Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Chapter 8

By Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 8

Louis Alfred Dimoulin—a.k.a. "Lou Dimes"

  • Now that we're hanging out with Lou and getting all up in his head, the first thing we get is a few questions and a whole lot of skepticism.
  • He says he's trying to figure out just who could kill Beau Boutan, not just who would. This is important because it tells us that Lou knows all about how awful Beau and his family have treated the Black community there.
  • Lou's at a loss for who could have actually done it because the community around the Marshal Plantation is basically full of women, children, and old men.
  • He stops and thinks about whether or not Charlie could have done it, but remembers that Charlie always lets Beau walk all over him with no complaints—so it's not likely Charlie.
  • He speeds all the way down to Marshal, and is really surprised that Candy insisted she needed him to get there right away because she doesn't seem like the kind to need anybody.
  • As soon as he shows up, Candy tells him that she killed Beau.
  • He doesn't buy it, and is about to walk further into the yard, when he sees all of the old men who've gathered there with their shotguns.
  • Several of the older dudes tell Lou that they're the ones who murdered Beau.
  • At a loss for what's going on, Lou asks the Reverend Jameson, who just tells him that he better ask Candy about all of it.
  • In spite of what Lou tells her about hearing all of these men confess to the murder, Candy still insists that she did it.
  • Lou calls her a liar, and that gets her really riled up.
  • This is the first time we hear Candy's version of what went down:
  • She claims that, after getting into a fight with Beau out in the cane fields, Charlie came running up to Mathu's place, right up to where she and Mathu had just been standing and talking.
  • Beau showed up a few minutes later with a shotgun.
  • Candy told him that he'd better not set foot on the property.
  • When Beau decided he wasn't going to listen, Candy got Mathu's gun and shot him.
  • Lou absolutely does not believe it, and asks Candy why all these old dudes are standing around with guns.
  • Candy says she can only think that it's to protect her.
  • Lou still isn't buying it, and asks if somebody can at least get something to cover up Beau's body.
  • Candy asks Corrine to go inside and get a sheet.
  • She comes back out holding one, and hands it to one of the men. They hand it to Lou.
  • Lou covers Beau's body and asks Candy if she's called Mapes.
  • She replies that she told Merle to do it for her.
  • Once again, Lou asks Candy to tell him the truth before Mapes gets there. He knows that Fix is going to want to spill some blood for what happened to his son Beau.
  • Candy doesn't change her story. She says it's what she's going to tell Mapes, say on the TV, on the radio, and in court. Oh, and she tells Lou he can get out of there if he wants to.
  • As Lou worries to himself about what's going on, Mapes pulls up in a car being driven by Griffin, one of his deputies.
  • Mapes—a rather, well, large guy—gets out of the car and walks into the yard after taking the time to wipe the sweat off of his face and neck. