loading...
Home > A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(5)

A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(5)
Author: John Grisham

The handcuffs were slapped into place, and Ozzie dragged him by his hair across the dance floor, out the door, across the gravel and threw him into the back seat with Wil-lard.

News of the rape spread quickly. More friends and relatives crowded into the waiting room and the halls around it. Tonya was out of surgery and listed as critical. Ozzie talked to Gwen's brother in the hall and told of the arrests. Yes, they were the ones, he was sure.

Jake Brigance rolled across his wife and staggered to the small bathroom a few feet from his bed, where he searched and groped in the dark for the screaming alarm clock. He found it where he had left it, and killed it with a quick and violent slap. It was 5:30 A.M., Wednesday, May 15.

He stood in the dark for a moment, breathless, terrified, his heart pounding rapidly, staring at the fluorescent numbers glowing at him from the face of the clock, a clock he hated. Its piercing scream could be heard down the street. He flirted with cardiac arrest every morning at this time when the thing erupted. On occasion, about twice a year, he was successful in shoving Carla onto the floor, and she would maybe turn it off before returning to bed. Most of the time, however, she was not sympathetic. She thought he was crazy for getting up at such an hour.

The clock sat on the windowsill so that Jake was required to move around a bit before it was silenced. Once up, Jake would not permit himself to crawl back under the covers. It was one of his rules. At one time the alarm was on the nightstand, and the volume was reduced. Carla would reach and turn it off before Jake heard anything. Then he would sleep until seven or eight and ruin his entire day. He would miss being in the office by seven, which was another rule. The alarm stayed in the bathroom and served its purpose.

Jake stepped to the sink and splashed cold water on'his face and hair. He switched on the light and gasped in horror at the sight in the mirror. His straight brown hair shot in all directions, and the hairline had receded at least two inches during the night. Either that or his forehead had grown. His eyes were matted and swollen with the white stuff packed in the corners. A seam in a blanket left a bright red scar along the left side of his face. He touched, then rubbed it and wondered if it would go away. With his right hand he pushed his hair back and inspected the hairline. At thirty-two, he had no gray hair. Gray hair was not the problem. The problem was pattern baldness, which Jake had richly inherited from both sides of his family. He longed for a full, thick hairline beginning an inch above his eyebrows. He still had plenty of hair, Carla told him. But it wouldn't last long at the rate it was disappearing. She also assured him he was as handsome as ever, and he believed her. She had explained that a receding hairline gave him a look of maturity that was essential for a young attorney. He believed that too.

But what about old, bald attorneys, or even mature, middle-aged bald attorneys? Why couldn't the hair return after he grew wrinkles and gray sideburns and looked very mature?

Jake pondered these things in the shower. He took quick showers, and he shaved and dressed quickly. He had to be at the Coffee Shop at 6:00 A.M.-another rule. He turned on lights and slammed and banged drawers and closet doors in an effort to arouse Carla. This was the morning ritual during the summer when she was not teaching school. He had explained to her numerous times that she had all day to catch up on any lost sleep, and that these early moments should be spent together. She moaned and tunneled deeper under the covers. Once dressed, Jake jumped on the bed with all fours and kissed her in the ear, down the neck, and all over the face until she finally swung at him. Then he yanked the covers off the bed and laughed as she curled up and shivered and begged for the blankets. He held them and admired her dark, tanned, thin, almost perfect legs. The bulky nightshirt covered nothing below the waist, and a hundred lewd thoughts danced before him.

About once a month this ritual would get out of hand. She would not protest, and the blankets would be jointly removed. On those mornings Jake undressed even quicker and broke at least three of his rules. That's how Hanna was conceived.

But not this morning. He covered his wife, kissed her gently, and turned out the lights. She breathed easier, and fell asleep.

Down the hall he quietly opened Hanna's door and knelt beside her. She was four, the only child, and there would be no others. She lay in her bed surrounded by dolls and stuffed animals. He kissed her lightly on the cheek. She was as beautiful as her mother, and the two were identical in looks and manners. They had large bluish-gray eyes that could cry instantly, if necessary. They wore their dark hair the same way-had it cut by the same person at the same time. They even dressed alike.

Jake adored the two women in his life. He kissed the second one goodbye and went to the kitchen to make coffee for Carla. On his way out he released Max, the mutt, into the backyard, where she simultaneously relieved herself and barked at Mrs. Pickle's cat next door.

Few people attacked the morning like Jake Brigance. He walked briskly to the end of the driveway and got the morning papers for Carla. It was dark, clear, and cool with the promise of summer rapidly approaching.

He studied the darkness up and down Adams Street, then turned and admired his house. Two homes in Ford County were on the National Register of Historic Places, and Jake Brigance owned one of them. Although it was heavily mortgaged, he was proud of it nonetheless. It was a nineteenth-century Victorian built by a retired railroad man who died on the first Christmas Eve he spent in his new home. The facade was a huge, centered gable with hipped roof over a wide, inset front porch. Under the gable a small portico covered with bargeboard hung gently over the porch. The five supporting pillars were round and painted white and slate blue. Each column bore a handmade floral carving, each with a different flower-daffodils, irises, and sunflowers. The railing between the pillars was filled with lavish lacework. Upstairs, three bay windows opened onto a small balcony, and to the left of the balcony an octagonal tower with stained-glass windows protruded and rose above the gable until it peaked with an iron-crested finial. Below the tower and to the left of the porch, a wide, graceful veranda with ornamental railing extended from the house and served as a carport. The front panels were a collage of gingerbread, cedar shingles, scallops, fish scales, tiny intricate gables, and miniature spindles.

Carla had located a paint consultant in New Orleans, and the fairy chose six original colors-mostly shades of blue, teal, peach, and white. The paint job took two months and cost Jake five thousand dollars, and that did not include the countless hours he and Carla had spent dangling from ladders and scraping cornices. And although he was not wild about some of the colors, he had never dared suggest repainting.

As with every Victorian, the house was gloriously unique. It had a piquant, provocative, engaging quality derived from an ingenuous, joyous, almost childlike bearing. Carla had wanted it since before they married, and when the owner in Memphis finally died and the estate was closed, they bought it for a song because no one else would have it. It had been abandoned for twenty years. They borrowed heavily from two of the three banks in Clanton, and spent the next three years sweating and doting over their landmark. Now people drove by and took pictures of it.

The third local bank held the mortgage on Jake's car, the only Saab in Ford County. And a red Saab at that. He wiped the dew from the windshield and unlocked the door. Max was still barking and had awakened the army of blue-jays that lived in Mrs. Pickle's maple tree. They sang to him and called farewell as he smiled and whistled in return. He backed into Adams Street. Two blocks east he turned south on Jefferson, which two blocks later ran dead end into Washington Street. Jake had often wondered why every small Southern town had an Adams, a Jefferson, and a Washington, but no Lincoln or Grant. Washington Street ran east and west on the north side of the Clanton square.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology