Jake thought a second. "They could conceivably be paroled in thirteen years. Seven for the rape, three for the kidnapping, and three for the aggravated assault. That's assuming they're convicted on all charges and sentenced to the maximum."
"What about Cobb? He's got a record."
"Yeah, but he's not habitual unless he's got two prior convictions."
"Thirteen years," Looney repeated, shaking his head.
Jake stared through the window. The square was coming to life as pickups full of fruits and vegetables parked next to the sidewalk around the courthouse lawn, and the old farmers in faded overalls neatly arranged the small baskets of tomatoes and cucumbers and squash on the tailgates and hoods. Watermelons from Florida were placed next to the dusty slick tires, and the farmers left for an early-morning meeting under the Vietnam monument, where they sat on benches and chewed Red Man and whittled while they caught up on the gossip. They're probably talking about the rape, Jake thought. It was daylight now, and time for the office. The deputies were finished with their food, and Jake excused himself. He hugged Dell, paid his check, and for a second thought of driving home to check on Hanna.
At three minutes before seven, he unlocked his office and turned on the lights.
Carl Lee had difficulty sleeping on the couch in the waiting room. Tonya was serious but stable. They had seen her at midnight, after the doctor warned that she looked bad. She did. Gwen had kissed the little bandaged face while Carl Lee stood at the foot of the bed, subdued, motionless, unable to do anything but stare blankly at the small figure surrounded by machines, tubes, and nurses. Gwen was later sedated and taken to her mother's house in Clanton. The boys went home with Gwen's brother.
The crowd had dispersed around one, leaving Carl Lee alone on the couch. Ozzie brought coffee and doughnuts at two, and told Carl Lee all he knew about Cobb and Willard.
Jake's office was a two-story building in a row of two-story buildings overlooking the courthouse on the north side of the square, just down from the Coffee Shop. The building was built by the Wilbanks family back in the 1890s, back when they owned Ford County. And there had been a Wilbanks practicing law in the building from the day it was built until 1979, the year of the disbarment. Next door to the east was an insurance agent Jake had sued for botching a claim for Tim Nunley, the mechanic down at the Chevrolet place. To the west was the bank with the mortgage on the Saab. All the buildings around the square were two-story brick except the banks. The one next door had also been built by the Wilbankses and had just two floors, but the one on the southeast corner of the square had three floors, and the newest one, on the southwest corner, had four floors.
Jake practiced alone, and had since 1979, the year of the disbarment. He liked it that way, especially since there was no other lawyer in Clanton competent enough to practice with him. There were several good lawyers in town, but most were with the Sullivan firm over in the bank building with four floors. Jake detested the Sullivan firm. Every lawyer detested the Sullivan firm except those in it. There were eight in all, eight of the most pompous and arrogant jerks Jake had ever met. Two had Harvard degrees. They had the big farmers, the banks, the insurance companies, the railroads, everybody with money. The other fourteen lawyers in the county picked up the scraps and represented people- living, breathing human souls, most of whom had very little money. These were the "street lawyers"-those in the trenches helping people in trouble. Jake was proud to be a street lawyer.
His offices were huge. He used only five of the ten rooms in the building. Downstairs there was a reception room, a large conference room, a kitchen, and a smaller storage and junk room. Upstairs, Jake had his vast office and another smaller office he referred to as the war room. It had no windows, no telephones, no distractions. Three offices sat empty upstairs and two downstairs. In years past these had been occupied by the prestigious Wilbanks firm, long before the disbarment. Jake's office upstairs, the office, was immense; thirty by thirty with a ten-foot hardwood ceiling, hardwood floors, huge fireplace, and three desks-his work desk, a small conference desk in one corner, and a rolltop desk in another corner under the portrait of William Faulkner. The antique oak furniture had been there for almost a century, as had the books and shelves that covered one wall. The view of the square and courthouse was impressive, and could be enhanced by opening the French doors and walking onto a small balcony overhanging the sidewalk next to Wash-ington Street. Jake had, without a doubt, the finest office in Clanton. Even his bitter enemies in the Sullivan firm would concede that much.
