"Lynching" is a dirty word, even to those who would practice it. So they call it "a necktie party" or "dealing out justice".
Marcy Hunnicut sat on the bed, rocking back and forth, saying nothing. It was Velma Pugh who gave the details.
"Will Lemley snatched Lily Mae," she said. "Marcy and me wuz sitting on the front porch shelling peas when he come up in that vehicle of his'n pulled her into the front seat. Jest took off like a scalded dog without saying a word."
"Any bad feeling between Will and Marcy," Sheriff Gilly asked. "She owe him money or anything?"
"She don't owe nobody nothing. She ain't got much but what she's got is her'n."
"I hear he had a bunch of bad luck lately and ain't been himself, but I never heard nothin' 'bout him messing with children."
"Jest cain't tell about men. Cause they act right for twenty years or so don't mean they ain't perverts. Maybe it jest didn't have a chance to come out."
"Perhaps he just borrowed her to help him through his grief," Joe-Bob Julen offered. "His crop got washed out one year and drought did it in the next. Then his barn burned with his prize stud bull in it and the insurance company wouldn't pay for the bull cause it wasn't named in the policy. His wife cut herself bad chopping wood while he wuz out in the fields and she bled to death before anyone came along to help her. While he was at her funeral some low-life ran off what was left of his cattle and butchered his only hog. Things like that could get a man down some.
County put a lien on his place for not paying taxes and the same day raised his assessment so he'd have more he couldn't pay."
"Sounds like he didn't have bad luck he wouldn't have any luck at all," the Sheriff offered.
Cars full of armed-to-the-teeth neighbors began stopping on the dirt road in front of the half-log house. Men exchanged a few words and went off.
"Git everbody out of the house," Sheriff Gilly instructed. "We got to save any evidence for the trial."
"Trial? Them cars is full of fathers and family men." Jake Shaster volunteered, "They catch that child-botherin' son-of-a-bitch they gonna hang him high. Or maybe set him on a half-split log with his balls in the crack and knock out the wedge. Leave him bleeding to death and praying to die quick."
"Won't be any of that in my County. Some posse-man shoots him for resisting arrest is one thing. Lynchin' him is somethin' else. I ain't gonna allow it to happen. Not to a man with a family that votes."
We could hear the bloodhounds before they came into sight.
"Them hounds ain't gonna do any good. He wuz in a car. They just wasting their time."
"Ain't nobody wastin' no time. Them dogs is fer when he runs outta gas and has to go it on foot. Best trained animals in the county. Only thing they ain't trained for is letting go. They liable to eat him afore somebody calls 'em off."
A long-haired kid on a Harley
screeched to a halt.
"They found Lily Mae, he said. "She wuz in Lemley's cut-off coupe. Happy as a just-fed kitten. Still hanging onto her doll. Will musta run outta gas. She probably thought Will was just taking her for a joy-ride."
Sheriff Gilley walked up in time to hear the news.
"Will ain't gonna take nobody nowhere." He wiped his ruddy face with a blue bandana. "Found him hangin' from a limb not far from his car. Guess he had about as much as he could stand."
"Poor bad-luck bastard," Shaster said. "Seein' him with all that trouble you'd think one of his neighbors would help. That's what neighbors are for ain't it?"
"Yeah," Gilley agreed, looking at the cars with the guns and the men going down the road on the way home.
"That's what neighbors is for."