A Time to Kill

Chapter Eleven

Jake looked up and down the street. Every house was silent and dark.

"Naw. No need to wake everybody. Let it burn. It won't hurt anything, will it?"

"It's your yard."

Prather never moved; just stood there, hands in his pockets, his belly hanging over his belt. "Ain't had one of these in a long time around here. Last one I remember was in Karaway, nineteen-sixry-"

"Nineteen sixty-seven."

"You remember?"

"Yeah. I was in high school. We drove out and watched it burn."

"What was that nigger's name?"

"Robinson, something Robinson. Said he raped Velma Thayer."

"Did he?" asked Prather.

"The jury thought so. He's in Parchman chopping cotton for the rest of his life."

Prather seemed satisfied.

"Let me get Carla," Jake mumbled as he disappeared. He returned with his wife behind him.

"My God, Jake! Who did it?"

"Who knows."

"Is it the KKK?" she asked.

"Must be," answered the deputy. "I don't know anybody else who burns crosses, do you, Jake?"

Jake shook his head.

"I thought they left Ford County years ago," said Prather.

"Looks like they're back," said Jake.

Carla stood frozen, her hand over her mouth, terrified. The glow of the fire reddened her face. "Do something, Jake. Put it out."

Jake watched the fire and again glanced up and down the street. The snapping and popping grew louder and the orange flames reached higher into the night. For a moment he hoped it would die quickly without being seen by anyone other than the three of them, and that it would simply go away and be forgotten and no one in Clanton would ever know. Then he smiled at his foolishness.

iiamci giumcu, anu it was oovious he was tired of standing on the porch. "Say, Jake, uh, I don't mean to bring this up, but accordin' to the papers they got the wrong lawyer. That true?"

"I guess they can't read," Jake muttered.

"Probably not."

"Tell me, Prather, do you know of any active Klan members in this county?"

"Not a one. Got some in the southern part of the state, but none around here. Not that I know of. FBI told us the Klan was a thing of the past."

"That's not very comforting."

"Why not?"

"Because these guys, if they're Klan members, are not from around here. Visitors from parts unknown. It means they're serious, don't you think, Prather?"

"I don't know. I'd worry more if it was local people workin' with the Klan. Could mean the Klan's comin' back."

"What does it mean, the cross?" Carla asked the deputy.

"It's a warnin'. Means stop what you're doin', or the next time we'll do more than burn a little wood. They used these things for years to intimidate whites who were sympathetic to niggers and all that civil rights crap. If the whites didn't stop their nigger lovin', then violence followed. Bombs, dynamite, beatings, even murder. But that was a • long time ago, I thought. In your case, it's their way of tellin' Jake to stay away from Hailey. But since he ain't Hailey's lawyer no more, I don't know what it means."

"Go check on Hanna," Jake said to Carla, who went inside.

"If you got a water hose, I'll be glad to put it out," offered Prather.

"That's a good idea," Jake said. "I'd hate for the neighbors to see it."

Jake and Carla stood on the porch in their bathrobes and watched the deputy spray the burning cross. The wood fizzed and smoked as the water covered the cross and snuffed out the flames. Prather soaked it for fifteen minutes, then neatly rolled the hose and placed it behind the shrubs in the flower bed next to the front steps.

"Thanks, Marshall. Let's keep this quiet, okay?"

Prather wiped his hands on his pants and straightened his hat. "Sure. Y'all lock up good. If you hear anything, call the dispatcher. We'll keep a close watch on it for the next few days."

He backed from the driveway and drove slowly down Adams Street toward the square. They sat in the swing and watched the smoking cross.

"I feel like I'm looking at an old issue of Life magazine," Jake said.

"Or a chapter from a Mississippi history textbook. Maybe we should tell them you got fired."



"For being so blunt."

"I'm sorry. Should I say discharged, or terminated, or-"

"Just say he found another lawyer. You're really scared aren't you?"