For all the opulence and square footage, Jake paid the sum of four hundred dollars a month to his landlord and former boss, Lucien Wilbanks, who had been disbarred in 1979.
For decades the Wilbanks family ruled Ford County. They were proud, wealthy people, prominent in farming, banking, politics, and especially law. All the Wilbanks men were lawyers, and were educated at Ivy League schools. They founded banks, churches, schools, and several served in public office. The firm of Wilbanks & Wilbanks had been the most powerful and prestigious in north Mississippi for many years.
Then came Lucien. He was the only male Wilbanks of his generation. There was a sister and some nieces, but they were expected only to marry well. Great things were expected of Lucien as a child, but by the third grade it was evident he would be a different Wilbanks. He inherited the law firm in 1965 when his father and uncle were killed in a plane crash. Although he was forty, he had just recently, several months prior to their deaths,-completed his study of the law by correspondence courses. Somehow he passed the bar exam. He took control of the firm and clients began disappearing. Big clients, like insurance companies, banks, and farmers, all left and went to the newly established Sullivan firm. Sullivan had been a junior partner in the Wilbanks firm until Lucien fired him and evicted him, after which he left with the other junior partners and most of the clients. Then Lucien fired everyone else-associates, secretaries, clerks-everyone but Ethel Twitty, his late father's favorite secretary.
Ethel and John Wilbanks had been very close through the years. In fact she had a younger son who greatly resembled Lucien. The poor fellow spent most of his time in and out of various nut houses. Lucien jokingly referred to him as his retarded brother. After the plane crash, the retarded brother appeared in Clanton and started telling folks he was the illegitimate son of John Wilbanks. Ethel was humiliated, but couldn't control him. Clanton seethed with scandal. A lawsuit was filed by the Sullivan firm as counsel for the retarded brother seeking a portion of the estate. Lucien was furious. A trial ensued, and Lucien vigorously defended his honor and pride and family name. He also vigorously defended his father's estate, all of which had been left to Lucien and his sister. At trial the jury noted the striking resemblance between Lucien and Ethel's son, who was several years younger. The retarded brother was strategically seated as close as possible to Lucien. The Sullivan lawyers instructed him to walk, talk, sit, and do everything just like Lucien. They even dressed him like Lucien. Ethel and her husband denied the boy was any kin to the Wilbanks, but the jury felt otherwise. He was found to be an heir of John Wilbanks, and was awarded one third of the estate. Lucien cursed the jury, slapped the poor boy, and was carried screaming from the courtroom and taken to jail. The jury's decision was reversed and dismissed on appeal, but Lucien feared more litigation if Ethel ever changed her story. Thus, Ethel Twitty remained with the Wilbanks firm.
Lucien was satisfied when the firm disintegrated. He never intended to practice law like his ancestors. He wanted to be a criminal lawyer, and the old firm's clientele had become strictly corporate. He wanted the rapes, the murders, the child abuses, the ugly cases no one else wanted. He wanted to be a civil rights lawyer and litigate civil liberties. But most of all, Lucien wanted to be a radical, a flaming radical of a lawyer with unpopular cases and causes, and lots of attention.
He grew a beard, divorced his wife, renounced his church, sold his share of the country club, joined the NAACP and ACLU, resigned from the bank board, and in general became the scourge of Clanton. He sued the schools because of segregation, the governor because of the prison, the city because it refused to pave streets in the black section, the bank because there were no black tellers, the state because of capital punishment, and the factories because they would not recognize organized labor. He fought and won many criminal cases, and not just in Ford County. His reputation spread, and a large following developed among blacks, poor whites, and the few unions in north Mississippi. He stumbled into some lucrative personal injury and wrongful death cases. There were some nice settlements. The firm, he and Ethel, was more profitable than ever. Lucien did not need the money. He had been born with it and never thought about it. Ethel did the counting.
