"We towed it in and examined it this mornin'. Lot of blood stains."
"We found a small T-shirt covered with blood."
"It belonged to Tonya Hailey, the little girl who was raped. Her daddy, Carl Lee Hailey, identified it this ?nin'."
Carl Lee heard his name and sat upright. Ozzie stared straight at him. Jake turned and saw Carl Lee for the first time.
"Describe the truck."
"New yellow Ford half-ton pickup. Big chrome wheels and mud tires. Rebel flag in the rear window."
Ozzie pointed at the defendants. "Billy Ray Cobb."
"Does it match the description given by the girl?"
Childers paused and reviewed his notes. "Now, Sheriff, what other evidence do you have against these defendants?"
"We talked to Pete Willard this mornin' at the jail. He signed a confession."
"You did what!" Cobb blurted. Willard cowered and looked for help.
"Order! Order!" shouted Bullard as he banged his gavel. Tyndale separated his clients.
"Did you advise Mr. Willard of his rights?"
"Did he understand them?"
"Did he sign a statement to that effect?"
"Who was present when Mr. Willard made his statement?"
"Me, two deputies, my investigator, Rady, and Lieutenant Griffin with the Highway Patrol."
"Do you have the confession?"
The courtroom was still and silent as Ozzie read the short statement. Carl Lee stared blankly at the two defendants. Cobb glared at Willard, who picked dirt off his boots.
"Thank you, Sheriff," Childers said when Ozzie finished. "Did Mr. Willard sign the confession?"
"Yes, in front of three witnesses."
"The State has nothing further, Your Honor."
Bullard shouted, "You may cross-examine, Mr. Tyndale."
"I have nothing at this time, Your Honor."
Good move, thought Jake. Strategically, for the delisten, take notes, let the court reporter record the testimony, and stay quiet. The grand jury would see the case anyway, so why bother? And never allow the defendants to testify. Their testimony would serve no purpose and haunt them at trial. Jake knew they would not testify because he knew Tyndale.
"Call your next witness," demanded the Judge.
"We have nothing further, Your Honor."
"Good. Sit down. Mr. Tyndale, do you have any witnesses?"
"Good. The court finds there is sufficient evidence that numerous crimes have been committed by these defendants, and the court orders Mr. Cobb and Mr. Willard to be held to await action by the Ford County grand jury, which is scheduled to meet on Monday, May 27. Any questions?"
Tyndale rose slowly. "Yes, Your Honor, we would request the court to set a reasonable bond for these de-"
"Forget it," snapped Bullard. "Bail will be denied as of now. It's my understanding that the girl is in critical condition. If she dies, there will of course be other charges."
"Well, Your Honor, in that case, I would like to request a bail hearing a few days from now, in the hopes that her condition improves."
Bullard studied Tyndale carefully. Good idea, he thought. "Granted. A bail hearing is set for next Monday, May 20, in this courtroom. Until then the defendants will remain in the custody of the Ford County sheriff. Court's adjourned."
Bullard rapped the gavel and disappeared. The deputies swarmed around the defendants, handcuffed them, and they too disappeared from the courtroom, into the holding room, down the back stairs, past the reporters, and into the squad car.
The hearing was typical for Bullard-less than twenty minutes. Justice could be very swift in his courtroom.
Jake talked to the other lawyers and watched the crowd file silently through the enormous wooden doors at the rear of the courtroom. Carl Lee was in no hurry to leave, and motioned for Jake to follow him. They met in the rotunda.
Carl Lee wanted to talk, and he excused himself from the crowd and promised to meet them at the hospital. He and Jake walked down the winding staircase to the first floor.
"I'm truly sorry, Carl Lee," Jake said.
They walked slowly down the hall toward the rear of the courthouse. "It ain't sunk in yet. I mean, twenty-four hours ago everthing was fine. Now look at us. My little girl's layin' up in the hospital with tubes all over her body. My wife's, crazy and my boys are scared to death, and all I think about is gettin' my hands on those bastards."
