In his heyday in the sixties, the Reverend Isaiah Street had been the moving force behind civil rights activity in Ford County. He walked with Martin Luther King in Memphis and Montgomery. He organized marches and protests in Clanton and Karaway and other towns in north Mississippi. In the summer of '64 he greeted students from the North and coordinated their efforts to register black voters. Some had lived in his home that memorable summer, and they still visited him from time to time. He was no radical. He was quiet, compassionate, intelligent, and had earned the respect of all blacks and most whites. His was a calm, cool voice in the midst of hatred and controversy. He unofficially officiated the great public school desegregation in '69, and Ford County saw little trouble.
A stroke in '75 deadened the right side of his body but left his mind untouched. Now, at seventy-eight, he walked by himself, slowly and with a cane. Proud, dignified, erect as possible. He was ushered into the sheriffs office and seated. He,declined coffee, and Moss Junior left to get the defendant.
"You awake, Carl Lee?" he whispered loudly, not wanting to wake the other prisoners, who would begin screaming for breakfast, medicine, lawyers, bondsmen, and girlfriends.
Carl Lee sat up immediately. "Yeah, I didn't sleep much."
"You have a visitor. Come on." Moss quietly unlocked the cell.
Carl Lee had met the reverend years earlier when he addressed the last senior class at East High, the black school. Desegregation followed, and East became the junior high. He had not seen the reverend since the stroke.
"Carl Lee, do you know Reverend Isaiah Street?" Moss asked properly.
"Yes, we met years ago."
"Good, I'll close the door and let y'all talk."
"How are you, sir?" Carl Lee asked. They sat next to each other on the couch.
"Finej my son, and you?"
"As good as possible."
"I've been in jail too, you know. Years ago. It's a terri-
ble place, but I guess it's necessary. How are they treating you?"
"Fine, just fine. Ozzie lets me do as I please."
"Yes, Ozzie. We're very proud of him, aren't we?"
"Yes, sub. He's a good man." Carl Lee studied the frail, feeble old man with the cane. His body was weak and tired, but his mind was sharp, his voice strong.
"We're proud of you too, Carl Lee. I don't condone violence, but at times it's necessary too, I guess. You did a good deed, my son."
"Yes, suh," answered Carl Lee, uncertain of the appropriate response.
"I guess you wonder why I'm here."
Carl Lee nodded. The reverend tapped his cane on the floor.
"I'm concerned about your acquittal. The black community is concerned. If you were white, you would most likely go to trial, and most likely be acquitted. The rape of a child is a horrible crime, and who's to blame a father for rectifying the wrong? A white father, that is. A black father evokes the same sympathy among blacks, but there's one problem: the jury will be white. So a black father and a white father would not have equal chances with the jury. Do you follow me?"
"I think so."
"The jury is all important. Guilt versus innocence. Freedom versus prison. Life versus death. All to be determined by the jury. It's a fragile system, this trusting of lives to twelve average, ordinary people who do not understand the law and are intimidated by the process."
"Your acquittal by a white jury for the killings of two white men will do more for the black folk of Mississippi than any event since we integrated the schools. And it's not just Mississippi; it's black folk everywhere. Yours is a most famous case, and it's being watched carefully by many people."
"I just did what I had to do."
"Precisely. You did what you thought was right. It was right; although it was brutal and ugly, it was right. And most folks, black and white, believe that. But will you be treated as though you were white? That's the question."
"Ana 11 I'm convicted?"
"Your conviction would be another slap at us; a symbol of deep-seated racism; of old prejudices, old hatreds. It would be a disaster. You must not be convicted."
"I'm doin' all I can do."
"Are you? Let's talk about your attorney, if we may."
Carl Lee nodded.
"Have you met him?"
"No." Carl Lee lowered his head and rubbed his eyes. "Have you?"
"Yes, I have."
"You have? When?"
"In Memphis in 1968.1 was with Dr. King. Marsharfsky was one of the attorneys representing the garbage workers on strike against the city. He asked Dr. King to leave Memphis, claimed he was agitating the whites and inciting the blacks, and that he was impeding the contract negotiations. He was arrogant and abusive. He cursed Dr. King-in private, of course. We thought he was selling out the workers and getting money under the table from the city. I think we were right."