"You know I'm scared. I'm terrified. If they can burn a cross in our front yard, what's to stop them from burning the house? It's not worth it, Jake. I want you to be happy and successful and all that wonderful stuff, but not at the expense of our safety. No case is worth this."

"You're glad I got fired?"

"I'm glad he found another lawyer. Maybe they'll leave us alone now."

Jake put his arm around her, and pulled her into his lap. The swing rocked gently. She was beautiful, at three-thirty in the morning in her bathrobe.

"They won't be back, will they?" she asked.

"Naw. They're through with us. They'll find out I'm off the case, then they'll call and apologize."

"It's not funny, Jake."

"I know."

"Do you think people will know?"

"Not for another hour. When the Coffee Shop opens at five, Dell Perkins will know every detail before she pours the first cup of coffee."

"What're you going to do with it?" she asked, nodding at the cross, now barely visible under the half moon.

i vc goi an idea. Let s load it up, take it to Memphis, and burn it in Marsharfsky's yard." "I'm going to bed."

By 9:00 A.M. Jake had finished dictating his motion to withdraw as counsel of record. Ethel was typing it with zest when she interrupted him: "Mr. Brigance, there's a Mr. Marsharf-sky on the phone. I told him you were in conference, and he said he would hold."

"I'll talk to him." Jake gripped the receiver. "Hello."

"Mr. Brigance, Bo Marsharfsky in Memphis. How are you?"


"Good. I'm sure you saw the morning paper Saturday and Sunday. You do get the paper in Clantpn?"

"Yes, and we have telephones and mail."

"So you saw the stories on Mr. Hailey?"

"Yes. You write' some very nice articles."

"I'll ignore that. I wanted to discuss the Hailey case if you have a minute."

"I would love to."

"As I understand Mississippi procedure, out-of-state counsel must associate local counsel for trial purposes."

"You mean you don't have a Mississippi license?" Jake asked incredulously.

"Well, no, I don't."

"That wasn't mentioned in your articles."

"I'll ignore that too. Do the judges require local counsel in all cases?"

"Some do, some don't."

"I see. What about Noose?"


"Thanks. Well, I usually associate local counsel when I try cases out in the country. The locals feel better with one of their own sitting there at counsel table with me."

"That's real nice."

"I don't suppose you'd be interested in-"

"You must be kidding!" Jake yelled. "I've just been fired and now you want me to carry your briefcase. You're crazy. I wouldn't have my name associated with yours."

"Wait a minute, hayseed-"

"No, you wait a minute, counselor. This may come as a surprise to you, but in this state we have ethics and laws against soliciting litigation and clients. Champerty-ever hear of it? Of course not. It's a felony in Mississippi, as in most states. We have canons of ethics that prohibit ambulance chasing and solicitation. Ethics, Mr. Shark, ever hear of them?"

"I don't chase cases, sonny. They come to me."

"Like Carl Lee Hailey. I'm supposed to believe he picked your name out of the yellow pages. I'm sure you have a full-page ad, next to the abortionists."

"He was referred to me."

"Yeah, by your pimp. I know exactly how you got him. Outright solicitation. I may file a complaint with the bar. Better yet, I might have your methods reviewed by the grand jury."

"Yeah, I understand you and the D.A. are real close. Good day, counselor."

Marsharfsky got the last word before he hung up. Jake fumed for an hour before he could concentrate on the brief he was writing. Lucien would have been proud of him.

Just before lunch Jake received a call from Walter Sullivan, of the Sullivan firm.

"Jake, my boy, how are you?"


"Good. Listen, Jake, Bo Marsharfsky is an old friend of mine. We defended a couple of bank officials years ago on fraud charges. Got them off, too. He's quite a lawyer. He's associated me as local counsel for Carl Lee Hailey. I was just wanting to know-"

Jake dropped the receiver and walked out of his office. He spent the afternoon on Lucien's front porch.

