Chapter Three

"We towed it in and examined it this mornin'. Lot of blood stains."

"What else?"

"We found a small T-shirt covered with blood."

"Whose T-shirt?"

"It belonged to Tonya Hailey, the little girl who was raped. Her daddy, Carl Lee Hailey, identified it this •nin'."

Carl Lee heard his name and sat upright. Ozzie stared straight at him. Jake turned and saw Carl Lee for the first time.

"Describe the truck."

"New yellow Ford half-ton pickup. Big chrome wheels and mud tires. Rebel flag in the rear window."

"Owned by who?"

Ozzie pointed at the defendants. "Billy Ray Cobb."

"Does it match the description given by the girl?"


Childers paused and reviewed his notes. "Now, Sheriff, what other evidence do you have against these defendants?"

"We talked to Pete Willard this mornin' at the jail. He signed a confession."

"You did what!" Cobb blurted. Willard cowered and looked for help.

"Order! Order!" shouted Bullard as he banged his gavel. Tyndale separated his clients.

"Did you advise Mr. Willard of his rights?"


"Did he understand them?"


"Did he sign a statement to that effect?"


"Who was present when Mr. Willard made his statement?"

"Me, two deputies, my investigator, Rady, and Lieutenant Griffin with the Highway Patrol."

"Do you have the confession?"


"Please read it."

The courtroom was still and silent as Ozzie read the short statement. Carl Lee stared blankly at the two defendants. Cobb glared at Willard, who picked dirt off his boots.

"Thank you, Sheriff," Childers said when Ozzie finished. "Did Mr. Willard sign the confession?"

"Yes, in front of three witnesses."

"The State has nothing further, Your Honor."

Bullard shouted, "You may cross-examine, Mr. Tyndale."

"I have nothing at this time, Your Honor."

Good move, thought Jake. Strategically, for the delisten, take notes, let the court reporter record the testimony, and stay quiet. The grand jury would see the case anyway, so why bother? And never allow the defendants to testify. Their testimony would serve no purpose and haunt them at trial. Jake knew they would not testify because he knew Tyndale.

"Call your next witness," demanded the Judge.

"We have nothing further, Your Honor."

"Good. Sit down. Mr. Tyndale, do you have any witnesses?"

"No, Your Honor."

"Good. The court finds there is sufficient evidence that numerous crimes have been committed by these defendants, and the court orders Mr. Cobb and Mr. Willard to be held to await action by the Ford County grand jury, which is scheduled to meet on Monday, May 27. Any questions?"

Tyndale rose slowly. "Yes, Your Honor, we would request the court to set a reasonable bond for these de-"

"Forget it," snapped Bullard. "Bail will be denied as of now. It's my understanding that the girl is in critical condition. If she dies, there will of course be other charges."

"Well, Your Honor, in that case, I would like to request a bail hearing a few days from now, in the hopes that her condition improves."

Bullard studied Tyndale carefully. Good idea, he thought. "Granted. A bail hearing is set for next Monday, May 20, in this courtroom. Until then the defendants will remain in the custody of the Ford County sheriff. Court's adjourned."

Bullard rapped the gavel and disappeared. The deputies swarmed around the defendants, handcuffed them, and they too disappeared from the courtroom, into the holding room, down the back stairs, past the reporters, and into the squad car.

The hearing was typical for Bullard-less than twenty minutes. Justice could be very swift in his courtroom.

Jake talked to the other lawyers and watched the crowd file silently through the enormous wooden doors at the rear of the courtroom. Carl Lee was in no hurry to leave, and motioned for Jake to follow him. They met in the rotunda.

Carl Lee wanted to talk, and he excused himself from the crowd and promised to meet them at the hospital. He and Jake walked down the winding staircase to the first floor.

"I'm truly sorry, Carl Lee," Jake said.

"Yeah, me too."

"How is she?"

"She'll make it."

"How's Gwen?"

"Okay, I guess."

"How about you?"

They walked slowly down the hall toward the rear of the courthouse. "It ain't sunk in yet. I mean, twenty-four hours ago everthing was fine. Now look at us. My little girl's layin' up in the hospital with tubes all over her body. My wife's, crazy and my boys are scared to death, and all I think about is gettin' my hands on those bastards."

"I wish I could do something, Carl Lee."

"All you can do is pray for her, pray for us."

"I know it hurts."

"You gotta little girl, don't you, Jake?"


Carl Lee said nothing as they walked in silence. Jake changed the subject. "Where's Lester?"


