Tim-Bob willed everyone to keep their attention on the man with the rope round his neck so they wouldn’t notice the quiver in his knees. Not that anyone wanted to miss the climax of the night’s work.
The man’s lips moved, forming two syllables again and again. His voice was lost in the baying of the posse, but it wasn’t hard to make out the words.
“Please sir, please sir, please sir.”
Yes, thought Tim-Bob. Please sir, don’t look further than this man. Please sir, don’t let Betty tell who made her big before I’m on the Greyhound to Detroit. Please sir, let everyone spend tonight drinking whiskey and bragging about lynching a rapist and thinking no further.
The rope jerked tight, forcing the man’s mouth open like a landed catfish. Please sir, thought Tim-Bob, shut him up before someone listens to him. Don’t let the first time anyone in the county listens to words from black lips happen now, when I’m so close to getting away and there’s so much that can go wrong. There was still a whole night before the Greyhound left. Long enough for Betty to change her mind and find someone sober enough to listen if she told the truth. He needed her to believe him until she found herself waiting for the Charlotte Greyhound alone, three hours after he’d be growling his way to Detroit.
Leave me to my fear alone, he prayed. No one has ever been more afraid than I am.
The man’s legs stopped kicking.
Stu slapped Tim-Bob’s back. “Hear some Jew wrote a song ’bout this up in Chicago. Something about southern trees bearing strange fruit.”
“After what that sonofabitch did to my sister, the fruit looks just fine to me.”