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Home > A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(10)

A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(10)
Author: John Grisham

"It's much safer than Parchman," Prather said.

"Choice is yours, Pete," Ozzie said. "You can die at Parchman or stay here. I'll even consider makin' you a trusty if you behave."

Willard dropped his head and rubbed his temples. "Okay, okay."

Ozzie punched the red button.

"Where'd you find the girl?"

"Some gravel road."

"Which road?"

"I don't know. I's drunk."

"Where'd you take her?"

"I don't know."

"Just you and Cobb?" . "Yeah."

"Who raped her?"

"We both did. Billy Ray went first."

"How many times?"

"I don't remember. I's smokin' weed and drinkin'."

"Both of you raped her?"

"Yeah."

"Where'd you dump her?"

"Don't remember. I swear I don't remember."

Ozzie pushed another button. "We'll type this up and get you to sign it."

Willard shook his head. "Just don't tell Billy Ray." "We won't," promised the sheriff.

Percy Bullard fidgeted nervously in the leather chair behind the huge, battered oak desk in the judge's chambers behind the courtroom, where a crowd had gathered to see about the rape. In the small room next door the lawyers gathered around the coffee machine and gossiped about the rape.

Bullard's small black robe hung in a corner by the window that looked north over Washington Street. His size-six feet were wearing jogging shoes that barely touched the floor. He was a small, nervous type who worried about preliminary hearings and every other routine hearing. After thirteen years on the bench he had never learned to relax. Fortunately, he was not required to hear big cases; those were for the Circuit Court judge. Bullard was just a County Court judge, and he had reached his pinnacle.

Mr. Pate, the ancient courtroom deputy, knocked on the door.

"Come in!" Bullard demanded.

"Afternoon, Judge."

"How many blacks out there?" Bullard asked abruptly.

"Half the courtroom."

"That's a hundred people! They don't draw that much for a good murder trial. Whatta they want?"

Mr. Pate shook his head.

"They must think we're trying these boys today."

"I guess they're just concerned," Mr. Pate said softly.

"Concerned about what? I'm not turning them loose. It's just a preliminary hearing." He quieted and stared at the window. "Is the family out there?"

"I think so. I recognize a few of them, but I don't know her parents."

"How about security?"

"Sheriffs got ever deputy and ever reserve close to the courtroom. We checked everbody at the door."

"Find anything?"

"No, sir."

"Where are the boys?"

"Sheriffs got them. They'll be here in a minute."

The judge seemed satisfied. Mr. Pate laid a handwritten note on the desk.

"What is it?"

Mr. Pate inhaled deeply. "It's a request from a TV crew from Memphis to film the hearing."

"What!" Bullard's face turned red and he rocked furiously in the swivel chair. "Cameras," he yelled, "In my courtroom!" He ripped the note and threw the pieces in the direction of the trash can. "Where are they?"

"In the rotunda."

"Order them out of the courthouse."

Mr. Pate left quickly.

Carl Lee Hailey sat on the row next to the back. Dozens of relatives and friends surrounded him in the rows of padded benches on the right side of the courtroom. The benches on the left side were empty. Deputies milled about, armed, apprehensive, keeping a nervous watch on the group of blacks, and especially on Carl Lee, who sat bent over, elbows on knees, staring blankly at the floor.

Jake looked out his window across the square to the rear of the courthouse, which faced south. It was 1:00 P.M. He had skipped lunch, as usual, and had no business across the street, but he did need some fresh air. He hadn't left the building all day, and although he had no desire to hear the details of the rape, he hated to miss the hearing. There had to be a crowd in the courtroom because there were no empty parking spaces around the square. A handful of reporters and photographers waited anxiously near the rear of the courthouse by the wooden doors where Cobb and Willard would enter.

The jail was two blocks off the square on the south side, down the highway. Ozzie drove the car with Cobb and Willard in the back seat. With a squad car in front and one behind, the procession turned off Washington Street into the short driveway leading under the veranda of the courthouse. Six deputies escorted the defendants past the reporters, through the doors, and up the back stairs to the small room just outside the courtroom.

Jake grabbed his coat, ignored Ethel, and raced across the street. He ran up the back stairs, through a small hall outside the jury room, and entered the courtroom from a side door just as Mr. Pate led His Honor to the bench.

"All rise for the court," Mr. Pate shouted. Everyone stood. Bullard stepped to the bench and sat down.

"Be seated," he yelled. "Where are the defendants? Where? Bring them in then."

Cobb and Willard were led, handcuffed, into the courtroom from the small holding room. They were unshaven, wrinkled, dirty, and looked confused. Willard stared at the large group of blacks while Cobb turned his back. Looney removed the handcuffs and seated them next to Drew Jack Tyndale, the public defender, at the long table where the defense sat. Next to it was a long table where the county prosecutor, Rocky Childers, sat taking notes and looking important.

Willard glanced over his shoulder and again checked on the blacks. On the front row just behind him sat his mother and Cobb's mother, each with a deputy for protection. Willard felt safe with all the deputies. Cobb refused to turn around.

From the back row, eighty feet away, Carl Lee raised his head and looked at the backs of the two men who raped his daughter. They were mangy, bearded, dirty-looking strangers. He covered his face and bent over. The deputies stood behind him, backs against the wall, watching every move.

"Now listen," Bullard began loudly, "This is just a preliminary hearing, not a trial. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence that a crime has been committed to bind these defendants over to the grand jury. The defendants can even waive this hearing if they want to."

Tyndale stood. "No sir, Your Honor, we wish to proceed with the hearing."

"Very well. I have copies of affidavits sworn to by Sheriff Walls charging both defendants with rape of a female under the age of twelve, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. Mr. Childers, you may call your first witness."

"Your Honor, the State calls Sheriff Ozzie Walls."

Jake sat in the jury box, along with several other attorneys, all of whom pretended to be busy reading important

materials. Ozzie was sworn and sat in the witness chair to the left of Bullard, a few feet from the jury box.

"Would you state your name?"

"Sheriff Ozzie Walls."

"You're the sheriff of Ford County?"

"Yes."

"I know who he is," Bullard mumbled as he flipped through the file.

"Sheriff, yesterday afternoon, did your office receive a call about a missing child?"

"Yes, around four-thirty."

"What did your office do?"

"Deputy Willie Hastings was dispatched to the residence of Gwen and Carl Lee Hailey, the parents of the girl."

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