"I wish I could do something, Carl Lee."
"All you can do is pray for her, pray for us."
"You gotta little girl, don't you, Jake?"
Carl Lee said nothing as they walked in silence. Jake changed the subject. "Where's Lester?"
"Workin' for a steel company. Good job. Got married."
"You're kidding? Lester, married?"
"Yeah, married a white girl."
"White girl! What's he want with a white girl?"
"Aw, you know Lester. Always an uppity nigger. He's on his way home now. Be in late tonight."
They stopped at the rear door. Jake asked again: "What's Lester coming in for?"
"Y'all planning something?"
"Nope. He just wants to see his niece."
"Y'all don't get excited."
"That's easy for you to say, Jake."
"What would you plan, Jake?"
"You gotta little girl. Suppose she's layin up in the hospital, beat and raped. What would you do?"
Jake looked through the window of the door and could not answer. Carl Lee waited.
"Don't do anything stupid, Carl Lee."
"Answer my question. What would you do?"
"I don't know. I don't know what I'd do."
"Lemme ask you this. If it was your little girl, and if it was two niggers, and you could get your hands on them, what would you do?"
Carl Lee smiled, then laughed. "Sure you would, Jake, sure you would. Then you'd hire some big-shot lawyer to say you's crazy, just like you did in Lester's trial."
"We didn't say Lester was crazy. We just said Bowie needed killing."
"You got him off, didn't you?"
Carl Lee walked to the stairs and looked up. "This how they get to the courtroom?" he asked without looking at Jake.
"Yeah. Most of the time they take them up those stairs. It's quicker and safer. They can park right outside the door here, and run them up the stairs."
Carl Lee walked to the rear door and looked through the window at the veranda. "How many murder trials you had, Jake?"
"Three. Lester's and two more."
"How many were black?"
"You pretty good on nigger shootin's, ain't you?"
"You ready for another one?"
"Don't do it, Carl Lee. It's not worth it. What if you're convicted and get the gas chamber? What about the kids? Who'll raise them? Those punks aren't worth it."
"You just told me you'd do it."
Jake walked to the door next to Carl Lee. "It's different with me. I could probably get off."
"I'm white, and this is a white county. With a little luck I could get an all-white jury, which will naturally be sympathetic. This is not New York or California. A man's supposed to protect his family. A jury would eat it up."
' "Like I said, this ain't New York or California. Some whites would admire you, but most would want to see you hang. It would be much harder to win an acquittal."
"But you could do it, couldn't you, Jake?"
"Don't do it, Carl Lee."
"I have no choice, Jake. I'll never sleep till those bastards are dead. I owe it to my little girl, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my people. It'll be done."
They opened the doors, walked under the veranda and down the driveway to Washington Street, across from Jake's office. They shook hands. Jake promised to stop by the hospital tomorrow to see Gwen and the family.
"One more thing, Jake. Will you meet me at the jail when they arrest me?"
Jake nodded before he thought. Carl Lee %miled and walked down the sidewalk to his truck.
Lester Hailey married a Swedish girl from Wisconsin, and although she still professed love for him, Lester suspected the novelty of his skin was beginning to fade. She was terrified of Mississippi, and flatly refused to travel south with Lester even though he assured her she would be safe. She had never met his family. Not that his people were anxious to meet her-they were not. It was not uncommon for Southern blacks to move north and marry white girls, but no Hailey had ever mixed. There were many Haileys in Chicago; most were kin, and all married black. The family was not impressed with Lester's blonde wife. He drove to Clanton in his new Cadillac, by himself.
It was late Wednesday night when he arrived at the hospital and found some cousins reading magazines in the second-floor waiting room. He embraced Carl Lee. They had not seen each other since the Christmas holidays, when half the blacks in Chicago trooped home to Mississippi and Alabama.