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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:17

"Lemme check." Cat phoned someone and mumbled a few sentences into the receiver. The orders given, he hung up and explained it would take about an hour.

"We can wait," Carl Lee said.

Cat removed the patch from his left eye and wiped the empty socket with a handkerchief. "I gotta better idea." He snapped at the bodyguards. "Get my car. We'll drive over and pick it up."

They followed Cat through a secret door and down a hall. "I live here, you know." He pointed. "Through that door is my pad. Usually keep some naked women around."

"I'd like to see it," Lester volunteered.

"That's okay," said Carl Lee.

Farther down the hall Cat pointed to a thick, black, shiny iron door at the end of a short hallway. He stopped as if to admire it. "That's where I keep my cash. Post a guard in there around the clock."

"How much?" Lester asked with a sip of beer.

Cat glared at him and continued down the hall. Carl Lee frowned at his brother and shook his head. Where the hall ended they climbed a narrow stairway to the fourth floor. It was darker, and somewhere in the darkness Cat found a button on a wall. They waited silently for a few " u,.m me wait opened and revealed a bright elevator with red carpet and a NO SMOKING sign. Cat pushed another button.

"You gotta walk up to catch the elevator goin' down," he said with amusement. "Security reasons." They nodded approval and admiration.

It opened in the basement. One of the bodyguards waited by the open door of a clean white stretch limo, and Cat invited his guests in for a ride. They moved slowly past a row of Fleetwoods, several more limos, a Rolls, and an assortment of European luxury cars. "They're all mine," he said proudly.

The driver honked and a heavy door rolled up to reveal a one-way side street. "Drive slow," Cat yelled to the chauffeur and the bodyguard way up front. "I wanna show you fellas around some."

Carl Lee had received the tour a few years earlier during his last visit to Cat. There were rows of beaten and paintless shacks that the great man referred to as rental properties. There were ancient red-bricked warehouses with blackened or boarded windows and no clue as to what was stored inside. There was a church, a prosperous church, and a few blocks away, another one. He owned the preachers too, he said. There were dozens of corner taverns with open doors and groups of young blacks sitting on benches outside drinking quart bottles of Stag beer. He pointed proudly to a burned-out building near Beale and told with great zeal the story of a competitor who had attempted to gain a foothold in the topless business. He had no competitors, he said. And then there were the clubs, places with names like Angels and Cat's House and Black Paradise, places where a man could go for good drink, good food, good music, naked women, and possibly more, he said. The clubs had made him a very rich man. Eight of them in all.

They were shown all eight. Plus what seemed like most of the real estate in south Memphis. At the dead end of a nameless street near the river, the driver turned sharply between two of the red-bricked warehouses and drove through a narrow alley until a gate opened to the right. Past the gate a door opened next to a loading dock and the limo disappeared into the building. It stopped and the bodyguard got out.

"Keep your seats," Cat said.

The trunk opened, then shut. In less than a minute the limo was again cruising the streets of Memphis.

"How 'bout lunch?" Cat asked. Before they answered he yelled at the driver, "Black Paradise. Call and tell them I'm comin' for lunch.

"Got the best prime rib in Memphis, right here in one of my clubs. Course you won't read about it in the Sunday paper. I've been shunned by the critics. Can you imagine?"

"Sounds like discrimination," Lester said.

"Yeah, I'm sure it is. But I don't use that until I'm indicted."

"We ain't read about you lately, Cat," Carl Lee said.

"It's been three years since my last trial. Tax evasion. Feds spent three weeks puttin' on proof, and the jury stayed out twenty-seven minutes and returned with the two most precious words in the Afro-English language-'Not guilty.' "

"I've heard them myself," Lester said.

A doorman waited under the canopy at the club, and a set of matching bodyguards, different bodyguards, escorted the great one and his guests to a private booth away from the dance floor. Drinks and food were served by a squad of waiters. Lester switched to Scotch and was drunk when the prime rib arrived. Carl Lee drank iced tea and swapped war stories with Cat.