Gwen did not have Lester's number. Neither did Ozzie, nor did anyone else. The operator said there were two pages of Haileys in the Chicago phone book, at least a dozen Lester Haileys, and several L. S.'s. Jake asked for the first five Lester Haileys and called each one. They were all white. He called Tank Scales, the owner of one of the safer and finer black honky tonks in the county. Tank's Tonk, as it was known. Lester was especially fond of the place. Tank was a client and often provided Jake with valuable and confidential information on various blacks, their dealings and whereabouts.

Tank stopped by the office Tuesday morning on the way to the bank.

"Have you seen Lester Hailey in the past two weeks?" Jake asked.

"Sure. Spent several days at the place shootin' pool, drinkin' beer. Went back to Chicago last weekend, I heard. Must've, I didn't see him all weekend."

"Who was he with?"

"Hisself mostly."

"What about Iris?"

"Yeah, he brung her a couple of times when Henry was outta town. Makes me nervous when he brings her. Henry's a bad dude. He'd cut them both if he knew they's datin'."

"They've been doing it for ten years, Tank."

"Yeah, sh,e got two kids by Lester. Everbody knows it but Henry. Poor old Henry. He'll find out one day, and you'll have another murder case."

"Listen, Tank, can you talk to Iris?"

"She don't come in too often."

"That's not what I asked. I need Lester's phone number in Chicago. I figure Iris knows it."

"I'm sure she does. I think he sends her money."

"Can you get it for me? I need to talk to Lester."

"Sure, Jake. If she's got it, I'll get it."

By Wednesday Jake's office had returned to normal. Clients began to reappear. Ethel was especially sweet, or as sweet as possible for a cranky old nag. He went through the motions of practicing law, but the pain showed. He skipped the Coffee Shop each morning and avoided the courthouse by making Ethel do the filing or checking or whatever business required his presence across the street. He was embarrassed, humiliated, and troubled. It was difficult to concentrate on other cases. He contemplated a long vacation, but couldn't afford it. Money was tight, and he was not motivated to work. He spent most of his time in his office doing little but watching the courthouse and the town square below.

He dwelt on Carl Lee, sitting in his cell a few blocks away, and asked himself a thousand times why he had been betrayed. He had pushed too hard for money, and forgot there were other lawyers willing to take the case for free. He hated Marsharfsky. He recalled the many times he had seen Marsharfsky parade in and out of Memphis courtrooms proclaiming the innocence and mistreatment of his pitiful, oppressed clients. Dope dealers, pimps, crooked politicians, and slimy corporate thugs. All guilty, all deserving of long prison terms, or perhaps even death. He was a yankee, with an obnoxious twang from somewhere in the upper Midwest. It would irritate anybody south of Memphis. An accomplished actor, he would look directly into the cameras and whine: "My client has been horribly abused by the Memphis police." Jake had seen it a dozen times. "My client is completely, totally, absolutely innocent. He should not be on trial. My client is a model citizen, a taxpayer." What about his four prior convictions for extortion? "He was framed by the FBI. Set up by the government. Besides, he's paid his debt. He's innocent this time." Jake hated him, and to his recollection, he had lost as many as he had won.

By Wednesday afternoon, Marsharfsky had not been seen in Clanton. Ozzie promised to notify Jake if he showed up at the jail.

Circuit Court would be in session until Friday, and it would be respectful to meet briefly with Judge Noose and explain the circumstances of his departure from the case. His Honor was presiding over a civil case, and there was a

good chance Buckley would be absent. He had .to be absent. He could not be seen or heard.

Noose usually recessed for ten minutes around three-thirty, and precisely at that time Jake entered chambers through the side door. He had not been seen. He sat patiently by the window waiting for Ichabod to descend from the bench and stagger into the room. Five minutes later the door flung open, and His Honor walked in.

"Jake, how are you?" he asked.

"Fine, Judge. Can I have a minute?" Jake asked as he closed the door.

"Sure, sit down. What's on your mind?" Noose removed his robe, threw it over a chair, and lay on top of the desk, knocking off books, files, and the telephone in the process. Once his gawky frame had ceased moving, he slowly folded his hands over his stomach, closed his eyes, and breathed deeply. "It's my back, Jake. My doctor-tells me to rest on a hard surface when possible."