"What's he doing?"

"Workin' for a steel company. Good job. Got married."

"You're kidding? Lester, married?"

"Yeah, married a white girl."

"White girl! What's he want with a white girl?"

"Aw, you know Lester. Always an uppity nigger. He's on his way home now. Be in late tonight."

"What for?"

They stopped at the rear door. Jake asked again: "What's Lester coming in for?"

"Family business."

"Y'all planning something?"

"Nope. He just wants to see his niece."

"Y'all don't get excited."

"That's easy for you to say, Jake."

"I know."

"What would you plan, Jake?"

What do you mean?"

"You gotta little girl. Suppose she's layin up in the hospital, beat and raped. What would you do?"

Jake looked through the window of the door and could not answer. Carl Lee waited.

"Don't do anything stupid, Carl Lee."

"Answer my question. What would you do?"

"I don't know. I don't know what I'd do."

"Lemme ask you this. If it was your little girl, and if it was two niggers, and you could get your hands on them, what would you do?"

"Kill them."

Carl Lee smiled, then laughed. "Sure you would, Jake, sure you would. Then you'd hire some big-shot lawyer to say you's crazy, just like you did in Lester's trial."

"We didn't say Lester was crazy. We just said Bowie needed killing."

"You got him off, didn't you?"


Carl Lee walked to the stairs and looked up. "This how they get to the courtroom?" he asked without looking at Jake.


"Those boys."

"Yeah. Most of the time they take them up those stairs. It's quicker and safer. They can park right outside the door here, and run them up the stairs."

Carl Lee walked to the rear door and looked through the window at the veranda. "How many murder trials you had, Jake?"

"Three. Lester's and two more."

"How many were black?"

"All three."

"How many you win?"

"All three."

"You pretty good on nigger shootin's, ain't you?"

"I guess."

"You ready for another one?"

"Don't do it, Carl Lee. It's not worth it. What if you're convicted and get the gas chamber? What about the kids? Who'll raise them? Those punks aren't worth it."

"You just told me you'd do it."

Jake walked to the door next to Carl Lee. "It's different with me. I could probably get off."


"I'm white, and this is a white county. With a little luck I could get an all-white jury, which will naturally be sympathetic. This is not New York or California. A man's supposed to protect his family. A jury would eat it up."

"And me?"

' "Like I said, this ain't New York or California. Some whites would admire you, but most would want to see you hang. It would be much harder to win an acquittal."

"But you could do it, couldn't you, Jake?"

"Don't do it, Carl Lee."

"I have no choice, Jake. I'll never sleep till those bastards are dead. I owe it to my little girl, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my people. It'll be done."

They opened the doors, walked under the veranda and down the driveway to Washington Street, across from Jake's office. They shook hands. Jake promised to stop by the hospital tomorrow to see Gwen and the family.

"One more thing, Jake. Will you meet me at the jail when they arrest me?"

Jake nodded before he thought. Carl Lee %miled and walked down the sidewalk to his truck.

Lester Hailey married a Swedish girl from Wisconsin, and although she still professed love for him, Lester suspected the novelty of his skin was beginning to fade. She was terrified of Mississippi, and flatly refused to travel south with Lester even though he assured her she would be safe. She had never met his family. Not that his people were anxious to meet her-they were not. It was not uncommon for Southern blacks to move north and marry white girls, but no Hailey had ever mixed. There were many Haileys in Chicago; most were kin, and all married black. The family was not impressed with Lester's blonde wife. He drove to Clanton in his new Cadillac, by himself.

It was late Wednesday night when he arrived at the hospital and found some cousins reading magazines in the second-floor waiting room. He embraced Carl Lee. They had not seen each other since the Christmas holidays, when half the blacks in Chicago trooped home to Mississippi and Alabama.

They stepped-, into the hall, away from the relatives. "How is she?" Lester asked.

"Better. Much better. Might go home this weekend."

Lester was relieved. When he left Chicago eleven hours earlier she had been near death, according to the cousin who had called and scared him from bed. He lit a Kool under the NO SMOKING sign and stared at his big brother. "You okay?"

Carl Lee nodded and glanced down the hall.

"How's Gwen?"

"Crazier than normal. She's at her momma's. You come by yourself?"

"Yeah," Lester answered defensively.


"Don't get smart. I didn't drive all day to hear crap about my wife."

"Okay, okay. You still got gas?"