Carl Lee breathed deeply and rubbed his temples.
"I've followed his career," the reverend continued. "He's made a name for himself representing gangsters, thieves, and pimps. He gets some of them off, but they're always guilty. When you see one of his clients, you know he's guilty. That's what worries me most about you. I'm afraid you'll be considered guilty by association."
Carl Lee sunk lower, his elbows resting on his knees. "Who told you to come here?" he asked softly.
"I had a talk with an old friend."
"Just an old friend, my son. He's concerned about you too. We're all concerned about you."
"He's the best lawyer in Memphis."
"This isn't Memphis, is it?"
"He's an expert on criminal law."
"That could be because he's a criminal."
Carl Lee stood abruptly and walked across the room, his back to the reverend.
"He's free. He's not costin' me a dime."
"His fee won't seem important when you're on death row, my son."
Moments passed and neither spoke. Finally, the reverend lowered his cane and struggled to his feet. "I've said enough. I'm leaving. Good luck, Carl Lee."
Carl Lee shook his hand. "I do appreciate your concern and I thank you for visitin'."
"My point is simply this, my son. Your case will be difficult enough to win. Don't make it more difficult with a crook like Marsharfsky."
Lester left Chicago just before midnight Friday. He headed south alone, as usual. Earlier his wife went north to Green Bay for a weekend with her family. He liked Green Bay much less than she liked Mississippi, and neither cared to visit the other's family. They were nice people, the Swedes, and they would treat him like family if he allowed it. But they were different, and it wasn't just their whiteness. He grew up with whites in the South and knew them. He didn't like them all and didn't like most of their feelings toward him, but at least he knew them. But the Northern whites, especially the Swedes, were different. Their customs, speech, food, almost everything was foreign to him, and he would never feel comfortable with them.
There would be a divorce, probably within a year: He was black, and his wife's older cousin had married a black in the early seventies and received a lot of attention. Lester was a fad, and she was tired of him. Luckily, there were no kids. He suspected someone else. He had someone else too, and Iris had promised to marry him and move to Chicago once she ditched Henry.
Both sides of Interstate 57 looked the same after midnight-scattered lights from the small, neat farms strewn over the countryside, and occasionally a big town like Champaign or Effingham. The north was where he lived and worked, but it wasn't home. Home was where Momma was, in Mississippi, although he would never live there again. Too much ignorance and poverty. He didn't mind the racism; it wasn't as bad as it once was and he was accustomed to it. It would always be there, but gradually becoming less visible.
i ne wmtes stui owned and controlled everything, and that in itself was not unbearable. It was not about to change. What he found intolerable was the ignorance and stark poverty of many of the blacks; the dilapidated, shotgun houses, the high infant mortality rate, the hopelessly unemployed, the unwed mothers and their unfed babies. It was depressing to the point of being intolerable, and intolerable to the point he fled Mississippi like thousands of others and migrated north in search of a job, any decent-paying job which could ease the pain of poverty.
It was both pleasant and depressing to return to Mississippi. Pleasant in that he would see his family; depressing because he would see their poverty. There were bright spots. Carl Lee had a decent job, a clean house, and well-dressed kids. He was an exception, and now it was all in jeopardy because of two drunk, low-bred pieces of white trash. Blacks had an excuse for being worthless, but for whites in a white world, there were no excuses. They were dead, thank God, and he was proud of his big brother.
Six hours out of Chicago the sun appeared as he crossed the river at Cairo. Two hours later he crossed it again at Memphis. He drove southeast into Mississippi, and an hour later circled the courthouse in Clanton. He'd been awake for twenty hours.
"Carl Lee, you have a visitor," Ozzie said through the iron bars in the door.
"I'm not surprised. Who is it?"
"Just follow me. I think you better use my office. This could take a while."