The law became his life. With no family, he became a workaholic. Fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, Lucien practiced law with a passion. He had no other interests, except alcohol. In the late sixties he noticed an affinity for Jack Daniel's. By the early seventies he was a drunk, and when he hired Jake in 1978 he was a full-fledged alcoholic. But he never let booze interfere with his work; he learned to drink and work at the same time. Lucien was always half drunk, and he was a dangerous lawyer in that condition. Bold and abrasive by nature, he was downright frightening when he was drinking. At trial he would embarrass the opposing attorneys, insult the judge, abuse the witnesses, then apologize to the jury. He respected no one and could not be intimidated. He was feared because he would say and do anything. People" walked lightly around Lucien. He knew it and loved it. He became more and more eccentric. The more he drank, the crazier he acted, then people talked about him even more, so he drank even more.
Between 1966 and 1978 Lucien hired and disposed of eleven associates. He hired blacks, Jews, Hispanics, women, and not one kept the pace he demanded. He was a tyrant around the office, constantly cursing and berating the young lawyers. Some quit the first month. One lasted two years. It was difficult to accept Lucien's craziness. He had the money to be eccentric-his associates did not.
He hired Jake in 1978 fresh from law school. Jake was from Karaway, a small town of twenty-five hundred, eighteen miles west of Clanton. He was clean-cut, conservative, a devout Presbyterian with a pretty wife who wanted babies. Lucien hired him to see if he could corrupt him. Jake took the job with strong reservations because he had no other offers close to home.
A year later Lucien was disbarred. It was a tragedy for those very few who liked him. The small union at the shoe factory north of town had called a strike. It was a union Lucien had organized and represented. The factory began hiring new workers to replace the strikers, and violence followed. Lucien appeared on the picket line to rally his people. He was drunker than normal. A group of scabs attempted to cross the line and a brawl erupted. Lucien led the charge, was arrested and jailed. He was convicted in city court of assault and battery and disorderly conduct. He appealed and lost, appealed and lost.
The State Bar Association had grown weary of Lucien over the years. No other attorney in the state had received as many complaints as had Lucien Wilbanks. Private reprimands, public reprimands, and suspensions had all been used, all to no avail. The Complaints Tribunal and Disciplinary Committee moved swiftly. He was disbarred for outrageous conduct unbecoming a member of the bar. He appealed and lost, appealed and lost.
He was devastated. Jake was in Lucien's office, the big office upstairs, when word came from Jackson that the Supreme Court had upheld the disbarment. Lucien hung up the phone and walked to the doors overlooking the square. Jake watched him closely, waiting for the tirade. But Lucien said nothing. He walked slowly down the stairs, stopped and stared at Ethel, who was crying, and then looked at Jake. He opened the door and said, "Take care of this place. I'll see you later."
They ran to the front window and watched him speed away from the square in his ragged old Porsche. For several months there was no word from him. Jake labored diligently on Lucien's cases while Ethel kept the office from chaos. Some of the cases were settled, some left for other lawyers, some went to trial.
Six months later Jake returned to his office after a long day in court and found Lucien asleep on the Persian rug in the big office. "Lucien! Are you all right?" he asked.
Lucien jumped up and sat in the big leather chair behind the desk. He was sober, tanned, relaxed.
"Jake, my boy, how are you?" he asked warmly.
"Fine, just fine. Where have you been?"
"Drinking rum, lying on the beach, chasing little native girls."
"Sounds like fun. Why did you leave?"
"It got boring."
Jake sat across the desk. "It's good to see you, Lucien."
"Good to see you, Jake. How are things around here?"
"Hectic. But okay, I guess."
"Did you settle Medley?"
"Yeah. They paid eighty thousand."
"That's very good. Was he happy?"
"Yes, seemed to be."
"Did Cruger go to trial?"
Jake looked at the floor. "No, he hired Fredrix. I think it's set for trial next month."
"I should've talked to him before I left."
"He's guilty, isn't he?"
"Yes, very. It doesn't matter who represents him. Most defendants are guilty. Remember that." Lucien walked to the French doors and gazed at the courthouse. "What are your plans, Jake?"