Lester smiled and chuckled. He had been plagued by stomach gas since the day he married the Swede. She prepared dishes he couldn't pronounce, and his system behaved violently. He longed for collards, peas, okra, fried chicken, barbecue pork, and fatback.

They found a small waiting room on the third floor with folding chairs and a card table. Lester bought two cups of stale, thick coffee from a machine and stirred the powdered cream with his finger. He listened intently as Carl Lee detailed the rape, the arrests, and the hearing. Lester found some napkins and diagrammed the courthouse and the jail. It had been four years since his murder trial, and he had trouble with the drawings. He had spent only a week in jail, prior to posting bond, and had not visited the place since his acquittal. In fact, he had left for Chicago shortly after his trial. The victim had relatives.

They made plans and discarded them, plotting well past midnight.

At noon Thursday Tonya was removed from intensive care and placed in a private room. She was listed as stable. The doctors relaxed, and her family brought candy, toys, and flowers. With two broken jaws and a mouthful of wire, she could only stare at the candy. Her brothers ate most of it. They clung to her bed and held her hand, as if to protect and reassure. The room stayed full o'f friends and strangers, all patting her gently and saying how sweet she was, all treating her as someone special, someone who had been through this horrible thing. The crowd moved in shifts, from the hall into her room, and back into the hall, where the nurses watched carefully.

The wounds hurt, and at times she cried. Every hour the nurses cleared a path through the visitors and found the patient for a dose of painkiller.

That night in her room, the crowd hushed as the Memphis station talked about the rape. The television showed pictures of the two white men, but she couldn't see very well.

The Ford County Courthouse opened at 8:00 A.M. and closed at 5:00 P.M. every day except Friday, when it closed at four-thirty. At four-thirty on Friday Carl Lee was hiding in a moi-iiuui icsiroom wnen tney locked the courthouse. He sat on a toilet and listened quietly for an hour. No janitors. No one. Silence. He walked through the wide, semidark hall to the rear doors, and peeked through the window. No one in sight. He listened for a while. The courthouse was deserted. He turned and looked down the long hall, through the rotunda and through the front doors, two hundred feet away.

He studied the building. The two sets of rear doors opened to the inside into a large, rectangular entrance area. To the far right was a set of stairs, and to the left was an identical stairway. The open area narrowed and led into the hall. Carl Lee pretended to be on trial. He grabbed his hands behind him, and touched his back to the rear door. He walked to his right thirty feet to the stairs; up the stairs, ten steps, then a small landing, then a ninety-degree turn to the left, just like Lester said; then, ten more steps to the holding room. It was a small room, fifteen by fifteen, with nothing but a window and two doors. One door he opened, and walked into the huge courtroom in front of the rows of padded pews. He walked to the aisle and sat in the front row. Surveying the room, he noticed in front of him the railing, or bar, as Lester called it, which separated the general public from the area where the judge, jury, witnesses, lawyers, defendants, and clerks sat and worked.

He walked down the aisle to the rear doors and examined the courtroom in detail. It looked much different from Wednesday. Back down the aisle, he returned to the holding room and tried the other door, which led to the area behind the bar where the trial took place. He sat at the long table where Lester and Cobb and Willard had sat. To the right was another long table where the prosecutors sat. Behind the tables was a row of wooden chairs, then the bar with swinging gates on both ends. The judge sat high and lordly behind the elevated bench, his back to the wall under the faded portrait of Jefferson Davis, frowning down on everyone in the room. The jury box was against the wall to Carl Lee's right, to the judge's left, under the yellow portraits of other forgotten Confederate heroes. The witness stand was next to the bench, but lower, of course, and in front of the jury. To Carl Lee's left, opposite the jury box, was a long, enclosed workbench covered with large red docket books.

Clerks and lawyers usually milled around behind it during a trial. Behind the workbench, through the wall, was the holding room.

Carl Lee stood, still as though handcuffed, and walked slowly through the small swinging gate in the bar, and was led through the first door into the holding room; then down the steps, ten of them, through the narrow, shadowy stairway; then he stopped. From the landing halfway down the steps, he could see the rear doors of the courthouse and most of the entrance area between the doors and the hall. At the foot of the stairs, to the right, was a door that he opened and found a crowded, junky janitor's closet. He closed the door and explored the small room. It turned and ran under the stairway. It was dark, dusty, crowded with brooms and buckets and seldom used. He opened the door slightly and looked up the stairs.

For another hour he roamed the courthouse. The other rear stairway led to another holding room just behind the jury box. One door went to the courtroom, the other to the jury room. The stairs continued to the third floor, where he found the county law library and two witness rooms, just as Lester said.

