Chapter Eighteen

"Just me and the deputies. I think we can keep it under wraps until after the trial, but I can't guarantee anything."

"I understand. Try your best."

"I will, Jake."

"I know you will, Ozzie. I appreciate you."

Jake drove to the office, made the coffee and lay on the couch in his office. He wanted a quick nap, but sleep was impossible. His eyes burned, but he could not close them. He stared at the ceiling fan.

"Mr. Brigance," Ethel called over the intercom.

No response.

"Mr. Brigance!"

Somewhere in the deep recesses of his subconscious, Jake heard himself being paged/.He bolted upright. "Yes!" he yelled.

"Judge Noose is on the phone."

"Okay, okay," he mumbled as he staggered to his desk. He checked his watch. Nine A.M. He had slept for an hour.

"Good morning, Judge," he said cheerfully, trying to sound alert and awake.

"Good morning, Jake. How are you?"

"Just fine, Judge. Busy getting ready for the big trial."

"I thought so. Jake, what is your schedule today?"

What's today, he thought. He grabbed his appointment book. "Nothing but office work."

"Good. I would like to have lunch with you at my home. Say around eleven-thirty."

"I would be delighted, Judge. What's the occasion?"

"I want to discuss the Hailey case."

"Fine, Judge. I'll see you at eleven-thirty."

The Nooses lived in a stately antebellum home off the town square in Chester. The home had been in the wife's family for over a century, and although it could stand some maintenance and repair, it was in decent condition. Jake had never been a guest in the house, and had never met Mrs. Noose, although he had heard she was a snobby blue blood whose family at one time had money but lost it. She was as unattractive as Ichabod, and Jake wondered what the children looked like. She was properly polite when she met Jake at

the door and attempted small talk as she led him to the patio, where His Honor was drinking iced tea and reviewing correspondence. A maid was preparing a small table nearby.

"Good to see you, Jake," Ichabod said warmly. "Thanks for coming over."

"My pleasure, Judge. Beautiful place you have here."

They discussed the Hailey trial over soup and chicken salad sandwiches. Ichabod was dreading the ordeal, although he didn't admit it. He seemed tired, as if the case was already a burden. He surprised Jake with an admission that he detested Buckley. Jake said he felt the same way.

"Jake, I'm perplexed over this venue ruling," he said. "I've studied your brief and Buckley's brief, and I've researched the law myself. It's a tough question. Last weekend I attended a judges' conference on the Gulf Coast, and I had a few drinks with Judge Denton on the Supreme Court. He and I were in law school together, and we were colleagues in the state senate. We're very close. He's from Dupree County in south Mississippi, and he says that everybody down there talks about the case. People on the street ask him how he's gonna rule if the case winds up on appeal. Everybody's got an opinion, and that's almost four hundred miles away. Now, if I agree to change venue, where do we go? We can't leave the state, and I'm convinced that everyone has not only heard about your client, but already prejudged him. Would you agree?"

"Well, there's been a lot of publicity," Jake said carefully.

"Talk to me, Jake. We're not in court. That's why I invited you here. I want to pick your brain. I know there's been a lot of publicity. If we move it, where do we go?"

"How about the delta?"

Noose smiled. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"Of course. We could pick us a good jury over there. One that would truly understand the issues."

"Yeah, and one that would be half black."

"I hadn't thought about that."

"Do you really believe those folks haven't already prejudged this defendant?"

"I suppose so."

"So where do we go?"

"Did Judge Denton have a suggestion?"

"Not really. We discussed the court's traditional refusal to allow changes of venue except in the most heinous of cases. It's a difficult issue with a notorious crime that arouses passion both for and against the defendant. With television and all the press nowadays, these crimes are instant news, and everyone knows the details long before the trial. And this case tops them all. Even Denton admitted he'd never seen a case with this much publicity, and he admitted it would be impossible to find a fair and impartial jury anywhere in Mississippi. Suppose I leave it in Ford County and your man is convicted. Then you appeal claiming venue should have been changed. Denton indicated he would be sympathetic with my decision not to move it. He thinks a majority of the court would uphold my denial of the venue change. Of course, that's no guarantee, and we discussed it over several long drinks. Would you like a drink?"

"No thanks."