"I'd like to stay here. What are your plans?"
"You're a good man, Jake, and I want you to stay. Me, I don't know. I thought about moving to the Caribbean, but I won't. It's a nice place to visit, but it gets old. I have no plans really. I may travel. Spend some money. I'm worth a ton, you know."
Jake agreed. Lucien turned and waved his arms around the room. "I want you to have all this, Jake. I want you to stay here and keep some semblance of a firm going. Move into this office; use this desk that my grandfather brought from Virginia after the Civil War. Keep the files, cases, clients, books, everything."
"That's very generous, Lucien."
"Most of the clients will disappear. No reflection on you -you'll be a great lawyer someday. But most of my clients have followed me for years."
Jake didn't want most of his clients. "How about rent?"
"Pay me what you can afford. Money will be tight at first, but you'll make it. I don't need money, but you do."
"You're being very kind."
"I'm really a nice guy." They both laughed awkwardly.
Jake quit smiling. "What about Ethel?"
"It's up to you. She's a good secretary who's forgotten more law than you'll ever know. I know you don't like her, but she would be hard to replace. Fire her if you want to. I don't care."
Lucien headed for the door. "Call me if you need me. I'll be around. I want you to move into this office. It was my father's and grandfather's. Put my junk in some boxes, and I'll pick it up later."
Cobb and Willard awoke with throbbing heads and red, swollen eyes. Ozzie was yelling at them. They were in a small cell by themselves. Through the bars to the right was a cell where the state prisoners were held awaiting the trip to Parchman. A dozen blacks leaned through the bars and glared at the two white boys as they struggled to clear their eyes. To the left was a smaller cell, also full of blacks. Wake up, Ozzie yelled, and stay quiet, or he would integrate his jail.
Jake's quiet time was from seven until Ethel arrived at eight-thirty. He was jealous with this time. He locked the front door, ignored the phone, and refused to make appointments. He meticulously planned his day. By eight-thirty he would have enough work dictated to keep Ethel busy and quiet until noon. By nine he was either in court or seeing clients. He would not take calls until eleven, when he methodically returned the morning's messages-all of them. He never delayed returning a phone call-another rule. Jake worked systematically and efficiently with little wasted time. These habits he had not learned from Lucien.
At eight-thirty Ethel made her usual noisy entrance downstairs. She made fresh coffee and opened the mail as she had every day for the past forty-one years. She was sixty-four and looked fifty. She was plump, but not fat, well kept, but not attractive. She chomped on a greasy sausage and biscuit brought from home and read Jake's mail.
Jake heard voices. Ethel was talking to another woman. He checked his appointment book-none until ten.
"Good morning, Mr. Brigance," Ethel announced through the intercom.
"Morning, Ethel." She preferred to be called Mrs.
Twitty. Lucien and everyone else called her that. But Jake had called her Ethel since he had fired her shortly after the disbarment.
"There's a lady here to see you."
"She doesn't have an appointment."
"Yes, sir, I know."
"Make one for tomorrow morning after ten-thirty. I'm busy now."
"Yes, sir. But she says it's urgent."
"Who is it?" he snapped. It was always urgent when they dropped in unannounced, like dropping by a funeral home or a Laundromat. Probably some urgent question about Uncle Luke's will or the case set for trial in three months.
"A Mrs. Willard," Ethel replied.
"Earnestine Willard. You don't know her, but her son's in jail."
Jake saw his appointments on time, but drop-ins were another matter. Ethel either ran them off or made appointments for the next day or so. Mr. Brigance was very busy, she would explain, but he could work you in day after tomorrow. This impressed people.
"Tell her I'm not interested."
"But she says she must find a lawyer. Her son has to be in court at one this afternoon."
"Tell her to see Drew Jack Tyndale, the public defender. He's good and he's free."
Ethel relayed the message. "But, Mr. Brigance, she wants to hire you. Someone told her you're the best criminal lawyer in the county." The amusement was obvious in Ethel's voice.
