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“No’m, but my neighbor, Jake, down the lane do. I gives him a couple of gallons of surp to borrow his mule ever’ year come the end of summertime.” He got up from the table to go into the kitchen and returned with a Mason jar full of his treasured cane syrup. “Put this in your room and take it back home with you when you go.”
As I was thanking him, there came a knock at the door, and Matt got up to answer it.
“Come on in, Releford—Zora Hurston’s here,” said Matt, step-ping aside for the visitor, a dark-skinned, handsome figure of a man dressed in a smartly tailored brown wool suit. “Zora, this is Releford McGriff.”
McGriff came to my side of the table to take my hand. “I’m de-lighted to meet you, Miss Hurston. How was your trip?” he asked in a rich baritone.
“My trip went well,” I said, feeling a little giddy when I looked into a pair of deep-set eyes that sparkled with the kind of superior intelligence and sophistication that I have always found irresistible in a male. His briar pipe gave the room a delicate scent of burley tobacco and cinnamon-baked apples that blended deliciously with the aroma of bacon and coffee. “Won’t you please call me Zora?”
“I’m glad your trip went well—and please, call me Releford.”
“Unless I’m mistaken, you’re the gentleman who called Sam Nunn about the story.”
“That’s right, Zora,” he replied, taking a seat at the table. “I thought old Judge Adams might need the press nipping at his heels to keep him honest.”
“No doubt that was smart thinking,” I agreed.
“As you know, Diaz, Revella, and Rivera have been covering the trial so far.”
“Yes, I’ve followed their articles in the Courier. Any idea where they’re staying?”
“We arranged housing for them with friends of the family. Matt can give you their addresses.”
“So, Releford,” I ventured, “what’s your specialty? All I’ve been told is that you’re the McCollum family’s attorney.”
“I’m with a Jacksonville firm that represents civil rights issues statewide, but my personal interest is probate. I also practice a good bit of business and contract law for the McCollum family. Do you want me to brief you on Ruby’s case?”
“When Ruby reached Raiford, a Jacksonville attorney named P. Guy Crews showed up unsolicited to represent her. Buck, Sam’s brother, paid him the five-thousand-dollar cash retainer he re-quested, whereupon he recommended that his associate, John Cogdill, be retained because his cousin works at the prison. For another three thousand, he guaranteed preferential treatment for Ruby.”
“The good-ol’-boy system.”
McGriff nodded. “Crews and Cogdill then made an appearance before Judge Adams to file two motions, the first of which was for a change of venue.”
“What was the ruling on that?”
“When Crews pointed out that the head of the Florida High-way Patrol in Tallahassee directed local officers to transport Ruby to the state prison at Raiford for her protection, the judge ordered that she be transported back to the county jail here in town. He then cited that action as proof that she was safe here—oh, thanks, Matt,” he added, sipping the cup of coffee that had appeared at his elbow.
“The second motion was a suggestion of insanity, which was met with the appointment of two local physicians to examine Ruby in her jail cell when she was returned to Live Oak.”
“When is the hearing scheduled?”
“It’s already been held.”
“What was the outcome?”
“Since both the court-appointed physicians admitted they were not qualified to practice psychiatry, Crews convinced Judge Adams to call Dr. McCullagh, a well-known psychiatrist from Jackson-ville.”
“So when is Dr. McCullagh due to testify?”
“Looks like I arrived in the nick of time,” I concluded.
“I’d say so.”
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