Jake loitered at his office waiting on the phone to ring. Ten o'clock. Lester should be in town, if he's coming. Eleven. Jake riffled through some stale files and made notes for Ethel. Noon. He called Carla and lied about meeting a new client at one o'clock, so forget lunch. He would work in the yard later. One o'clock. He found an ancient case from Wyoming where a husband was acquitted after tracking down the man who raped his wife. In 1893. He copied the case, then
threw it in the garbage. Two o'clock. Was Lester in town? He could go visit Leroy and snoop around the jail. No, that didn't feel right. He napped on the couch in the big office.
At two-fifteen the phone rang. Jake bolted upright and scrambled from the couch. His heart was pounding as he grabbed the phone. "Hello!"
"Jake, this is Ozzie."
"Yeah, Ozzie, what's up?"
"Your presence is requested here at the jail."
"What?" Jake asked, feigning innocence.
"You're needed down here."
"Carl Lee wants to talk to you."
"Is Lester there?"
"Yeah. He wants you too."
"Be there in a minute."
"They've been in there for over four hours," Ozzie said, pointing to the office door.
"Doing what?" asked Jake,
"Talkin', cussin', shoutin'. Things got quiet about thirty minutes ago. Carl Lee came out and asked me to call you."
"Thanks. Let's go in."
"No way, man. I ain't goin' in there. They didn't send for me. You're on your own."
Jake knocked on the door.
He opened it slowly, walked inside and closed it. Carl Lee was sitting behind the desk. Lester was lying on the couch. He stood and shook Jake's hand. "Good to see you, Jake."
"Good to see you, Lester. What brings you home?"
Jake looked at Carl Lee, then walked to the desk and shook his hand. The defendant was clearly irritated.
"Y'all sent for me?"
"Yeah, Jake, sit down. We need to talk," said Lester. "Carl Lee's got somethin' to tell you."
"You tell him," Carl Lee said.
Lester sighed and rubbed his eyes. He was tired and
irusiraiea. "i ami saym' anotner word. This is between .you and Jake." Lester closed his eyes and relaxed on the couch. Jake sat in a padded, folding chair that he leaned against the wall opposite the couch. He watched Lester carefully, but did not look at Carl Lee, who rocked slowly in Ozzie's swivel chair. Carl Lee said nothing. Lester said nothing. After three minutes of silence, Jake was annoyed.
"Who sent for me?" he demanded.
"I did," answered Carl Lee.
"Well, what do you want?"
"I wanna give you my case back."
"You assume I want it back."
"What!" Lester sat up and looked at Jake.
"It's not a gift you give or take away. It's an agreement between you and your attorney. Don't act as though you're doing me a great favor." Jake's voice was rising, his anger apparent.
"Do you want the case?" asked Carl Lee.
"Are you trying to rehire me, Carl Lee?"
"Why do you want to rehire me?"
" 'Cause Lester wants me to."
"Fine, then I don't want your case." Jake stood and started for the door. "If Lester wants me and you want Mar-sharfsky, then stick with Marsharfsky. If you can't think for yourself, you need Marsharfsky."
"Wait, Jake. Be cool, man," Lester said as he met Jake at the door. "Sit down, sit down. I don't blame you for bein' mad at Carl Lee for firm' you. He was wrong. Right, Carl Lee?"
Carl Lee picked at his fingernails.
"Sit down, Jake, sit down and let's talk," Lester pleaded as he led him back to the folding chair. "Good. Now, let's discuss this situation. Carl Lee, do you want Jake to be your lawyer?"
Carl Lee nodded. "Yeah."
"Good. Now, Jake-"
"Explain why." Jake asked Carl Lee.
"Explain why you want me to handle your case. Explain why you're firing Marsharfsky."
"I don't have to explain."
"Yes! Yes, you do. You at least owe me an explanation. You fired me a week ago and didn't have the guts to call me. I read it in the newspaper. Then I read about your new high-priced lawyer who evidently can't find his way to Clanton. Now you call me and expect me to drop everything because you might change your mind again. Explain, please."
"Explain, Carl Lee. Talk to Jake," Lester said.
Carl Lee leaned forward and placed his elbows on the desk. He buried his face in his hands and spoke between his palms. "I'm just confused. This place is drivin' me crazy. My nerves are shot. I'm worried about my little girl. I'm worried about my family. I'm worried about my own skin. Everbody's tellin' me to do somethin' different. I ain't ever been in a situation like this and I don't know what to do. All I can do is trust people. I trust Lester, and I trust you, Jake. That's all I can do."
