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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:18

"Not really. You did do it?"

Jake smiled, nodded, and crossed his arms. "How do you feel?"

Carl Lee relaxed and sat back in the folding chair. "Well, I feel better. I don't feel good 'bout the whole thing. I wish it didn't happen. But I wish my girl was okay too, you know. I didn't have nothin' against them boys till they messed with her. Now they got what they started. I feel sorry for their mommas and daddies, if they got daddies, which I doubt."

"How about the gas chamber?"

"Naw, Jake, that's why I got you. I don't plan to go to no gas chamber. I saw you get Lester off, now just get me off. You can do it, Jake."

"It's not quite that easy, Carl Lee."

"You just don't shoot a person, or persons, in cold blood, and then tell the jury they needed killing, and expect to walk out of the courtroom."

"You did with Lester."

"But every case is different. And the big difference here is that you killed two white boys and Lester killed a nigger. Big difference."

"Why should I be scared? I'm not facing the gas chamber."

"You don't sound too confident."

You big stupid idiot, thought Jake. How could he be confident at a time like this. The bodies were still warm. Sure, he was confident before the killings, but now it was different. His client was facing the gas for a crime which he admits he committed.

"Where'd you get the gun?"

"A friend in Memphis."

"Okay. Did Lester help?"

"Nope. He knew 'bout what Fs gonna do, and he wanted to help, but I wouldn't let him."

"She's pretty crazy right now, but tester's with her. She didn't know a thing about it."

"You know how kids are. They don't want their daddy in jail. They upset, but they'll make it. Lester'll take care of them."

"Is he going back to Chicago?"

"Not for a while. Jake, when do we go to court?"

"The preliminary should be tomorrow or Wednesday, depends on Bullard."

"He will be for the preliminary hearing. But he won't hear the trial. That'll be in Circuit Court."

"Who's the judge there?"

"Omar Noose from Van Buren County; same judge who tried Lester."

"Good. He's okay, ain't he?"

"Yeah, he's a good judge."

"When will the trial be?"

"Late summer or early fall. Buckley will push for a quick trial."

"Rufus Buckley. District attorney. Same D.A. who prosecuted Lester. You remember him. Big, loud guy-"

"Yeah, yeah, I remember. Big bad Rufus Buckley. I'd forgot all about him. He's pretty mean, ain't he?"

"He's good, very good. He's corrupt and ambitious, and he'll eat this up because of the publicity."

"You've beat him, ain't you?"

"Yeah, and he's beat me."

Jake opened his briefcase and removed a file. Inside was a contract for legal services, which he studied although he had it memorized. His fees were based on the ability to pay, and the blacks generally could pay little unless there was a close and generous relative in St. Louis or Chicago with a good-paying job. Those were rare. In Lester's trial there had been a brother in California who worked for the post office but he'd been unwilling or unable to help. There were some sisters scattered around but they had their own problems and had offered only moral support for Lester. Gwen had a big family, and they stayed out of trouble, but

they were not prosperous. Carl Lee owned a few acres around his house and had mortgaged it to help Lester pay Jake before.

He had charged Lester five thousand for his murder trial; half was paid before trial and the rest in installments over three years.

Jake hated to discuss fees. It was the most difficult part of practicing law. Clients wanted to know up front, immediately, how much he would cost, and they all reacted differently. Some were shocked, some just swallowed hard, a few had stormed out of his office. Some negotiated, but most paid or promised to pay.

He studied the file and the contract and thought desperately of a fair fee. There were other lawyers out there who would take such a case for almost nothing. Nothing but publicity. He thought about the acreage, and the job at the paper mill, and the family, and finally said, "My fee is ten thousand."

Carl Lee was not moved. "You charged Lester five thousand."

Jake anticipated this. "You have three counts; Lester had one."

"How many times can I go to the gas chamber?"

"Good point. How much can you pay?"

"I can pay a thousand now," he said proudly. "And I'll borrow as much as I can on my land and give it all to you."

Jake thought a minute. "I've got a better idea. Let's agree on a fee. You pay a thousand now and sign a note for the rest. Borrow on your land and pay against the note."

