فصل 02

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فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

Revenge

Jake was in court the next day to see Billy Ray and Willard go before the local judge and to hear Ozzie Wall’s report of Willard’s story. Carl Lee was there too. As soon as they had heard the judge say that the two men should be kept in jail, Carl Lee and Jake walked out of the courtroom and down to the first floor. They stopped at the back door of the court.

They talked about Tonya and Carl Lee’s family. Then Carl Lee told Jake that his younger brother Lester was coming down from Chicago.

“What’s Lester coming in for?” Jake asked.

“Family business.”

“Are you two planning something?”

“No. He just wants to see Tonya.”

“You two be careful.”

“That’s easy for you to say, Jake.”

“I know.”

“You’ve got a little girl. If she was lying up in the hospital, beaten 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.”

“Let me 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.

“I’m sure you would, Jake. I’m sure you would. Then you’d hire an expensive lawyer to say you were crazy, just like you did when you defended Lester.”

As they came out of the courthouse, Jake told Carl Lee it had been different when Lester was on trial. There was no planning. The man Lester had killed had attacked him first. Carl Lee looked back up at the stairs.

“Is this how they’ll come into the courtroom?” he asked, without looking at Jake.

“Who?”

“Those boys.”

“Yes. Most of the time they take them up those stairs. It’s quicker and safer. They can park right outside the door here.”

“Are you ready to defend another member of my family?”

“Don’t do it, Carl Lee. It’s not worth it. What if you’re found guilty and they give you the electric chair? What about your children? Who’ll look after them?”

“I have no choice, Jake. I’ll never sleep till those two 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, and walked down to Washington Street, opposite Jake’s office. They shook hands. Jake promised to stop at the hospital the next day 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 about what Carl Lee was saying.

Carl Lee smiled and walked down the sidewalk to his pickup.


Carl Lee’s younger brother, Lester, drove from Chicago to Clanton in his new Cadillac. It was late Wednesday night when he arrived at the hospital. He found some of his cousins reading magazines in the second-floor waiting room. When he saw Carl Lee, he pulled him close and held him tightly. They had not seen each other since the Christmas holidays, when half the blacks in Chicago traveled home to Mississippi and Alabama.

“How is she?” Lester asked.

“Better. Much better. Might go home this weekend.”

Lester felt his breathing get easier. When he had left Chicago eleven hours earlier he had thought she was near death. He lit a cigarette under the NO SMOKING sign and stared at his big brother. “You OK?”

Carl Lee nodded. He looked down the hall.

“Come outside,” he said. “I’ve got some things to ask you.”


The Ford County Courthouse opened at 8 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m. every day except Friday, when it closed at four-thirty. At four-thirty on Friday, Carl Lee was hiding in a first-floor toilet. He sat and listened quietly for an hour. No one. Silence. He walked through the wide, dark hall to the back doors, and looked through the window. There was no one around. He listened for a while. No one.

He started to study the building. He pretended to be on trial. He put his hands behind him and walked the thirty feet to the stairs - up the stairs, ten steps, then a turn to the left, just like Lester said. He had a good memory, and Lester’s time in the army had made him good at giving directions.

Carl Lee studied the courthouse for over an hour. Up and down, up and down, he followed the movements that would be made by the men who had raped his daughter. He followed them in his mind, room by room. He sat in the judge’s chair and looked out over the court. He sat in one of the comfortable chairs in the jury box. He sat in the witness chair.

It was dark at seven o’clock when Carl Lee Hailey raised a window in the toilet and went quietly through the bushes and into the darkness.

Getting the gun was no problem. Carl Lee and Lester just went to Memphis, met an old army friend of Carl Lee’s called Cat Bruster and asked for an M-16. Two hours later it was in the trunk of Lester’s Cadillac. The gun was the easy part; what came next would be harder.

On May 20, Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard were brought back to the court to hear Judge Bullard tell them the date of their trial. Jake Brigance had no reason to be in court, but he still worried about Carl Lee as he worked in his office.

Just before two o’clock he went over to the window one more time and lit another cigarette. The two rapists had just heard that they would be held in the county jail until the trial.

The crowd started to leave the courtroom, but Carl Lee’s brother, Lester, did not move. He watched closely as the two white boys were taken through the door into the room behind the judge’s table. When they were out of sight, he placed his head in his hands and said a short prayer. Then he listened.


Cobb went first down the stairs, then Willard, then Deputy Looney. Ten steps down, then turn right. Then ten steps to the first floor. Three other deputies waited outside by the police cars, smoking and watching the reporters who had come to the court.

When Cobb reached the second step from the floor, with Willard three steps behind, and Looney one step behind him, a small door burst open and Carl Lee Hailey jumped out from the darkness with the M-16 in his hands.

Holding the gun only one or two feet from the men who had raped his daughter, he opened fire. The loud, rapid gunfire shook the courthouse and broke the silence. The rapists froze, then screamed as they were hit - Cobb first, in the stomach and chest, then Willard, in the face, neck, and throat. They tried to run back up the stairs, but fell over each other as they slipped on their own blood.

Deputy Looney was hit in the leg but managed to get up the stairs into a back room. From there he could hear the screams of Cobb and Willard, and the crazy nigger laughing. Bullets continued to hit the walls of the narrow stairway, and as he looked through the door, Looney could see blood and flesh sliding down the walls.

The enormous explosions of the M-16 filled the courthouse. Through the gunfire and the sounds of the bullets hitting the walls of the stairway, Looney could still hear Carl Lee’s crazy laughter.

When Carl Lee stopped, he threw the gun at the two bodies and ran into the toilet. He went out through the window, as he had done on that earlier evening, onto the sidewalk. Then he walked to his pickup and drove home.

Cobb, or what was left of him, stopped moving and lay against Willard. Their blood mixed and ran down each step, covering the foot of the stairway.


Jake ran across the street to the back door of the courthouse. One deputy was on the floor, a gun in his hand, shouting at the reporters who were trying to get in. The other deputies looked out from behind the police cars. Jake ran to the front of the courthouse, where more deputies were guarding the door and getting people out of the building.

Jake pushed his way through the crowd and inside. There he found Ozzie Walls directing people and shouting instructions to his men. He called to Jake, and they walked down the hall to the back of the court, where a half dozen deputies stood, guns in hand, looking silently at the stairway. Jake felt sick. The front of Willard’s head was missing. Cobb had taken most of the bullets in his back. The thick smell of gunfire hung over the stairway.

“Jake, you’d better leave,” Ozzie said, without taking his eyes off the bodies.

“Why?”

“Just leave.”

“Why?”

“Because we’ve got to take pictures and stuff, and you don’t need to be here.”

“OK. But you don’t question him without me there. Understand?”

Ozzie nodded.

The only vehicles outside the Hailey house were Gwen’s car, Carl Lee’s pickup, and the red Cadillac from Illinois. Ozzie expected no trouble as the police cars parked in a row across the front yard. The deputies bent down behind the open doors, watching as the sheriff walked alone to the house. He stopped. The front door opened slowly and the Hailey family came out.

The two groups watched each other, each waiting for the other to say or do something, each wanting to avoid what had to happen. Ozzie kicked at some dirt on the path, looking at the family, then at his men.

Finally, he said, “You’d better come with me.”

Carl Lee looked at the sheriff but did not move. Gwen and the boy cried as Lester took the girl from her daddy. Then Carl Lee knelt in front of the three boys and whispered to them again that he must leave but he wouldn’t be gone long. He held them close, and they all cried and held on to him. He turned and kissed his wife, then walked down the steps to the sheriff.

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