"You trust my advice?" asked Jake.
"I always have."
"And you trust me to handle your case?"
"Yeah, Jake, I want you to handle it."
Jake relaxed, and Lester eased into the couch. "You'll need to notify Marsharfsky. Until you do, I can't work on your case."
"We'll do that this afternoon," Lester said.
"Good. Once you talk to him, give me a call. There's a lot of work to do, and the time will disappear."
"What about the money?" asked Lester.
"Same fee. Same arrangements. Is that satisfactory?"
"Okay with me," replied Carl Lee. "I'll pay you any way I can."
"We'll discuss that later."
"What about the doctors?" asked Carl Lee.
"We'll make some arrangements. I don't know. It'll work out."
The defendant smiled. Lester snored loudly and Carl Lee laughed at his brother. "I figured you called him, but he swears you didn't."
Jake smiled awkwardly but said nothing. Lester was a
nar, a- laieni wmcn naa proved extremely beneficial during his murder trial.
"I'm,sorry, Jake. I was wrong."
"No apologies. There's too much work to spend time apologizing."
Next to the parking lot outside the jail, a reporter stood under a shade tree waiting for something to happen.
"Excuse me, sir, aren't you Mr. Brigance?"
"Who wants to know?"
"I'm Richard Flay, with The Jackson Daily. You're Jake Brigance."
"Mr. Hailey's ex-lawyer."
"No. Mr. Hailey's lawyer."
"I thought he had retained Bo Marsharfsky. In" fact, that's why I'm here. I heard a rumor Marsharfsky would be here this-afternoon."
"If you see him, tell him he's too late."
Lester slept hard on the couch in Ozzie's office. The dispatcher woke him at 4:00 A.M. Sunday, and after filling a tall Styrofoam cup with black coffee, he left for Chicaga. Late Saturday night he and Carl Lee had called Cat in his office above the club and informed him of Carl Lee's conversion. Cat was indifferent and busy. He said he would call Marsharfsky. There was no mention of the money.
Not long after Lester disappeared, Jake staggered down his driveway in his bathrobe to get the Sunday papers. Clanton was an hour southeast of Memphis, three hours north of Jackson, and forty-five minutes from Tupelo. All three cities had daily papers with fat Sunday editions that were available in Clanton. Jake had long subscribed to all three, and was now glad he did so Carla would have plenty of material for her scrapbook. He spread the papers and began the task of plowing through five inches of print.
Nothing in the Jackson paper. He hoped Richard Flay had reported something. He should have spent more time with him outside the jail. Nothing from Memphis. Nothing from Tupelo. Jake was not surprised, just hopeful that somehow the story had been discovered. But it happened too late yesterday. Maybe Monday. He was tired of hiding; tired of feeling embarrassed. Until it was in the papers and read by the boys at the Coffee Shop, and the people at church, and the other lawyers, including Buckley and Sullivan and Lot-terhouse, until everybody knew it was his case again, he would stay quiet and out of view. How should he tell Sullivan? Carl Lee would call Marsharfsky, or the pimp, probably the pimp, who would then call Marsharfsky with the news. What kind of press release would Marsharfsky write for that? Then the great lawyer would call Walter Sullivan with the wonderful news. That should happen Monday morning, if not sooner. Word would spread quickly throughout the Sullivan firm, and the senior partners, junior partners, and little associates would all gather in the long, mahogany-laced conference room and curse Brigance and his low ethics and tactics. The associates would try to impress their bosses by spouting rules and code numbers of ethics Brigance probably violated. Jake hated them, every one of them. He would send Sullivan a short, curt letter with a copy to Lotterhouse. He wouldn't call or write Buckley. He would be in shock after he saw the paper. A letter to Judge Noose with a
copy to tsucKiey would worn nne. He wouia noi nonor mm with a personal letter.
Jake had a thought, then hesitated, then dialed Lucien's number. It was a few minutes after seven. The nurse/maid/ bartender answered the phone.
"This is Jake. Is Lucien awake?"