Up and down, up and down, he traced and retraced the movements to be made by the men who raped his daughter.

He sat in the judge's chair and surveyed his domain. He sat in the jury box and rocked in one of the comfortable chairs. He sat in the witness chair and blew into the microphone. It was finally dark at seven when Carl Lee raised a window in the restroom next to the janitor's closet, and slid quietly through the bushes and into the darkness.

"Who would you report it to?" Carla asked as she closed the fourteen-inch pizza box and poured some more lemonade.

Jake rocked slightly in the wicker swing on the front porch and watched Hanna skip rope on the sidewalk next to the street.

"Are you there?" she asked.


"Who would you report it to?"

"I don't plan to report it," he said.

"i mink you should."

"I think I shouldn't."

"Why not?"

His rocking gained speed and he sipped the lemonade. He spoke slowly. "First of all, I don't know for sure that a crime is being planned. He said some things any father would say, and I'm sure he's having thoughts any father would have. But as far as actually planning a crime, I don't think so. Secondly, what he said to me was said in confidence, just as if he was a client. In fact, he probably thinks of me as his lawyer."

"But even if you're his lawyer, and you know he's planning a crime, you have to report it, don't you?"

"Yes. If I'm certain of his plans. But I'm not."

She was not satisfied. "I think you should report it."

Jake did not respond. It wouldn't matter. He ate his last bite of crust and tried to ignore her.

"You want Carl Lee to do it, don't you?"

"Do what?"

"Kill those boys."

"No, I don't." He was not convincing. "But if he did, I wouldn't blame him because I'd do the same thing."

"Don't start that again."

"I'm serious and you know it. I'd do it."

"Jake, you couldn't kill a man."

"Okay. Whatever. I'm not going to argue. We've been through it before."

Carla yelled at Hanna to move away from the street. She sat next to him in the swing and rattled her ice cubes. "Would you represent him?"

"I hope so."

"Would the jury convict him?"

"Would you?"

"I don't know."

"Well, think of Hanna. Just look at that sweet little innocent child out there skipping rope. You're a mother. Now think of the little Hailey girl, lying there, beaten, bloody, begging for her momma and daddy-"

"Shut up, Jake!"

He smiled. "Answer the question. You're on the jury. Would you vote to convict the father?"

She placed her glass on the windowsill and suddenly became interested in her cuticles. Jake smelled victory.

"Come on. You're on the jury. Conviction or acquittal?"

"I'm always on the jury around here. Either that or I'm being cross-examined."

"Convict or acquit?"

She glared at him. "It would be hard to convict."

He grinned and rested his case.

"But I don't see how he could kill them if they're in jail."

"Easy. They're not always in jail. They go to court and they're transported to and from. Remember Oswald and Jack Ruby. Plus, they get out if they can make bail."

"When can they do that?"

"Bonds will be set Monday. If they bond out, they're loose."

"And if they can't?"

"They remain in jail until trial."

"When is the trial?"

"Probably late summer."

"I think you should report it."

Jake bolted from the swing and went to play with Hanna.

K. T. Bruster, or Cat Bruster, as he was known, was, to his knowledge, the only one-eyed black millionaire in Memphis. He owned a string of black topless joints in town, all of which he operated legally. He owned blocks of rental property, which he operated legally, and he owned two churches in south Memphis, which were also operated legally. He was a benefactor for numerous black causes, a friend of the politicians, and a hero to his people.

It was important for Cat to be popular in the community because he would be indicted again and tried again, and in all likelihood acquitted again by his peers, half of whom were black. The authorities had found it impossible to convict Cat of killing people and of selling such things as women, cocaine, stolen goods, credit cards, food stamps, un-taxed liquor, guns, and light artillery.

He had one eye with him. The other one was somewhere in a rice paddy in Vietnam. He lost it the same day in 1971 that his buddy Carl Lee Hailey was hit in the leg. Carl Lee carried him for two hours before they found help. After the war he returned to Memphis and brought with him two pounds of hashish. The proceeds went to buy a small saloon on South Main, and he almost starved before he won a whore in a poker game with a pimp. He promised her she could quit whoring if she would take off her clothes and dance on his tables. Overnight he had more business than he could seat, so he bought another bar, and brought in more dancers. He found his niche in the market, and within two years he was a very wealthy man.

His office was above one of his clubs just off South Main between Vance and Beale, in the roughest part of Memphis. The sign above the sidewalk advertised Bud and breasts, but much more was for sale behind the black windows.

