Jake and Harry Rex retreated into the big office and waited for the law clerk. She entered carrying a large briefcase.
“Good morning, Row Ark,” Jake said. “I want you to meet a good friend, Harry Rex Vonner.”
Harry Rex shook her hand and stared at her shirt. “Nice to meet you. What was your first name?”
“Just call her Row Ark,” Jake said. “She’ll clerk here until Hailey’s over.”
“That’s nice,” said Harry Rex, still staring.
“Harry Rex is a local lawyer, Row Ark, and one of the many you cannot trust.”
“What’d you hire a female law clerk for, Jake?” he asked bluntly.
“Row Ark’s a genius in criminal law, like most third-year law students. And she works very cheap.”
“You have something against females, sir?” Ellen asked.
“No ma’am. I love females. I’ve married four of them.”
“Harry Rex is the meanest divorce lawyer in Ford County,” Jake explained. “In fact, he’s the meanest lawyer, period. Come to think of it, he’s the meanest man I know.”
“Thanks,” said Harry Rex. He had stopped staring at her.
She looked at his huge, dirty, scuffed, worn wirigtips, his ribbed nylon socks that had drooped into thick wads around his ankles, his soiled and battered khaki pants, his frayed navy blazer, his brilliant pink wool tie that fell eight inches above his belt, and she said, “I think he’s cute.”
“I might make you wife number five,” Harry Rex said.
“The attraction is purely physical,” she said.
“Watch it,” Jake said. “There’s been no sex in this office since Lucien left.”
” – ,-.”,eu iwxi mm jucien,” said Harry Rex.
Jake and Harry Rex looked at each other. “You’ll meet him soon enough,” Jake explained.
“Your secretary is very sweet,” Ellen said.
“I knew y’all would hit it off. She’s really a doll once you get to know her.”
“How long does that take?”
“I’ve known her for twenty years,” said Harry Rex, “and I’m still waiting.”
“How’s the research coming?” Jake asked.
“Slow. There are dozens of M’Naghten cases, and they are all very long. I’m about half through. I planned to work on it all day here; that is, if that pit bull downstairs doesn’t attack me.”
“I’ll take care of her,” Jake said.
Harry Rex headed for the door. “Nice meetin’ you, Row Ark. I’ll see you around.”
“Thanks, Harry Rex,” said Jake. “See you Wednesday night.”
The dirt and gravel parking lot of Tank’s Tonk was full when Jake finally found it after dark. There had been no reason to visit Tank’s before, and he was not thrilled about seeing the place now. It was well hidden off a dirt road, six miles out of Clanton. He parked far away from the small cinderblock building and toyed with the idea of leaving the engine running in case Tank was not there and a quick escape became necessary. But he quickly dismissed the stupid idea because he liked his car, and theft was not only likely but highly probable. He locked it, then double-checked it, almost certain that all or part of it would be missing when he returned.
The juke box blasted from the open windows, and he thought he heard a bottle crash on the floor, or across a table or someone’s head. He hesitated beside his car and decided to leave. No, it was important. He sucked in his stomach, held his breath, and opened the ragged wooden door.
Forty sets of black eyes immediately focused on this poor lost white boy with a coat and tie who was squinting and trying to focus inside the vast blackness of their tonk.