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Home > A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(6)

A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(6)
Author: John Grisham

Because Clanton was the county seat it had a square, and the square quite naturally had a courthouse in the center of it. General Clanton had laid out the town with much thought, and the square was long and wide and the courthouse lawn was covered with massive oak trees, all lined neatly and spaced equally apart. The Ford County courthouse was well into its second century, built after the Yankees burned the first one. It defiantly faced south, as if telling those from the North to politely and eternally kiss its ass. It was old and stately, with white columns along the front and black shutters around the dozens of windows. The original red brick had long since been painted white, and every four years the Boy Scouts added a thick layer of shiny enamel for their traditional summer project. Several bond issues over the years had allowed additions and renovations.

The lawn around it was clean and neatly trimmed. A crew from the jail manicured it twice a week.

Clanton had three coffee shops-two for the whites and one for the blacks, and all three were on the square. It was not illegal or uncommon for whites to eat at Claude's, the black cafe on the west side. And it was safe for the blacks to eat at the Tea Shoppe, on the south side, or the Coffee Shop on Washington Street. They didn't, however, since they were told they could back in the seventies. Jake ate barbecue every Friday at Claude's, as did most of the white liberals in Clanton. But six mornings a week he was a regular at the Coffee Shop.

He parked the Saab in front of his office on Washington Street and walked three doors to the Coffee Shop. It had opened an hour earlier and by now was bustling with action. Waitresses scurried about serving coffee and breakfast and chatting incessantly with the farmers and mechanics and deputies who were the regulars. This was no white-collar cafe. The white collars gathered across the square at the Tea Shoppe later in the morning and discussed national politics, tennis, golf, and the stock market. At the Coffee Shop they talked about local politics, football, and bass fishing. Jake was one of the few white collars allowed to frequent the Coffee Shop. He was well liked and accepted by the blue collars, most of whom at one time or another had found their way to his office for a will, a deed, a divorce, a defense, or any one of a thousand other problems. They picked at him and told crooked lawyer jokes, but he had a thick skin. They asked him to explain Supreme Court rulings and other legal oddities during breakfast, and he gave a lot of free legal advice at the Coffee Shop. Jake had a way of cutting through the excess and discussing the meat of any issue. They appreciated that. They didn't always agree with him, but they always got honest answers. They argued at times, but there were never hard feelings.

He made his entrance at six, and it took five minutes to greet everyone, shake hands, slap backs, and say smart things to the waitresses. By the time he sat at his table his favorite girl, Dell, had his coffee and regular breakfast of toast, jelly, and grits. She patted him on the hand and called him honey and sweetheart and generally made a fuss over him. She griped and snapped at the others, but had a different routine for Jake.

He ate with Tim Nunley, a mechanic down at the Chevrolet place, and two brothers, Bill and Bert West, who worked at the shoe factory north of town. He splashed three drops of Tabasco on his grits and stirred them artfully with a slice of butter-. He covered the toast with a half inch of homemade strawberry jelly. Once his food was properly prepared, he tasted the coffee and started eating. They ate quietly and discussed how the crappie were biting.

In a booth by the window a few feet from Jake's table, three deputies talked among themselves. The big one, Marshall Prather, turned to Jake and asked loudly, "Say, Jake, didn't you defend Billy Ray Cobb a few years ago?"

The cafe was instantly silent as everyone looked at the lawyer. Startled not by the question but by its response, Jake swallowed his grits and searched for the name.

"Billy Ray Cobb," he repeated aloud. "What kind of case was it?"

"Dope," Prather said. "Caught him sellin' dope about four years ago. Spent time in Parchman and got out last year."

Jake remembered. "Naw, I didn't represent him. I think he had a Memphis lawyer."

Prather seemed satisfied and returned to his pancakes. Jake waited.

Finally he asked, "Why? What's he done now?"

"We picked him up last night for rape."

"Rape!"

"Yeah, him and Pete Willard."

"Who'd they rape?"

"You remember that Hailey nigger you got off in that murder trial a few years ago?"

"Lester Hailey. Of course I remember."

"You know his brother Carl Lee?"

"Sure. Know him well. I know all the Haileys. Represented most of them."

"Well, it was his little girl."

"You're kidding?"

"Nope."

"How old is she?"

"Ten."

Jake's appetite disappeared as the cafe returned to normal. He played with his coffee and listened to the conversation change from fishing to Japanese cars and back to fishing. When the West brothers left, he slid into the booth with the deputies.

"How is she?" he asked.

"Who?"

"The Hailey girl."

"Pretty bad," said Prather. "She's in the hospital."

"What happened?"

"We don't know everything. She ain't been able to talk much. Her momma sent her to the store. They live on Craft Road behind Bates Grocery."

"I know where they live."

"Somehow they got her in Cobb's pickup and took her out in the woods somewhere and raped her."

"Both of them?"

"Yeah, several times. And they kicked her and beat her real bad. Some of her kinfolks didn't know her, she was beat so bad."

Jake shook his head. "That's sick."

"Sure is. Worst I've ever seen. They tried to kill her. Left her for dead."

"Who found her?"

"Buncha niggers fishin' down by Foggy Creek. Saw her floppin' out in the middle of the road. Had her hands tied behind her. She was talkin' a little-told them who her daddy was and they took her home."

"How'd you know it was Billy Ray Cobb?"

"She told her momma it was a yellow pickup truck with a rebel flag hangin' in the rear window. That's about all Ozzie needed. He had it figured out by the time she got to the hospital."

Prather was careful not to say too much. He liked Jake, but he was a lawyer and he handled a lot of criminal cases.

"Who is Pete Willard?"

"Some friend of Cobb's."

"Where'd y'all find them?"

"Huey's."

"That figures." Jake drank his coffee and thought of Hanna.

"Sick, sick, sick," Looney mumbled.

"How's Carl Lee?"

Prather wiped syrup from his mustache. "Personally, I don't know him, but I ain't ever heard anything bad about him. They're still at the hospital. I think Ozzie was with them all night. He knows them real well, of course, he knows all those folks real well. Hastings is kin to the girl somehow."

"When's the preliminary hearing?"

"Bullard set it for one P.M. today. Ain't that right, Looney?"

Looney nodded.

"Any bond?"

"Ain't been set yet. Bollard's gonna wait till the hearing. If she dies, they'll be lookin' at capital murder, won't they?"

Jake nodded.

"They can't have a bond for capital murder, can they, Jake?" Looney asked.

"They can but I've never seen one. I know Bullard won't set a bond for capital murder, and if he did, they couldn't make it."

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