"Uh, sure, Judge. Should I leave?"

"No, no. What's on your mind?"

"The Hailey case."

"I thought so. I saw your motion. Found a new lawyer, huh?"

"Yes, sir. I had no idea it was coming. I expected to try the case in July."

"You owe no apologies, Jake. The motion to withdraw will be granted. It's not your fault. Happens all the time. Who's the new guy Marsharfsky?"

"Yes, sir. From Memphis."

"With a name like that he should be a hit in Ford County."

"Yes, sir." Almost as bad as Noose, thought Jake.

"He has no Mississippi license," Jake explained, helpfully.

"That's interesting. Is he familiar with our procedure?"

"I'm not sure he's ever tried a case in Mississippi. He told me he normally associates a local boy when he's out in the country."

"In the country?"

"That's what he said."

"Well, he'd better associate if he comes into my court.

I've had some bad experiences with out-of-state attorneys, especially from Memphis."

"Yes, sir."

Noose was breathing harder, and Jake decided to leave. "Judge, I need to go. If I don't see you in July, I'll see you during the August term of court. Take care of your back."

"Thanks, Jake. Take care."

Jake almost made it to the rear door of the small office when the main door from the courtroom opened and the Honorable L. Winston Lotterhouse and another hatchet man from the Sullivan firm strutted into chambers.

"Well, hello, Jake," Lotterhouse announced. "You know K. Peter Otter, our newest associate."

"Nice to meet you K. Peter," replied Jake.

"Are we interrupting anything?"

"No, I was just leaving. Judge Noose is resting his back, and I was on my way out."

"Sit down, gentlemen," Noose said.

Lotterhouse smelled blood. "Say, Jake, I'm sure Walter Sullivan has informed you that our firm will serve as local counsel for Carl Lee Hailey."

"I have heard."

"I'm sorry it happened to you."

"Your grief is overwhelming."

"It does present an interesting case for our firm. We don't get too many criminal cases, you know."

"I know," Jake said, looking for a hole to crawl in. "I need to run. Nice chatting with you, L. Winston. Nice meeting you, K. Peter. Tell J. Walter and F. Robert and all the boys I said hello."

Jake slid out of the rear door of the courthouse and cursed himself for showing his face where he could get it slapped. He ran to his office.

"Has Tank Scales called?" he asked Ethel as he started up the stairs.

"No. But Mr. Buckley is waiting."

Jake stopped on the first step. "Waiting where?" he asked without moving his jaws.

"Upstairs. In your office."

He walked slowly to her desk and leaned across to within inches of her face. She had sinned, and she knew it.

He glared at her fiercely. "I didn't know he had an appointment." Again, the jaws did not move.

"He didn't," she replied, her eyes glued to the desk.

"I didn't know he owned this building."

She didn't move, didn't answer.

"I didn't know he had a key to my office."

Again, no movement, no answer.

He leaned closer. "I should fire you for this."

Her lip quivered and she looked helpless.

"I'm sick of you, Ethel. Sick of your attitude, your voice, your insubordination. Sick of the way you treat people, sick of everything about you."

Her eyes watered. "I'm sorry."

"No you're not. You know, and have known for years, that no one, no one in the world, not even my wife, goes up those stairs into my office if I'm not here."

"He insisted."

"He's an ass. He gets paid for pushing people around. But not in this office."

"Shhh. He can hear you."

"I don't care. He knows he's an ass."

He leaned even closer until their noses were six inches apart. "Would you like to keep your job, Ethel?"

She nodded, unable to speak.

"Then do exactly as I say. Go upstairs to my office, fetch Mr. Buckley, and lead him into the conference room, where I'll meet him. And don't ever do it again."

Ethel wiped her face and ran up the stairs. Moments later the D.A. was seated in the conference room with the door closed. He waited.

