton, the troops were weary and homesick. They sat under trees and on folding canvas chairs, and cursed the governor. As it grew darker, they strung wires from inside the courthouse and hung floodlights around -the pavilions. By the post office a carload of blacks arrived with lawn chairs and candles to start the nightly vigil. They began pacing the sidewalk along Jackson Street under the suddenly aroused stares of two hundred heavily armed guardsmen. The lead walker was Miss Rosia Alfie Gatewood, a two-hundred-pound widow who had raised eleven children and sent nine to college. She was the first black known to have sipped cold water from the public fountain on the square and live to tell about it. She glared at the soldiers. They did not speak.

Ellen returned with two Boston College beer mugs filled with a pale green liquid. She sat them on the table and pulled up a chair.

"Drink it. It'll help you relax."

"I'll drink it. But I'd like to know what it is."

Jake studied the top of his mug. "Where's the salt?"

"I don't like salt on mine."

"Well, I don't either then. Why margaritas?"

Jake closed his eyes and took a long drink. And then another. "Row Ark, you are a talented woman."

He took another long drink. "I haven't had a margarita in eight years."

"I'm very sorry." Her twenty-ounce mug was half empty.

"I would call you a dumbass if you weren't my boss."

"It's not rum. It's tequila, with lime juice and Coin-treau. I thought every law student knew that."

"How can you ever forgive me? I'm sure I knew it when I was a law student." ?

She gazed around the square.

"This is incredible! It looks like a war zone."

Jake drained his glass.and licked his lips. Under the pavilions they played cards and laughed. Others sought'refuge from the mosquitoes in the courthouse. The candles turned the corner and made a pass down Washington Street.

"Yes," Jake said with a smile. "It's beautiful, isn't it? Think of our fair and impartial jurors as they arrive in the morning and are confronted with that. I'll renew my motion for a change of venue. It'll be denied. I'll ask for a mistrial, and Noose will say no. And then I'll make sure the court reporter records the fact that this trial is being conducted in the middle of a three-ring circus."