"I just don't see any reason to move the trial from Clanton. If we did, we'd be fooling ourselves if we thought we could find twelve people who are undecided about Mr. Hailey's guilt."

"Sounds like you've already made up your mind, Judge."

"I have. We're not changing venue. The trial will be held in Clanton. I'm not comfortable with it, but I see no reason to move the trial. Besides, I like Clanton. It's close to home and the air conditioning works in the courthouse."

Noose reached for a file and found an envelope. "Jake, this is an order, dated today, overruling the request to change venue. I've sent a copy to Buckley, and there's a copy for you. The original is in here, and I would appreciate you filing this with the clerk in Clanton."

"I'll be glad to."

"I just hope I'm doing the right thing. I've really struggled with this."

"It's a tough job," Jake offered, attempting sympathy.

Noose called the maid and ordered a gin and tonic. He insisted that Jake view his rose garden, and they spent an hour in the sprawling rear lawn admiring His Honor's flow-

ers. Jake thought of Carla, and Hanna, and his home, and the dynamite, but gallantly remained interested in Ichabod's handiwork.

Friday afternoons often reminded Jake of law school, when, depending on the weather, he and his friends would either group in their favorite bar in Oxford and guzzle happy-hour beer and debate their new-found theories of law or curse the insolent, arrogant, terroristic law professors, or, if the weather was warm and sunny, pile the beer in Jake's well-used convertible Beetle and head for the beach at Sardis Lake, where the women from sorority row plastered their beautiful, bronze bodies with oil and sweated in the sun and coolly ignored the catcalls from the drunken law students and fraternity rats. He missed those innocent days. He hated law school-every law student with any sense hated law school-but he missed the friends and good times, especially the Fridays. He missed the pressureless lifestyle, although at times the pressure had seemed unbearable, especially during the first year when the professors were more abusive than normal. He missed being broke, because when he had nothing he owed nothing and most of his classmates were in the same boat. Now that he had an income he worried constantly about mortgages, the overhead, credit cards, and realizing the American dream of becoming affluent. Not wealthy, just affluent. He missed his Volkswagen because it had been his first new car, a gift at high school graduation, and it was paid for, unlike the Saab. He missed being single, occasionally, although he was happily married. And he missed beer, either from a pitcher, can, or bottle. It didn't matter. He had been a social drinker, only with friends, and he spent as much time as possible with his friends, He didn't drink every day in law school, and he seldom got drunk. But there had been several painful, memorable hangovers.

Then came Carla. He met her at the beginning of his last semester, and six months later they married. She was beautiful, and that's what got his attention. She was quiet, and a little snobby at first, like most of the wealthy sorority girls at Ole Miss. But he found her to be warm and personable and lacking in self-confidence. He had never under-

stood how someone as beautiful as Carla could be insecure. She was a Dean's List scholar in liberal arts with no intention of ever doing more than teaching school for a few years. Her family had money, and her mother had never worked. This appealed to Jake-the family money and the absence of a career ambition. He wanted a wife who would stay home and stay beautiful and have babies and not try to wear the pants. It was love at first sight.

But she frowned on drinking, any type of drinking. Her father drank heavily when she was a child, and there were painful memories. So Jake dried out his last semester in law school and lost fifteen pounds. He looked great, felt great, and he was madly in love. But he missed beer.

There was a country grocery a few miles out of Chester with a Coors sign in the window. Coors had been his favorite in law school, although at that time it was not for sale east of the river. It was a delicacy at Ole Miss, and the bootlegging of Coors had been profitable around the campus. Now that it was available everywhere most folks had returned to Budweiser.

It was Friday, and hot. Carla was nine hundred miles away. He had no desire to go to the office, and anything there could wait until tomorrow. Some nut just tried to kill his family and remove his landmark from the National Register of Historic Places. The biggest trial of his career was ten days away. He was not ready.and the pressure was mounting. He had just lost his most critical pretrial motion. And he was thirsty. Jake stopped and bought a six-pack of Coors.

It took almost two hours to travel the sixty miles from Chester to Clanton. He enjoyed the diversion, the scenery, the beer. He stopped twice to relieve himself and once to get another six-pack. He felt great.

