فصل 01

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کتاب های فوق متوسط

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فصل 01

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  • زمان مطالعه 13 دقیقه
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CHAPTER ONE

A Violent Crime

Billy Ray Cobb sat on the back of the pickup drinking a beer, watching his friend Pete Willard take his turn with the black girl. She was ten, and small for her age. She did not look at the man on top of her. He was breathing hard and swearing. He was hurting her. When he finished, he hit her in the mouth and laughed, and the other man laughed too. Then they laughed harder and rolled around the grass by the pickup, screaming like two crazy men. The girl lay in a pool of blood and beer.

Later, Willard asked what Billy Ray planned to do now that they had finished with her. Billy Ray said they should kill her.

“Are you going to do it?” asked Willard.

Cobb hesitated. “No, I’ll let you do it.”

Willard said, “It wasn’t my idea. You’re the one who’s good at killing niggers. You do it.” He thought for a minute while he finished a beer. “Let’s throw her off a bridge.”

“Good idea. Very good idea,” said Billy Ray.

They drove past Lake Chatulla, a large, man-made mud-hole in the far southwest corner of Ford County, looking for a place to throw out their unwanted passenger. At each bridge they approached, they saw blacks fishing in the muddy water. Cobb was getting desperate by now. He turned off into a side road and stopped the pickup. They threw her into the long grass at the edge of the woods.

Carl Lee Hailey did not hurry home when he got the phone call. Gwen was easily excited, and she had called him at work before when she thought the children had been kidnapped. He only became anxious when he turned into his yard and saw the police car parked next to the house.

As he opened the front door, he wondered where Tony and the boys were. Then he heard Gwen crying. To his right in the small living-room he saw a crowd around a small figure. The child was covered with towels and surrounded by crying relatives. As he went closer, the crying stopped and they moved back.

Carl Lee Hailey asked what had happened. No one answered. Only Gwen stayed by the girl, holding her hand. He knelt beside the sofa and touched the girl’s shoulder. He spoke to his daughter, and she tried to smile. Both her eyes were swollen shut and bleeding.

Carl Lee stood and turned to the crowd and demanded to know what had happened.

He asked for the third time. The deputy, Willie Hastings, one of Gwen’s cousins, stepped forward and told Carl Lee that some people were fishing down by the river when they saw Tonya lying in the middle of the road. She told them her daddy’s name, and they brought her home.

“What happened, Willie?” Carl Lee shouted as he stared at the deputy.

Hastings spoke slowly, looking out of the window while he repeated what Tonya had told her mother about the white men and their pickup, and the rope and the trees, and being hurt when they got on her. Hastings stopped when he heard the sound of the approaching ambulance.

Carl Lee walked out of the house with his daughter in his arms. He whispered gently to her, the tears rolling down his face. He walked to the back of the ambulance and stepped inside. The doctor closed the door and carefully took her from him.

Ozzie Walls was the only black sheriff in Mississippi. He was proud of this, especially since Ford County was 74 percent white and the other black sheriffs had been from much blacker counties. He arrested Billy Ray Cobb and Willard in Huey’s, a bar on Highway 365 near the lake outside town. They had been there all evening, drinking whiskey and telling everybody about the good time they had been having. Bad news travels fast, and the story had soon reached the sheriff.

Ozzie was smiling when he walked to the table where Cobb was sitting with Willard and two others.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t allow niggers in here,” said Cobb, and the four started to laugh. Ozzie continued to smile.

When the laughing stopped, Ozzie said, “You boys having a good time, Billy Ray?”

“We were.”

“Looks like it. I hate to interrupt your conversation, but you and Mr. Willard need to come with me.”

“Where’re we going?” Willard asked.

“For a ride.”

“I ain’t moving,” said Cobb. Willard stared desperately at Cobb. Cobb drank his beer and said, “I ain’t going to jail.”