"Tell her that's true, but I'm not interested."
Ozzie handcuffed Willard and led him down the hall to his office in the front section of the Ford County jail. He removed the handcuffs and seated him in a wooden chair in the center of the cramped room. Ozzie sat in the big chair across the desk and looked down at the defendant.
"Mr. Willard, this here is Lieutenant Griffin with the
Mississippi Highway Patrol. Over here is Investigator Rady with my office, and this here is Deputy Looney and Deputy Prather, whom you met last night but I doubt if you remember it. I'm Sheriff Walls."
Willard jerked his head fearfully to look at each one. He was surrounded. The door was shut. Two tape recorders sat side by side near the edge of the sheriffs desk.
"We'd like to ask you some questions, okay?"
"I don't know."
"Before I start, I wanna make sure you understand your rights. First of all, you have the right to remain silent. Understand?"
"You don't have to talk if you don't want to, but if you do, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Understand?"
"Can you read and write?"
"Good, then read this and sign it. It says you've been advised of your rights."
Willard signed. Ozzie pushed the red button on one of the tape recorders.
"You understand this tape recorder is on?"
"And it's Wednesday, May 15, at eight forty-three in the mornin'."
"If you say so."
"What's your full name?"
"James Louis Willard."
"Pete. Pete Willard."
"Route 6, Box 14, Lake Village, Mississippi."
"Who do you live with?"
"My momma, Earnestine Willard. I'm divorced."
"You know Billy Ray Cobb?"
Willard hesitated and noticed his feet. His boots were back in the cell. His white socks were dirty and did not hide his two big toes. Safe question, he thought.
"Yeah, I know him."
"Was you with him yesterday?"
"Where were y'all?"
"Down at the lake."
"What time did you leave?"
" 'Bout three."
"What were you drivin'?"
"What were you ridin' in?"
Hesitation. He studied his toes. "I don't think I wanna talk no more."
Ozzie pushed another button and the recorder stopped. He breathed deeply at Willard. "You ever been to Parchman?"
Willard shook his head.
"You know how many niggers at Parchman?"
Willard shook his head.
" 'Bout five thousand. You know how many white boys are there?"
" 'Bout a thousand."
Willard dropped his chin to his chest. Ozzie let him think for a minute, then winked at Lieutenant Griffin.
"You got any idea what those niggers will do to a white boy who raped a little black girl?"
"Lieutenant Griffin, tell Mr. Willard how white boys are treated at Parchman."
Griffin walked to Ozzie's desk and sat on the edge. He looked down at Willard. "About five years ago a young white man in Helena County, over in the delta, raped a black girl. She was twelve. They were waiting on him when he got to Parchman. Knew he was coming. First night about thirty blacks tied him over a fifty-five-gallon drum and climbed on. The guards watched and laughed. There's no sympathy for rapists. They got him every night for three months, and then killed him. They found him castrated, stuffed in the drum."
Willard cringed, then threw his head back and breathed heavily toward the ceiling.
"Look, Pete," Ozzie said, "we're not after you. We want Cobb. I've been after that boy since he left Parchman. I want him real bad. You help us get Cobb and I'll help you as much as I can. I ain't promisin' nothin', but me and the D.A. work close together. You help me get Cobb, and I'll help you with the D.A. Just tell us what happened."
"I wanna lawyer," Willard said.
Ozzie dropped his head and groaned. "What's a lawyer gonna do, Pete? Get the niggers off of you? I'm tryin' to help you and you're bein' a wiseass."
"You need to listen to the sheriff, son. He's trying to save your life," Griffin said helpfully.
"There's a good chance you could get off with just a few years here in this jail," Rady said.
"It's much safer than Parchman," Prather said.
"Choice is yours, Pete," Ozzie said. "You can die at Parchman or stay here. I'll even consider makin' you a trusty if you behave."
Willard dropped his head and rubbed his temples. "Okay, okay."
Ozzie punched the red button.
"Where'd you find the girl?"
"Some gravel road."
"I don't know. I's drunk."