When the food was gone, a bodyguard approached and whispered to Cat. He grinned and looked at Carl Lee. "Y'all in the red Eldorado with Illinois plates?"

"Yeah. But we left it at the other place."

"It's parked outside ... in the trunk."

"What?" said Lester. "How-"

Cat roared and slapped him on the back. "Don't ask, my man, don't ask. It's all taken care of, my man. Cat can do anything."

As usual, Jake worked Saturday morning, after breakfast at the Coffee Shop. He enjoyed the tranquility of his office on Saturday-no phones, no Ethel. He locked the office, iguuicu me pnone, and avoided clients. He organized files, read recent decisions from the Supreme Court and planned strategy if a trial was approaching. His best thoughts and ideas came during quiet Saturday mornings.

At eleven he phoned the jail. "Sheriff in?" he asked the dispatcher.

"Lemme check," came the reply.

Moments passed before the sheriff answered. "Sheriff Walls," he announced.

"Ozzie, Jake Brigance. How are you?"

"Fine. Will you be there for a while?"

"Coupla hours. What's up?"

"Not much. Just need to talk for a minute. I'll be there in thirty minutes."

Jake and the sheriff had a mutual like and respect for each other. Jake had roughed him up a few times during cross-examinations, but Ozzie considered it business and nothing personal. Jake campaigned for Ozzie, and Lucien financed the campaigns, so Ozzie didn't mind a few sarcastic and pointed questions during trial. He liked to watch Jake at trial. And he liked to kid him about the game. In 1969, when Jake was a sophomore quarterback at Karaway, Ozzie was a senior all-conference, all-state tackle at Clanton. The two rivals, both undefeated, met in the final game at Clanton for the conference championship. For four long quarters Ozzie terrorized the Karaway offense, which was much smaller and led by a gutsy but battered sophomore quarterback. Late in the fourth quarter, leading 44-0, Ozzie broke Jake's leg on a blitz.

For years now he had threatened to break the other one. He always accused Jake of limping and asked about the leg.

"What's on your mind, buddy?" Ozzie asked as they sat in his small office.

"Carl Lee. I'm a little worried about him."

"Look, Ozzie, whatever we say here is said in confidence. I don't want anyone to know about this conversation."

"You sound serious, Jake."

"I am serious. I talked to Carl Lee Wednesday after the hearing. He's out of his mind, and I understand that. I would be too. He was talking about killing the boys, and he sounded serious. I just think you ought to know."

"They're safe, Jake. He couldn't get to them if he wanted to. We've had some phone calls, anonymous of course, with all kinds of threats. Black folks are bad upset. But the boys're safe. They're in a cell by themselves, and we're real careful."

"That's good. I haven't been hired by Carl Lee, but I've represented all the Haileys at one time or another and I'm sure he considers me to be his lawyer, for whatever reason. I feel a responsibility to let you know."

"I'm not worried, Jake."

"Good. Let me ask you something. I've got a daughter, and you've got a daughter, right?"

"What's Carl Lee thinking? I mean, as a black father?"

"Same thing you'd be thinkin'."

Ozzie reared back in his chair and crossed his arms. He thought for a moment. "He's wonderin' if she's okay, physically, I mean. Is she gonna live, and if she does, how bad is she hurt. Can she ever have kids? Then he's wonderin' if she's okay mentally and emotionally, and how will this affect her for the rest of her life. Thirdly, he wants to kill the bastards."

"It's easy to say I would, but a man don't know what he'd do. I think my kids need me at home a whole lot more than Parchman needs me. What would you be thinkin', Jake?"

"About the same, I guess. I don't know what I'd do. Probably go crazy." He paused and stared at the desk. "But I might seriously plan to kill whoever did it. It'd be mighty hard to lie down at night knowing he was still alive."

"What would a jury do?"