There was only one place to go in his condition. Not home, not the office, certainly not the courthouse to file Ichabod's villainous order. He parked the Saab behind the nasty little Porsche and glided up the sidewalk with cold beer in hand. As usual, Lucien was rocking slowly on the front porch, drinking and reading a treatise on the insanity defense. He closed the book and, noticing the beer, smiled at his former associate. Jake just grinned at him.

"What's the occasion, Jake?"

"Nothing, really. Just got thirsty."

"I see. What about your wife?"

"She doesn't tell me what to do. I'm my own man. I'm the boss. If I want beer, I'll drink some beer, and she'll say nothing." Jake took a long sip.

"She must be outta town."

"North Carolina."

"When did she leave?"

"Six this morning. Flew from Memphis with Hanna. She'll stay with her parents in Wilmington until the trial's over. They've got a fancy little beach house where they spend their summers."

"She left this morning, and you're drunk by mid-afternoon."

"I'm not drunk," Jake answered. "Yet."

"How long you been drinkin'?"

"Coupla hours. I bought a six-pack when I left Noose's house around one-thirty. How long have you been drinking?"

"I normally drink my breakfast. Why were you at his house?"

"We discussed the trial over lunch. He refused to change venue."

"He what?"

"You heard me. The trial will be in Clanton."

Lucien took a drink and rattled his ice. "Sallie!" he screamed.

"Did he give any reason?"

"Yeah. Said it would be impossible to find jurors anywhere who hadn't heard of the case."

"I told you so. That's a good common sense reason not to move it, but it's a poor legal reason. Noose is wrong."

Sallie returned with a fresh drink and took Jake's beer to the refrigerator. Lucien took a slug and smacked his lips. He wiped his mouth with his arm, and took another long drink.

"You know what that means, don't you?" he asked.

"Sure. An all-white jury."

"That, plus a reversal on appeal if he's convicted."

"Don't bet on it. Noose has already consulted with the Supreme Court. He thinks the Court will affirm him if challenged. He thinks he's on solid ground."

"He's an idiot. I can show him twenty cases that say the trial should be moved. I think he's afraid to move it."

"Why would Noose be afraid?"

"He's taking some heat."

"From who?"

Lucien admired the golden liquid in his large glass and slowly stirred the ice cubes with a finger. He grinned and looked as though he knew something but wouldn't tell unless he was begged.

"From who?" Jake demanded, glaring at his friend with shiny, pink eyes.

"Buckley," Lucien said smugly.

"Buckley," Jake repeated. "I don't understand."

"I knew you wouldn't."

"Do you mind explaining?"

"I guess I could. But you can't repeat it. It's very confidential. Came from good sources."


"Can't tell."

"Who are your sources?" Jake insisted.

"I said I can't tell. Won't tell. Okay?"

"How can Buckley put pressure on Noose?"

"If you'll listen, I'll tell you."

"Buckley has no influence over Noose. Noose despises him. Told me so himself. Today. Over lunch."

"I realize that."

"Then how can you say Noose is feeling some heat from Buckley?"

"If you'll shut up, I'll tell you."

Jake finished a beer and called for Sallie.

"You know what a cutthroat and political whore Buck-ley is."

Jake nodded.

"You know how bad he wants to win this trial. If he wins, he thinks it will launch his campaign for attorney general."

"Governor," said Jake.

"Whatever. He's ambitious, okay?"


"Well, he's been getting political chums throughout the district to call Noose and suggest that the trial be held in Ford County. Some have been real blunt with Noose. Like, move the trial, and we'll get you in the next election. Leave it in Clanton, and we'll help you get reelected."

"I don't believe that."

"Fine. But it's true."

"How do you know?"


"Who's called him?"

"One example. Remember that thug that used to be sheriff in Van Buren County? Motley? FBI got him, but he's out now. Still a very popular man in that county."

"Yeah, I remember."

"I know for a fact he went to Noose's house with a couple of sidekicks and suggested very strongly that Noose leave the trial here. Buckley put them up to it."

"What did Noose say?"

"They all cussed each other real good. Motley told Noose he wouldn't get fifty votes in Van Buren County next election. They promised to stuff ballot boxes, harass the blacks, rig the absentee ballots, the usual election practices in Van Buren County. And Noose knows they'll do it."

"Why should he worry about it?"

"Don't be stupid, Jake. He's an old man who can do nothing but be a judge. Can you imagine him trying to start a law practice. He makes sixty thousand a year and would starve if he got beat. Most judges are like that. He's got to keep that job. Buckley knows it, so he's talking to the local bigots and pumping them up and telling how this no-good nigger might be acquitted if the trial is moved and that they should put a little heat on the judge. That's why Noose is feeling some pressure."

They drank for a few minutes in silence, both rocking quietly in the tall wooden rockers. The beer felt great.

"There's more," Lucien said.

"To what?"

"To Noose."

"What is it?"

"He's had some threats. Not political threats, but death threats. I hear he's scared to death. Got the police over there guarding his house. Carries a gun now."

"I know the feeling," Jake mumbled.

"Yeah, I heard."

"Heard what?"

"About the dynamite. Who was he?"

Jake was flabbergasted. He stared blankly at Lucien, unable to speak.

"Don't ask. I got connections. Who was he?"

"No one knows."

"Sounds like a pro."


"You're welcome to stay here. I've got five bedrooms."

The sun was gone by eight-fifteen when Ozzie parked his patrol car behind the Saab, which was still parked behind the Porsche. He walked to the foot of the steps leading up to the porch. Lucien saw him first.

"Hello, Sheriff," he attempted to say, his tongue thick and ponderous.

"Evenin', Lucien. Where's Jake?"

Lucien nodded toward the end of the porch, where Jake lay sprawled on the swing.

"He's taking a nap," Lucien explained helpfully.

Ozzie walked across the squeaking boards and stood above the comatose figure snoring peacefully. He punched him gently in the ribs. Jake opened his eyes, and struggled desperately to sit up.

"Carla called my office lookin' for you. She's worried sick. She's been callin' all afternoon and couldn't find you. Nobody's seen you. She thinks you're dead."

Jake rubbed his eyes as the swing rocked gently. "Tell her I'm not dead. Tell her you've seen me and talked to me and you are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not dead. Tell her I'll call her tomorrow. Tell her, Ozzie, please tell her."

"No way, buddy. You're a big boy, you call her and tell her." Ozzie walked off the porch. He was not amused.

Jake struggled to his feet and staggered into the house. "Where's the phone?" he yelled at Sallie. As he dialed, he could hear Lucien on the porch laughing uncontrollably.

The last hangover had been in law school, six or seven years earlier; he couldn't remember. The date, that is. He couldn't remember the date, but the pounding head, dry mouth, short breath, and burning eyes brought back painful, vivid memories of long and unforgettable bouts with the tasty brown stuff.

He knew he was in trouble immediately, when his left eye opened. The eyelids on the right one were matted firmly together, and they would not open, unless manually opened with fingers, and he did not dare move. He lay there in the dark room on a couch, fully dressed, including shoes, listening to his head pound and watching the ceiling fan rotate slowly. He felt nauseated. His neck ached because there was no pillow. His feet throbbed because of the shoes. His stomach rolled and flipped and promised to erupt. Death would have been welcome.

Jake had problems with hangovers because he could not sleep them off. Once his eyes opened and his brain awoke and began spinning again, and the throbbing between his temples set in, he could not sleep. He had never understood this. His friends in law school could sleep for days with a hangover, but not Jake. He never managed more than a few hours after the last can or bottle was empty.

Why? That was always the question the next morning. Why did he do it? A cold beer was refreshing. Maybe two or three. But ten, fifteen, even twenty? He had lost count. After six, beer lost its taste, and from then on the drinking was just for the sake of drinking and getting drunk. Lucien had been very helpful. Before dark he had sent Sallie to the store for a whole case of Coors, which he gladly paid for, then encouraged Jake to drink. There were a few cans left. It was Lu-cien's fault.

Slowly he lifted his legs, one at a time, and placed his feet on the floor. He gently rubbed his temples, to no avail. He breathed deeply, but his heart pounded rapidly, pumping more blood to his brain and fueling the small jackhammers at work on the inside of his head. He had to have water. His

...putted to the point where it was easier to leave his mouth open like a dog in heat. Why, oh why?