"Where'd you take her?"
"I don't know."
"Just you and Cobb?" . "Yeah."
"Who raped her?"
"We both did. Billy Ray went first."
"How many times?"
"I don't remember. I's smokin' weed and drinkin'."
"Both of you raped her?"
"Where'd you dump her?"
"Don't remember. I swear I don't remember."
Ozzie pushed another button. "We'll type this up and get you to sign it."
Willard shook his head. "Just don't tell Billy Ray." "We won't," promised the sheriff.
Percy Bullard fidgeted nervously in the leather chair behind the huge, battered oak desk in the judge's chambers behind the courtroom, where a crowd had gathered to see about the rape. In the small room next door the lawyers gathered around the coffee machine and gossiped about the rape.
Bullard's small black robe hung in a corner by the window that looked north over Washington Street. His size-six feet were wearing jogging shoes that barely touched the floor. He was a small, nervous type who worried about preliminary hearings and every other routine hearing. After thirteen years on the bench he had never learned to relax. Fortunately, he was not required to hear big cases; those were for the Circuit Court judge. Bullard was just a County Court judge, and he had reached his pinnacle.
Mr. Pate, the ancient courtroom deputy, knocked on the door.
"Come in!" Bullard demanded.
"How many blacks out there?" Bullard asked abruptly.
"Half the courtroom."
"That's a hundred people! They don't draw that much for a good murder trial. Whatta they want?"
Mr. Pate shook his head.
"They must think we're trying these boys today."
"I guess they're just concerned," Mr. Pate said softly.
"Concerned about what? I'm not turning them loose. It's just a preliminary hearing." He quieted and stared at the window. "Is the family out there?"
"I think so. I recognize a few of them, but I don't know her parents."
"How about security?"
"Sheriffs got ever deputy and ever reserve close to the courtroom. We checked everbody at the door."
"Where are the boys?"
"Sheriffs got them. They'll be here in a minute."
The judge seemed satisfied. Mr. Pate laid a handwritten note on the desk.
"What is it?"
Mr. Pate inhaled deeply. "It's a request from a TV crew from Memphis to film the hearing."
"What!" Bullard's face turned red and he rocked furiously in the swivel chair. "Cameras," he yelled, "In my courtroom!" He ripped the note and threw the pieces in the direction of the trash can. "Where are they?"
"In the rotunda."
"Order them out of the courthouse."
Mr. Pate left quickly.
Carl Lee Hailey sat on the row next to the back. Dozens of relatives and friends surrounded him in the rows of padded benches on the right side of the courtroom. The benches on the left side were empty. Deputies milled about, armed, apprehensive, keeping a nervous watch on the group of blacks, and especially on Carl Lee, who sat bent over, elbows on knees, staring blankly at the floor.
Jake looked out his window across the square to the rear of the courthouse, which faced south. It was 1:00 P.M. He had skipped lunch, as usual, and had no business across the street, but he did need some fresh air. He hadn't left the building all day, and although he had no desire to hear the details of the rape, he hated to miss the hearing. There had to be a crowd in the courtroom because there were no empty parking spaces around the square. A handful of reporters and photographers waited anxiously near the rear of the courthouse by the wooden doors where Cobb and Willard would enter.
The jail was two blocks off the square on the south side, down the highway. Ozzie drove the car with Cobb and Willard in the back seat. With a squad car in front and one behind, the procession turned off Washington Street into the short driveway leading under the veranda of the courthouse. Six deputies escorted the defendants past the reporters, through the doors, and up the back stairs to the small room just outside the courtroom.
Jake grabbed his coat, ignored Ethel, and raced across the street. He ran up the back stairs, through a small hall outside the jury room, and entered the courtroom from a side door just as Mr. Pate led His Honor to the bench.
"All rise for the court," Mr. Pate shouted. Everyone stood. Bullard stepped to the bench and sat down.
"Be seated," he yelled. "Where are the defendants? Where? Bring them in then."