"Depends on who's on the jury. You pick the right jury and you walk. If the D.A. picks the right jury you get the gas. It depends strictly on the jury, and in this county you can. me ngrit lolks. People are tired of raping and robbing and killing. I know white folks are."

"My point is that there'd be a lot of sympathy for a father who took matters into his own hands. People don't trust our judicial system. I think I could at least hang a jury. Just convince one or two that the bastard needed to die."

"Exactly. Just like Monroe Bowie. He was a sorry nigger who needed killing and Lester took a walk. By the way, Ozzie, why do you suppose Lester drove from Chicago?"

"He's pretty close to his brother. We're watchin' him too."

The conversation changed and Ozzie finally asked about the leg. They shook hands and Jake left. He drove straight home, where Carla was waiting with her list. She didn't mind the Saturdays at the office as long as he was home by noon and pretty much followed orders thereafter.

On Sunday afternoon a crowd gathered at the hospital and followed the little Hailey girl's wheelchair as it was pushed by her father down the hall, through the doors, and into the parking lot, where he gently raised her and sat her in the front seat. As she sat between her parents, with her three brothers in the back seat, he drove away, followed by a procession of friends and relatives and strangers. The caravan moved slowly, deliberately out of town and into the country.

She sat up in the front seat like a big girl. Her father was silent, her mother tearful, and her brothers mute and rigid.

Another throng waited at the house and rushed to the porch as the cars moved up the driveway and parked on the grass on the long front yard. The crowd hushed as he carried her up the steps, through the door, and laid her on the couch. She was glad to be home, but tired of the spectators. Her mother held her feet as cousins, uncles, aunts, neighbors, and everybody walked to her and touched her and smiled, some through tears, and said nothing. Her daddy went outside and talked to Uncle Lester and the men. Her brothers were in the kitchen with the crowd devouring the pile of food.

Rocky Childers had been the prosecutor for Ford County for more years than he cared to remember. The job paid fifteen thousand a year and required most of his time. It also destroyed any practice he hoped to build. At forty-two he was washed up as a lawyer, stuck in a dead-end part-time, full-time job, elected permanently every four years. Thankfully, he had a wife with a good job so they could drive new Buicks and afford the country club dues and in general put on the necessary airs of educated white people in Ford County. At a younger age he had political ambitions, but the voters dissuaded him, and he was malcontent to exhaust his career prosecuting drunks, shoplifters, and juvenile delinquents, and being abused by Judge Bullard, whom he despised. Excitement crept up occasionally when people like Cobb and Willard screwed up, and Rocky, by statutory authority, handled the preliminary and other hearings before the cases were sent to the grand jury and then to Circuit Court, and then to the real prosecutor, the big prosecutor, the district attorney, Mr. Rufus Buckley, from Polk County. It was Buckley who had disposed of Rocky's political career.

Normally, a bail hearing was no big affair for Childers, but this was a bit different. Since Wednesday he had received dozens of phone calls from blacks, all registered voters or claiming to be, who were very concerned about Cobb and Willard being released from jail. They wanted the boys locked up, just like the black ones who got in trouble and could not make bail before trial. Childers promised his best, but explained the bonds would be set by County Judge Percy Bullard, whose number was also in the phone book. On Ben-nington Street. They promised to be in court Monday to watch him and Bullard.

At twelve-thirty Monday, Childers was summoned to the judge's chambers, where the sheriff and Bullard were waiting. The judge was so nervous he could not sit.

"How much bond do you want?" he snapped at Childers.

"I dunno, Judge. I haven't thought much about it."

"Don't you think it's about time you thought about it?" He paced rapidly back and forth behind his desk, then to the window, then back to his desk. Ozzie was amused and silent.

"Not really," Childers answered softly. "It's your decision. You're the judge."

"Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! How much will you ask for?"

"I always ask for more than I expect," replied Childers coolly, thoroughly enjoying the judge's neurosis.