Jake was next door in the small kitchen drinking orange juice and assessing Buckley. He drank slowly. After fifteen minutes he opened the door and entered the room. Buckley was seated at one end of the long conference table. Jake sat at the other end, far away.

"Hello, Rufus. What do you want?"

"Nice place you have here. Lucien's old offices, I believe."

"That's right. What brings you here?"

"Just wanted to visit."

"I'm very busy."

"And I wanted to discuss the Hailey case."

"Call Marsharfsky."

"I was looking forward to the battle, especially with you on the other side. You're a worthy adversary, Jake."

"I'm honored."

"Don't get me wrong. I don't like you, and I haven't for a long time."

"Since Lester Hailey."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. You won, but you cheated."

"I won, that's all that counts. And I didn't cheat. You got caught with your pants down."

"You cheated and Noose let you by with it."

"Whatever. I don't like you either."

"Good. That makes me feel better. What do you know about Marsharfsky?"

"Is that the reason you're here?"

"Could be."

"I've never met the man, but if he was my father I wouldn't tell you anything. What else do you want?"

"Surely you've talked to him."

"We had some words on the phone. Don't tell me you're worried about him."

"No. Just curious. He's got a good reputation."

"Yes, he does. You didn't come here to discuss his reputation."

"No, not really. I wanted to talk about the case."

"What about it?"

"Chances for an acquittal, possible defenses, was he really insane. Things like that."

"I thought you guaranteed a conviction. In front of the cameras, remember? Just after the indictment. One of your press conferences."

"Do you miss the cameras already, Jake?"

"Relax, Rufus. I'm out of the game. The cameras are all yours, at least yours and Marsharfsky's, and Walter Sullivan's. Go get them, tiger. If I've stolen some of your spotlight, then I'm deeply sorry. I know how it hurts you."

"Apology accepted. Has Marsharfsky been to town?"

"I don't know."

"He promised a press conference this week."

"And you came here to talk about his press conference, right?"

"No, I wanted to discuss Hailey, but obviously you're too busy."

"That's right. Plus I have nothing to discuss with you, Mr. Governor."

"I resent that."

"Why? You know it's true.- You'd prosecute your mother for a couple of headlines."

Buckley stood and began pacing back and forth behind his chair. "I wish you were still on this case, Brigance," he said, the volume increasing.

"So do I."

"I'd teach you a few things about prosecuting murderers. I really wanted to clean your plow."

"You haven't been too successful in the past."

"That's why I wanted you on this one, Brigance. I wanted you so bad." His face had returned to the deep red that was so familiar.

"There'll be others, Governor."

"Don't call me that," he shouted.

"It's true, isn't it, Governor. That's why you chase the cameras so hard. Everybody knows it. There goes old Rufus, chasing cameras, running for governor. Sure it's true."

"I'm doing my job. Prosecuting thugs."

"Carl Lee Hailey's no thug."

"Watch me burn him."

"It won't be'that easy."

"Watch me."

"It takes twelve out of twelve."

"No problem."

"Just like your grand jury?"

Buckley froze in his tracks. He squinted his eyes and frowned at Jake. Three huge wrinkles creased neatly across his mammoth forehead. "What do you know about the grand jury?"

"As much as you do. One vote less and you'd have sucked eggs."

"That's not true!"

"Come on, Governor. You're not talking to a reporter. I know exactly what happened. Knew it within hours."

"I'll tell Noose."

"And I'll tell the newspapers. That'll look good before the trial."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Not now. I have no reason to. I've been fired, remember? That's the reason you're here, right, Rufus? To remind me that I'm no longer on the case, t>ut you are. To rub a little salt in the wounds. Okay, you've done it. Now I wish you'd leave. Go check on the grand jury. Or maybe there's a reporter hanging around the courthouse. Just leave."

"Gladly. I'm sorry I bothered."

"Me too."

Buckley opened the door leading into the hall, then stopped. "I lied, Jake. I'm tickled to death you're not on this case."

"I know you lied. But don't count me out."

"What does that mean?"

"Good day, Rufus."

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