He stood, carefully, slowly, retardedly, and crept into the kitchen. The light above the stove was shielded and dim, but it penetrated the darkness and pierced his eyes. He rubbed his eyes and tried to clean them with his smelly fingers. He drank the warm-water slowly and allowed it to run from his mouth and drip on the floor. He didn't care. Sallie would clean it. The clock on the counter said it was two-thirty.

Gaining momentum, he walked awkwardly yet quietly through the living room, past the couch with no pillow, and out the door. The porch was littered with empty cans and bottles. Why?

He sat in the hot shower in his office for an hour, unable to move. It relieved some of the aches and soreness, but not the violence swirling around his brain. Once in law school, he had managed to crawl from his bed to the refrigerator for a beer. He drank it, and it helped; then he drank another, and felt much better. He remembered this now while sitting in the shower, and the thought of another beer made him vomit.

He lay on the conference table in his underwear and tried his best to die. He had plenty of life insurance. They would leave his house alone. The new lawyer could get a continuance.

Nine days to trial. Time was scarce, precious,, and he had just wasted one day with a massive hangover. Then he thought of Carla, and his head pounded harder. He had tried to sound sober. Told her he and Lucien had spent the afternoon reviewing insanity cases, and he would have called earlier but the phones weren't working, at least Lucien's weren't. But his tongue was heavy and his speech slow, and she knew he was drunk. She was furious-a controlled fury. Yes, her house was still standing. That was all she believed.

At six-thirty he called her again. She might be impressed if she knew he was at the office by dawn working diligently. She wasn't. With great pain and fortitude, he sounded cheerful, even hyper. She was not impressed.

"How do you feel?" she insisted.

"Great!" he answered with closed eyes.

"What time did you go to bed?"

What bed, thought Jake. "Right after I called you."

She said nothing.

"I got to the office at three o'clock this morning," he said proudly.

"Three o'clock!"

"Yeah, I couldn't sleep."

"But you didn't sleep any Thursday night." A touch of concern edged through her icy words, and he felt better.

"I'll be okay. I may stay with Lucien some this week and next. It might be safer over there."

"What about the bodyguard?"

"Yeah, Deputy Nesbit. He's parked outside asleep in his car."

She hesitated and Jake could feel the phone lines thawing. "I'm worried about you," she said warmly.

"I'll be fine, dear. I'll call tomorrow. I've got work to do."

He replaced the receiver, ran to the restroom and vomited again.

The knocking persisted at the front door. Jake ignored it for fifteen minutes, but whoever it was knew he was there and kept knocking.

He walked to the balcony. "Who is it?" he yelled at the street.

The woman walked from the sidewalk under the balcony and leaned on a black BMW parked next to the Saab. Her hands were thrust deep into the pockets of faded, starched, well-fitting jeans. The noon sun burned brightly and blinded her as she looked up in his direction. It also illuminated her light, goldish red hair.

"Are you Jake Brigance?" she asked, shielding her eyes with a forearm.

"Yeah. Whatta you want?"

"I need to talk to you."

"I'm very busy."

"It's very important."

"You're not a client, are you?" he asked, focusing his

anu Knowing sne was indeed not a client.

"No. I just need five minutes of your time."

Jake unlocked the door. She walked in casually as if she owned the place. She shook his hand firmly.

"I'm Ellen Roark."

He pointed to a seat by the door. "Nice to meet you. Sit down."

Jake sat on the edge of Ethel's desk. "One syllable or two?"

"I beg your pardon."

She had a quick, cocky Northeast accent, but tempered with some time in the South.

"Is it Rork or Row Ark?"

"R-o-a-r-k. That's Rork in Boston, and Row Ark in Mississippi."

"Mind if I call you Ellen?"

"Please do, with two syllables. Can I call you Jake?"

"Yes, please."

"Good, I hadn't planned to call you Mister."

"Boston, huh?"

"Yeah, I was born there. Went to Boston College. My dad is Sheldon Roark, a notorious criminal lawyer in Boston."

"I guess I've missed him. What brings you to Mississippi?"

"I'm in law school at Ole Miss."

"Ole Miss! How'd you wind up down here?"

"My mother's from Natchez. She was a sweet little sorority girl at Ole Miss, then moved to New York!, where she met my father."