"I dunno. I hadn't thought much about it."

Dullard's neck turned dark red and he glared at Ozzie. "Whatta you think, Sheriff?"

"Well," Ozzie drawled, "I would suggest pretty stiff bonds. These boys need to be in jail for their own safety. Black folk are restless out there. They might get hurt if they bond out. Better go high."

"How much money they got?"

"Willard's broke. Can't tell about Cobb. Drug money's hard to trace. He might could find twenty, thirty thousand. I hear he's hired some big-shot Memphis lawyer. Supposed to be here today. He must have some money."

"Damn, why don't I know these things. Who'd he hire?"

"Bernard. Peter K. Bernard," answered Childers. "He called me this morning."

"Never heard of him," retorted Bullard with an air of superiority, as though he memorized some kind of judicial rap sheet on all lawyers.

Bullard studied the trees outside the window as the sheriff and prosecutor exchanged winks. The bonds would be exorbitant, as always. The bail bondsmen loved Bullard for his outrageous bonds. They watched with delight as desperate families scraped and mortgaged to collect the ten percent premiums they charged to write the bonds. Bullard would be high, and he didn't care. It was politically safe to set them high and keep the criminals in jail. The blacks would appreciate it and that was important even if the county was seventy-four percent white. He owed the blacks a few favors.

"Let's go a hundred thousand on Willard and two hundred on Cobb. That oughtta satisfy them."

"Satisfy who?" asked Ozzie.

"Er, uh, the people, the people out there. Sound okay to you?"

"Fine with me," said Childers. "But what about the hearing?" he asked with a grin.

"We'll give them a hearing, a fair hearing, then I'll set the bonds at a hundred and two hundred."

"And I suppose you want me to ask for three hundred apiece so you can look fair?" asked Childers.

"I don't care what you ask for!" yelled the judge.

"Sounds fair to me," said Ozzie as he headed for the door. "Will you call me to testify?" he asked Childers.

"Naw, we don't need you. I don't guess the State will call anybody since we're having such a fair hearing."

They left the chambers and Bullard stewed. He locked the door behind them and pulled a half pint of vodka from his briefcase, and gulped it furiously. Mr. Pate waited outside the door. Five minutes later Bullard barged into the packed courtroom.

"All rise for the court!" Mr. Pate shouted.

"Be seated!" screamed the judge before anyone could stand. "Where are the defendants? Where?"

Cobb and Willard were escorted from the holding room and seated at the defense table. Cobb's new lawyer smiled at his client as the handcuffs were removed. Willard's lawyer, Tyndale, the public defender, ignored him.

The same crowd of blacks had returned from last Wednesday, and had brought some friends. They closely followed the movements of the two white boys. Lester saw them for the first time. Carl Lee was not in the courtroom.

From the bench Bullard counted deputies-nine in all. That had to be a record. Then he counted blacks-hundreds of them all bunched together, all glaring at the two rapists, who sat at the same table between their lawyers. The vodka felt good. He took a sip of what appeared to be ice water from a Styrofoam cup and managed a slight grin. It burned slowly downward and his cheeks flushed. What he ought to do was order the deputies out of the courtroom and throw Cobb and Willard to the niggers. That would be fun to watch, and justice would be served. He could just see the fat nigger women stomping up and down while their men carved on the boys with switchblades and machetes. Then, when they were finished, they would collect themselves and all march quietly from the courtroom. He smiled to himself.

He motioned for Mr. Pate, who approached the bench. "I've got a half pint of ice water in my desk drawer," he whispered. "Pour me some in a Styrofoam cup."

Mr. Pate nodded and disappeared.

"This is a bail hearing," he declared loudly, "and I don't intend for it to last long. Are the defendants ready?"

"Yes, sir," said Tyndale.

"Yes, Your Honor," said Mr. Bernard.

"Yes, sir," answered Childers without standing.

"Good. Call your first witness."