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Home > A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(4)

A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1)(4)
Author: John Grisham

"I ain't sure. I just got a hunch. The little girl said it was a truck with shiny wheels and big tires."

"That narrows it down to two thousand."

"She also said it was yellow, looked new, and had a big flag hangin' in the rear window."

"That brings it down to two hundred."

"Maybe less than that. How many of those are as mean as Billy Ray Cobb?"

"What if it ain't him?"

"It is."

"If it ain't?"

"We'll know shortly. He's got a big mouth, 'specially when he's drinkin'."

For two hours they waited and watched pickups come and go. Truck drivers, pulpwood cutters, factory workers, and farmhands parked their pickups and jeeps in the gravel and strutted inside to drink, shoot pool, listen to the band, but mainly to look for stray women. Some would leave and walk next door to Ann's Lounge, where they would stay for a few minutes and return to Huey's. Ann's Lounge was darker both inside and out, and it lacked the colorful beer signs and live music that made Huey's such a hit with the locals. Ann's

was known for its drug traffic, whereas Huey's had it all- music, women, happy hours, poker machines, dice, dancing, and plenty of fights. One brawl spilled through the door into the parking lot, where a group of wild rednecks kicked and clawed each other at random until they grew winded and returned to the dice table.

"Hope that wasn't Bumpous," observed the sheriff.

The restrooms inside were small and nasty, and most of the patrons found it necessary to relieve themselves between the pickups in the parking lot. This was especially true on Mondays when ten-cent beer night drew rednecks from four counties and every truck in the parking lot received at least three sprayings. About once a week an innocent passing motorist would get shocked by something he or she saw in the parking lot, and Ozzie would be forced to make an arrest. Otherwise, he left the places alone.

Both tonks were in violation of numerous laws. There was gambling, drugs, illegal whiskey, minors, they refused to close on time, etc. Shortly after he was elected the first time Ozzie made the mistake, due in part to a hasty campaign promise, of closing all the honky tonks in the county. It was a horrible mistake. The crime rate soared. The jail was packed. The court dockets multiplied. The rednecks united and drove in caravans to Clanton, where they parked around the courthouse on the square. Hundreds of them. Every night they invaded the square, drinking, fighting, playing loud music, and shouting obscenities at the horrified town folk. Each morning the square resembled a landfill with cans and bottles thrown everywhere. He closed the black tonks too, and break-ins, burglaries, and stabbings tripled in one month. There were two murders in one week.

Finally, with the city under siege, a group of local ministers met secretly with Ozzie and begged him to ease up on the tonks. He politely reminded them that during the campaign they had insisted on the closings. They admitted they were wrong and pleaded for relief. Yes, they would support him in the next election. Ozzie relented, and life returned to normal in Ford County.

Ozzie was not pleased that the establishments thrived in his county, but he was convinced beyond any doubt that his law-abiding constituents were much safer when the tonks were open.

At ten-thirty the dispatcher radioed that the informant was on the phone and wanted to see the sheriff. Ozzie gave his location, and a minute later they watched Bumpous emerge and stagger to his truck. He spun tires, slung gravel, and raced toward the church.

"He's drunk," said Hastings.

He wheeled through the church parking lot and came to a screeching stop a few feet from the patrol car. "Howdy, Sheriff!" he yelled.

Ozzie walked to the pickup. "What took so long?"

"You told me to take all night."

"You found him two hours ago."

"That's true, Sheriff, but have you ever tried to spend twenty dollars on beer when it's fifty cents a can?"

"You drunk?"

"Naw, just havin' a good time. Could I have another twenty?"

"What'd you find out?"

" 'Bout what?"

"Cobb!"

"Oh, he's in there all right."

"I know he's in there! What else?"

Bumpous quit smiling and looked at the tonk in the distance. "He's laughin' about it, Sheriff. It's a big joke. Said he finally found a nigger who was a virgin. Somebody asked how old she was, and Cobb said eight or nine. Everybody laughed."

Hastings closed his eyes and dropped his head. Ozzie gritted his teeth and looked away. "What else did he say?"

"He's bad drunk. He won't remember any of it in the mornin'. Said she was a cute little nigger."

"Who was with him?"

"Pete Willard."

"Is he in there?"

"Yep, they're both laughin' about it."

"Where are they?"

"Left-hand side, next to the pinball machines."

Ozzie smiled. "Okay, Bumpous. You did good. Get lost."

Hastings called the dispatcher with the two names. The dispatcher relayed the message to Deputy Looney, who was parked in the street in front of the home of County Judge Percy Bullard. Looney rang the doorbell and handed the judge two affidavits and two arrest warrants. Bullard scribbled on the warrants and returned them to Looney, who thanked His Honor and left. Twenty minutes later Looney handed the warrants to Ozzie behind the church.

At exactly eleven, the band quit in mid-song, the dice disappeared, the dancers froze, the cue balls stopped rolling, and someone turned on the lights. All eyes followed the big sheriff as he and his men swaggered slowly across the dance floor to a table by the pinball machines. Cobb, Willard, and two others sat in a booth, the table littered with empty beer cans Ozzie walked to the table and grinned at Cobb.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't allow niggers in here," Cobb blurted out, and the four burst into laughter. Ozzie kept grinning.

When the laughing stopped, Ozzie said, "You boys havin' a good time, Billy Ray?"

"We was."

"Looks like it. I hate to break things up, but you and Mr. Willard need to come with me."

"Where we goin'?" Willard asked.

"For a ride."

"I ain't movin'," Cobb vowed. With that, the other two scooted from the booth and joined the spectators.

"I'm placin' you both under arrest," Ozzie said.

"You got warrants?" Cobb asked.

Hastings produced the warrants, and Ozzie threw them among the beer cans. "Yeah, we got warrants. Now get up."

Willard stared desperately at Cobb, who sipped a beer and said, "I ain't goin' to jail."

Looney handed Ozzie the longest, blackest nightstick ever used in Ford County. Willard was panic-stricken. Ozzie cocked it and struck the center of the table, sending beer and cans and foam in all directions. Willard bolted upright, slapped his wrists together and thrust them at Looney, who was waiting with the handcuffs. He was dragged outside and thrown into a patrol car.

Ozzie tapped his left palm with the stick and grinned at

Cobb. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in court. You have the right to a lawyer. If you can't afford one, the state'll furnish one. Any questions?"

"Yeah, what time is it?"

"Time to go to jail, big man."

"Go to hell, nigger."

Ozzie grabbed his hair and lifted him from the booth, then drove his face into the floor. He jammed a knee into his spine and slid his nightstick under his throat, and pulled upward while driving the knee deeper into his back. Cobb squealed until the stick began crushing his larynx.

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