"Just a moment." She rolled over and handed the phone to Lucien.
"Lucien, it's Jake."
"Yeah, whatta you want?"
"Good news. Carl Lee Hailey rehired me yesterday. The case is mine again."
'The Hailey case!"
"Oh, the vigilante. He's yours?"
"As of yesterday. We've got work to do."
"When's the trial? July sometime?"
"That's pretty close. What's priority?"
"A psychiatrist. A cheap one who'll say anything."
"I know just the man," said Lucien.
"Good. Get busy. I'll call in a couple of days."
Carla awoke, at a decent hour and found her husband in the kitchen with newspapers strewn over and under the breakfast table. She made fresh coffee and, without a word, sat across the table. He smiled at her and continued reading.
"What time did you get up?" she asked.
"Why so early? It's Sunday."
"I couldn't sleep."
Jake lowered the paper. "As a matter of fact, I am excited. Very excited. It's too bad the excitement will not be shared."
"I'm sorry about last night."
"You don't have to apologize. I know how you feel. Your problem is that you only look at the negative, never the positive. You have no idea what this case can do for us."
"Jake, this case scares me. The phone calls, the threats, the burning cross. If the case means a million dollars, is it worth it if something happens?"
"Nothing will happen. We'll get some more threats and they'll stare at us at church and around town, but nothing serious."
"But you can't be sure."
"We went through this last night and I don't care to rehash it this morning. I do have an idea, though."
"I can't wait to hear it."
"You and Hanna fly to North Carolina and stay with your parents until after the trial. They'd love to have you, and we wouldn't worry about the Klan or whoever likes to burn crosses."7
"But the trial is six weeks away! You want us to stay in Wilmington for six weeks?"
"I love my parents, but that's ridiculous."
"You don't see enough of them, and they don't see enough of Hanna."
"And we don't see enough of you. I'm not leaving for six weeks."
"There's a ton of preparation. I'll eat and sleep this case until the trial is over. I'll work nights, weekends-"
"What else is new?"
"I'll ignore y'all and think of nothing but this case."
"We're used to that."
Jake smiled at her. "You're saying you can handle it?"
"I can handle you. It's those crazies out there that scare me."
"When the crazies get serious, I'll back off. I will run from this case if my family is in danger."
"Of course I promise. Let's send Hanna."
"If we're not in danger, why do you want to send anybody?"
"Just for safety. She'd have a great time spending the summer with her grandparents. They'd love it."
"She wouldn't last a week without me."
"And you wouldn't last a week without her."
That s true. It s out of the question. I don t worry about her as long as I can hold her and squeeze her."
The coffee was ready and Carla filled their cups. "Anything in the paper?"
"No. I thought the Jackson paper might run something, but it happened too late, I guess."
"I guess your timing is a little rusty after a week's layoff."
"Just wait till in the morning."
"How do you know?"
She shook her head and searched for the fashion and food sections. "Are you going to church?"
"Why not? You've got the case. You're a star again."
"Yeah, but no one knows it yet."
"I see. Next Sunday."
At Mount Hebron, Mount Zion, Mount Pleasant, and at Brown's Chapel, Green's Chapel, and Norris Road, Section Line Road, Bethel Road, and at God's Temple, Christ's Temple, and Saints' Temple, the buckets and baskets and plates were passed and re-passed and left at the altars and front doors to collect the money for Carl Lee Hailey and his family. The large, family-size Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets were used in many of the churches. The bigger the bucket, or basket, the smaller the individual offerings appeared as they fell to the bottom, thus allowing the minister just cause to order another passing through the flock. It was a special offering, separate from the regular giving, and was preceded in virtually every church with a heart-wrenching account of what happened to the precious little Hailey girl, and what would happen to her daddy and family if the buckets were not filled. In many instances the sacred name of the NAACP was invoked and the effect was a loosening of the wallets and purses.
It worked. The buckets were emptied, the money counted, and the ritual repeated during the evening services. Late Sunday night the morning offerings and evening offer-
ings were combined and counted by each minister, who would then deliver a great percentage of the total to the Reverend Agee sometime Monday. He would keep the money somewhere in his church, and a great percentage of it would be spent for the benefit of the Hailey family.