Carl Lee and Lester found the lounge-Brown Sugar- around noon, Saturday. They sat at the bar, ordered Bud, and watched the breasts.

"Is Cat in?" Carl Lee asked the bartender when he walked behind them. He grunted and returned to the sink, where he continued his beer mug washing. Carl Lee glanced at him between sips and dance routines.

"Another beer!" Lester said loudly without taking his eyes off the dancers.

"Cat Bruster here?" Carl Lee asked firmly when the bartender brought the beer.

"Who wants to know?"

"I do."


"So me and Cat are good friends. Fought together in 'Nam."


"Hailey. Carl Lee Hailey. From Mississippi."

The bartender disappeared, and a minute later emerged from between two mirrors behind the liquor. He motioned for the Haileys, who followed him through a small door, past the restrooms and through a locked door up the stairs. The office was dark and gaudy. The carpet on the floor was gold, on the walls, red, on the ceiling, green. A green shag ceiling. Thin steel bars covered the two blackened windows, and for good measure a set of heavy, dusty, burgundy drapes hung from ceiling to floor to catch and smother any sunlight robust enough to penetrate the painted glass. A small, ineffective chrome chandelier with mirror panes rotated slowly in the center of the room, barely above their heads.

Two mammoth bodyguards in matching three-piece black suits dismissed the bartender and seated Lester and Carl Lee, and stood behind them.

The brothers admired the furnishings. "Nice, ain't it?" Lester said. B.B. King mourned softly on a hidden stereo.

Suddenly, Cat entered from a hidden door behind the marble and glass desk. He lunged at Carl Lee. "My man! My man! Carl Lee Hailey!" He shouted and grabbed Carl Lee. "So good to see you, Carl Lee! So good to see you!"

Carl Lee stood and they bearhugged. "How are you, my man!" Cat demanded.

"Doin' fine, Cat, just fine. And you?"

"Great! Great! Who's this?" He turned to Lester and threw a hand in his chest. Lester shook it violently.

iuia ucie s my orother, Lester," Carl Lee said. "He's from Chicago."

"Glad to know you, Lester. Me and the big man here are mighty tight. Mighty tight."

"He's told me all about you," Lester said. Cat admired Carl Lee. "My, my, Carl Lee. You lookin' good. How's the leg?"

"It's fine, Cat. Tightens up sometimes when it rains, but it's fine."

"We mighty tight, ain't we?"

Carl Lee nodded and smiled. Cat released him. "You fellas want a drink?"

"No thanks," said Carl Lee.

"I'll take a beer," said Lester. Cat snapped his fingers and a bodyguard disappeared. Carl Lee fell into his chair and Cat sat on the edge of his desk, his feet dangling and swinging like a kid on a pier. He grinned at Carl Lee, who squirmed under all the admiration.

"Why don't you move to Memphis and go to work for me?" Cat said. Carl Lee knew it was coming. Cat had been offering him jobs for ten years.

"No thanks, Cat. I'm happy."

"And I'm happy for you. What's on your mind?"

Carl Lee opened his mouth, hesitated, crossed his legs and frowned. He nodded, and said, "Need a favor, Cat. Just a small favor."

Cat spread his arms. "Anything, big man, anything you want."

"You remember them M-16's we used in 'Nam? I need one of them. As quick as possible."

Cat recoiled his arms and folded them across his chest. He studied his friend. "That's a bad gun. What kinda squirrels you huntin' down there?"

"It ain't for squirrels."

Cat analyzed them both. He knew better than to ask why. It was serious, or Carl Lee wouldn't be there. "Semi?"

"Nope. The real thing."

"You talkin' some cash."

"How much?"

"It's illegal as hell, you know?"

"If I could buy it at Sears I wouldn't be here."

Cat grinned again. "When do you need it?"


The beer arrived and was served to Lester. Cat moved behind his desk, to his orange vinyl captain's chair. "Thousand bucks."

"I got it."

Cat was mildly surprised, but didn't show it. Where did this simple small-town Mississippi nigger find a thousand dollars? Must have borrowed it from his brother.

"Thousand for anyone else, but not for you, big man."

"How much?"

"Nothin', Carl Lee, nothin'. I owe you somethin' worth much more than money."

"I'll be glad to pay for it."

"Nope. I won't hear it. The gun's yours."

"That's mighty kind, Cat."

"I'd give you fifty of them."

"Just need one. When can I get it?"

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