"How much you want?" asked Carl Lee.

"You can pay more than that."

"And you can do it for less than ten."

"Okay, I can do it for nine."

"Then I can pay six."

"Can we agree on seventy-five hundred?"

"Yeah, I think I can pay that much. Depends on how much they'll loan me on my land. You want me to pay a thousand now and sign a note for sixty-five hundred?"

"Okay, you got a deal."

Jake filled in the blanks in the contract and promissory note, and Carl Lee signed both.

"Jake, how much would you charge a man with plenty of money?"

"Fifty thousand! You serious?"

"Man, that's a lotta money. You ever get that much?"

"No, but I haven't seen too many people on trial for murder with that kind of money."

Carl Lee wanted to know about his bond, the grand jury, the trial, the witnesses, who would be on the jury, when could he get out of jail, could Jake speed up the trial, when could he tell his version, and a thousand other questions. Jake said they would have plenty of time to talk. He promised to call Gwen and his boss at the paper mill.

He left and Carl Lee was placed in his cell, the one next to the cell for state prisoners.

The Saab was blocked by a television van. Jake inquired as to who owned it. Most of the reporters had left but a few loitered about, expecting something. It was almost dark.

"Are you with the sheriffs department?" asked a reporter.

"No, I'm a lawyer," Jake answered nonchalantly, attempting to seem disinterested.

"Are you Mr. Hailey's attorney?"

Jake turned and stared at the reporter as the others listened. "Matter of fact, I am."

"Will you answer some questions?"

"You can ask some. I won't promise any answers."

"Will you step over here?"

Jake walked to the microphones and cameras and tried to act annoyed by the inconvenience. Ozzie and the deputies watched from inside. "Jake loves cameras," he said.

"All lawyers do," added Moss.

"What is your name, sir?"

"You're Mr. Hailey's attorney."

"Correct," Jake answered coolly.

"Mr. Hailey is the father of the young girl raped by the two men who were killed today?"

"Who killed the two men?"

"I said I don't know."

"What's your client been charged with?"

"He's been arrested for the murders of Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard. He hasn't formally been charged with anything."

"Do you expect Mr. Hailey to be indicted for the two murders?"

"Have you talked with Mr. Hailey?" asked another reporter.

"Yes, just a moment ago."

"Well, uh, how is he?"

"You mean, how does he like jail?" Jake asked with a slight grin.

"When will he be in court?"

"Probably tomorrow or Wednesday."

"Will he plead guilty?"

Jake smiled and replied, "Of course not."

After a cold supper, they sat in the swing on the front porch and watched the lawn sprinkler and talked about the case. The killings were big news across the country, and Carla recorded as many television reports as possible. Two of the networks covered the story live through their Memphis affiliates, and the Memphis, Jackson, and Tupelo stations rehouse surrounded by deputies, and seconds later, being carried from the courthouse under white sheets. One of the stations played the actual audio of the gunfire over film of the deputies scrambling for cover.

Jake's interview was too late for the evening news, so he and Carla waited, with the recorder, for the ten o'clock, and there he was, briefcase in hand, looking trim, fit, handsome, and arrogant, and very disgusted with the reporters for the inconvenience. Jake thought he looked great on TV, and he was excited to be there. There had been one other brief appearance, after Lester's acquittal, and the regulars at the Coffee Shop had kidded him for months.

He felt good. He relished the publicity and anticipated much more. He could not think of another case, another set of facts, another setting which could generate as much publicity as the trial of Carl Lee Hailey. And the acquittal of Carl Lee Hailey, for the murder of the two white men who raped his daughter, before an all-white jury in rural Mississippi

"What're you smiling about?" Carla interrupted.

"Sure. You're thinking about the trial, and the cameras, the reporters, the acquittal, and walking out of the courthouse, arm around Carl Lee, reporters chasing you with the cameras rolling, people slapping you on the back, congratulations everywhere. I know exactly what you're thinking about."

"Then why'd you ask?"

"To see if you'd admit it."

"Okay, I admit it. This case could make me famous and make us a million bucks, in the long run."