From two to five each Sunday afternoon, the prisoners in the Ford County jail were turned out into a large fenced yard across the small back street behind the jail. A limit of three friends and/or relatives for each prisoner was allowed inside for no more than an hour. There were a couple of shade trees, some broken picnic tables, and a well-maintained basketball hoop. Deputies and dogs watched carefully from the other side of the fence.
A routine was established. Gwen and the kids would leave church after the benediction around three, and drive to the jail. Ozzie allowed Carl Lee early entrance to the recreation area so he could assume the best picnic table, the one with four legs and a shade tree. He would sit there by himself, speaking to no one, and watch the basketball skirmish until his family arrived. It wasn't basketball, but a hybrid of rugby, wrestling, judo, and basketball. No one dared officiate. No blood, no foul. And, surprisingly, no fights. A fight meant quick admittance to solitary and no recreation for a month.
There were a few visitors, some girlfriends and wives, and they would sit in the grass by the fence with their men and quietly watch the mayhem under the basketball hoop. One couple asked Carl Lee if they could use his table for lunch. He shook his head, and they ate in the grass.
Gwen and the kids arrived before three. Deputy Hastings, her cousin, unlocked the gate and the children ran to meet their daddy. Gwen spread the food. Carl Lee was aware of the stares from the less fortunate, and he enjoyed the envy. Had he been white, or smaller and weaker, or perhaps charged with a lesser crime, he would have been asked to share his food. But he was Carl Lee Hailey, and no one stared too long. The-game returned to its fury and violence, and the family ate in peace. Tonya always sat next to her daddy.
"They started an offerin' for us this mornin'," Gwen said after lunch.
"The church. Reverend Agee said all the black churches in the county are gonna take up money ever Sunday for us and for the lawyer fees."
"Don't know. He said they gonna pass the bucket ever Sunday until the trial."
"That's mighty nice. What'd he say 'bout me?"
"Just talked about your case and all. Said how expensive it would be, and how we'd need help from the churches. Talked about Christian givin' and all that. Said you're a real hero to your people."
What a pleasant surprise, thought Carl Lee. He expected some help from his church, but nothing financial. "How many churches?"
"All the black ones in the county."
"When do we get the money?"
"He didn't say."
After he got his cut, thought Carl Lee. "Boys, y'all take your sister and go play over there by the fence. Me and Momma needs to talk. Be careful now."
Carl Lee, Jr., and Robert took their little sister by the hand and did exactly as ordered.
"What does the doctor say?" Carl Lee asked as he watched the children walk away.
"She's doin' good. Her jaw's healin' good. He might take the wire off in a month. She can't run and jump and play yet, but it won't be long. Still some soreness."
"What about the, uh, the other?"
Gwen shook her head and covered her eyes. She began crying and wiping her eyes. She spoke and her voice cracked. "She'll never have kids. He told me . . ." She stopped, wiped her face and tried to continue. She began sobbing loudly, and buried her face in a paper towel.
Carl Lee felt sick. He placed his forehead in his palms. He ground his teeth together as his eyes watered. "What'd he say?"
Gwen raised her head and spoke haltingly, righting back tears. "He told me Tuesday there was too much dam-
age . . ." She wiped her wet face with her fingers. "But he wants to send her to a specialist in Memphis."
"He's not sure?"
She shook her head. "Ninety percent sure. But he thinks she should be examined by another doctor in Memphis. We're supposed to take her in a month."
Gwen tore off another paper towel and wiped her face. She handed one to her husband, who quickly dabbed his eyes.
Next to the fence, Tonya sat listening to her brothers argue about which one would be a deputy and which one would be in jail. She watched her parents talk and shake their heads and cry. She knew something was wrong with her. She rubbed her eyes and started crying too.
"The nightmares are gettin' worse," Gwen said, interrupting the silence. "I have to sleep with her ever night. She dreams about men comin' to get her, men hidin' in the closets, chasin' her through the woods. She wakes up screamin' and sweatin'. The doctor says she needs to see a psychiatrist. Says it'll get worse before it gets better."
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