"I married a sweet little sorority girl from Ole Miss."

"They have a great selection."

"Would you like coffee?"

"No thanks."

"Well, now that we know each other, what brings you to Clanton?"

. "Carl Lee Hailey."

"I'm not surprised."

"I'll finish law school in December, and I'm killing time

in Oxford this summer. I'm taking criminal procedure under Guthrie, and I'm bored."

"Crazy George Guthrie."

"Yeah, he's still crazy.

"He flunked me in constitutional law my first year."

"Anyway, I'd like to help you with the trial."

Jake smiled and took a seat in Ethel's heavy-duty, rotating secretarial chair. He studied her carefully. Her black cotton polo shirt was fashionably weathered and neatly pressed. The outlines and subtle shadows revealed a healthy bustline, no bra. The thick, wavy hair fell perfectly on her shoulders.

"What makes you think I need help?"

"I know you practice alone, and I know you don't have a law clerk."

"How do you know all this?"


"Ah, yes. A wonderful publication. It was a good picture, wasn't it?"

"You looked a bit stuffy, but it was okay. You look better in person."

"What credentials do you bring with you?"

"Genius runs in my family. I finished summa cum laude at BC, and I'm second in my law class. Last summer I spent three months with the Southern Prisoners Defense League in Birmingham and played gofer in seven capital trials. I watched Elmer Wayne Doss die in the Florida electric chair and I watched Willie Ray Ash get lethally injected in Texas. In my spare time at Ole Miss I write briefs for the ACLU and I'm working on two death penalty appeals for a law firm in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I was raised in my father's law office, and I was proficient in legal research before I could drive. I've watched him defend murderers, rapists, embezzlers, extortionists, terrorists, assassins, child abusers, child fondlers, child killers, and children who killed their parents. I worked forty hours a week in his office when I was in high school and fifty when I was in college. He has eighteen lawyers in his firm, all very bright, very talented. It's a great training ground for criminal lawyers, and I've been there for fourteen years. I'm twenty-five years old, and when I grow up I want to be a radical criminal lawyer like my dad stamping out me death penalty."

"Is that all?"

"My dad's filthy rich, and even though we're Irish Catholic I'm an only child. I've got more money than you do so I'll work for free. No charge. A free law clerk for three weeks. I'll do all the research, typing, answering the phone. I'll even carry your briefcase and make the coffee."

"I was afraid you'd want to be a law partner."

"No. I'm a woman, and I'm in the South. I know my place."

"Why are you so interested in this case?"

"I want to be in the courtroom. I love criminal trials, big trials where there's a life on the line and pressure so thick you can see it in the air. Where the courtroom's packed and security is tight. Where half the people hate the defendant and his lawyers and the other half pray he gets off. I love it. And this is the trial of all trials. I'm not a Southerner and I find this place bewildering most of the time, but I have developed a perverse love for it. It'll never make sense to me, but it is fascinating. The racial implications are enormous. The trial of a black father for killing two white men who raped his daughter-my father said he would take the case for free."

"Tell him to stay in Boston."

"It's a trial lawyer's dream. I just want to be there. I'll stay out of the way, I promise. Just let me work in the background and watch the trial."

"Judge Noose hates women lawyers."

"So does every male lawyer in the South. Besides, I'm not a lawyer, I'm a law student."

"I'll let you explain that to him."

"So I've got the job."

Jake stopped staring at her and breathed deeply. A minor wave of nausea vibrated through his stomach and lungs and took his breath. The jackhammers had returned with a fury and he needed to be near the restroom.

"Yes, you've got the job. I could use some free research. These cases are complicated, as I'm sure you are aware."

She flashed a comely, confident smile. "When do I start?"


Jake led her through a quick tour of the office, and assigned her to the war room upstairs. They laid the Hailey file on the conference table and she spent an hour copying it.

At two-thirty Jake awoke from a nap on his couch. He walked downstairs to the conference room. She had removed half the books from the shelves and had them scattered the length of the table with page markers sticking up every fifty or so pages. She was busy taking notes.

"Not a bad library," she said.

"Some of these books haven't been used in twenty years."

"I noticed the dust."

"Are you hungry?"

"Yes. I'm starving."

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