Cobb and Willard were led, handcuffed, into the courtroom from the small holding room. They were unshaven, wrinkled, dirty, and looked confused. Willard stared at the large group of blacks while Cobb turned his back. Looney removed the handcuffs and seated them next to Drew Jack Tyndale, the public defender, at the long table where the defense sat. Next to it was a long table where the county prosecutor, Rocky Childers, sat taking notes and looking important.
Willard glanced over his shoulder and again checked on the blacks. On the front row just behind him sat his mother and Cobb's mother, each with a deputy for protection. Willard felt safe with all the deputies. Cobb refused to turn around.
From the back row, eighty feet away, Carl Lee raised his head and looked at the backs of the two men who raped his daughter. They were mangy, bearded, dirty-looking strangers. He covered his face and bent over. The deputies stood behind him, backs against the wall, watching every move.
"Now listen," Bullard began loudly, "This is just a preliminary hearing, not a trial. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence that a crime has been committed to bind these defendants over to the grand jury. The defendants can even waive this hearing if they want to."
Tyndale stood. "No sir, Your Honor, we wish to proceed with the hearing."
"Very well. I have copies of affidavits sworn to by Sheriff Walls charging both defendants with rape of a female under the age of twelve, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. Mr. Childers, you may call your first witness."
"Your Honor, the State calls Sheriff Ozzie Walls."
Jake sat in the jury box, along with several other attorneys, all of whom pretended to be busy reading important
materials. Ozzie was sworn and sat in the witness chair to the left of Bullard, a few feet from the jury box.
"Would you state your name?"
"Sheriff Ozzie Walls."
"You're the sheriff of Ford County?"
"I know who he is," Bullard mumbled as he flipped through the file.
"Sheriff, yesterday afternoon, did your office receive a call about a missing child?"
"Yes, around four-thirty."
"What did your office do?"
"Deputy Willie Hastings was dispatched to the residence of Gwen and Carl Lee Hailey, the parents of the girl."
"Where was that?"
"Down on Craft Road, back behind Bates Grocery."
"What did he find?"
"He found the girl's mother, who made the call. Then drove around searchin' for the girl."
"Did he find her?"
"No. When he returned to the house, the girl was there. She'd been found by some folks fishin', and they took her home."
"What shape was the girl in?"
"She'd been raped and beaten."
"Was she conscious?"
"Yeah. She could talk, or mumble, a little."
"What did she say?"
Tyndale jumped to his feet. "Your Honor, please, I know hearsay is admissible in a hearing like this, but this is triple hearsay."
"Overruled. Shut up. Sit down. Continue, Mr. Childers."
"What did she say?"
"Told her momma it was two white men in a yellow pickup truck with a rebel flag in the window. That's about all. She couldn't say much. Had both jaws broken and her face kicked in."
"What happened then?"
"The deputy called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital."
"How is she?"
"They say she's critical."
"What happened then?"
"Based on what I knew at the time I had a suspect in mind."
"So what'd you do?"
"I located an informant, a reliable informant, and placed him in a beer joint down by the lake."
Childers was not one to dwell on details, especially in front of Bullard. Jake knew it, as did Tyndale. Bullard sent every case to the grand jury, so every preliminary was a formality. Regardless of the case, the facts, the proof, regardless of anything, Bullard would bind the defendant over to the grand jury. If there was insufficient proof, let the grand jury turn them loose, not Bullard. He had to be reelected, the grand jury did not. Voters got upset when criminals were cut loose. Most defense lawyers in the county waived the preliminary hearings before Bullard. Not Jake. He viewed such hearings as the best and quickest way to look at the prosecution's case. Tyndale seldom waived a preliminary hearing.
"Which beer joint?"
"What'd he find out?"
"Said he heard Cobb and Willard, the two defendants over there, braggin' 'bout rapin' a little black girl." (
Cobb and Willard exchanged stares. Who was the informant? They remembered little from Huey's.
"What'd you find at Huey's?"
"We arrested Cobb and Willard, then we searched a pickup titled in the name of Billy Ray Cobb."
"What'd you find?"
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