Ozzie’s deputy passed the sheriff the longest, blackest police stick ever used in Ford County. Ozzie struck the center of the table, sending beer and cans in all directions. Willard sat up as if he had been hit. He put his wrists together and held them out for Deputy Looney. He was dragged outside and thrown into a police car.

Cobb did not move. Ozzie took him by the hair and lifted him from his chair, then pushed his face into the floor. He put a knee into his back, slid his stick under his throat, and pulled upward while pushing down on the knee. Cobb stopped moving when he couldn’t breathe any more.

He was no trouble after that. Ozzie dragged Cobb by the hair across the dance floor, out of the door, across the yard and threw him into the back seat with Willard.

Jake Brigance woke at 5.30 a.m. as usual, rolled out of bed, and went downstairs to make coffee for his wife, Carla. She was still asleep. He had to be at the Coffee Shop at 6 a.m. He had made many rules like this for himself. He was ambitious but poor. If he was going to be the most successful lawyer in the state, he knew he would also have to be the hardest working.

He gave Carla her coffee, kissed his still sleeping four-year-old daughter goodbye, and went out of the house. The new red Saab he drove had a lot in common with the beautiful nineteenth- century house he had just left. First, they were the only ones of their kind in Ford County. Second, he owed the three local banks a lot of money for both of them. There were good reasons why Jake Brigance worked so hard.

He heard about the rape of Tonya Hailey at the Coffee Shop, as he was eating breakfast with Tim Nunley, who worked at the local garage, and Bill and Bert West, who worked at the shoe factory north of town. There were three deputies having breakfast at the next table, and they asked him if he had defended Billy Ray Cobb on a drugs case a few years ago.

“No, I didn’t represent him. I think he had a Memphis lawyer,” Jake replied. “What’s he done?”

“We arrested him last night for rape.”

“Rape!”

“Yes, him and Pete Willard.”

“Who did they rape?”

“You remember that Hailey nigger you looked after in that murder trial a few years ago?”

“Lester Hailey? Of course I remember.”

“You know his brother Carl Lee?”

“Sure. Know him well. I know all the Haileys. Represented most of them.”

“Well, it was his little girl.”

“You’re joking?”

“No.”

Suddenly Jake didn’t feel hungry any more. He pushed his plate to one side. He listened to the conversation change from fishing to Japanese cars and back to fishing.


At three minutes before seven, Jake unlocked the front door to his office and turned on the lights. His 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 had been built by the Wilbanks family back in the 1890s, when they owned most of Ford County. There had been a Wilbanks practicing law in the building until 1979, when Jake’s employer, Lucien Wilbanks, had been thrown out of the legal profession for a series of offenses resulting from a serious drink problem.

Lucien had been more hurt by this than anything that had happened to him in his troubled life. He gave the keys of the office to Jake and left town. The firm was now Jake’s and though Lucien had come back, he had no involvement with it. He spent most of his time up at the Wilbanks’ place, drinking whiskey and looking out over the garden.

Carl Lee had not been able to sleep at the hospital. Tonya’s condition was serious but she was not going to die. They had seen her at midnight, after the doctor warned them that she looked bad. She did. Gwen had kissed the little bandaged face while Carl Lee stood at the end of the bed, unable to do anything but stare at the small figure surrounded by machines, tubes, and nurses.

The sheriff, Ozzie Walls, brought coffee and cakes at two in the morning, and told Carl Lee all he knew about Cobb and Willard.


Jake began to check his mail. He heard his secretary Ethel Twitty come in at eight-thirty as usual. At around that time Sheriff Ozzie Walls was typing up Pete Willard’s story of the rape.

Ozzie had told Willard what had happened to the last white man who had gone to the State Jail at Parchman.

“About five years ago a young white man in Helena County raped a black girl. She was twelve. They were waiting for him when he got to Parchman. Knew he was coming. On his first night about thirty blacks tied him over a big oil drum and climbed on. The guards watched and laughed. They hate rapists. The other prisoners got him every night for three months, and then they killed him.”

After that, Willard seemed to want to help the sheriff as much as he could.

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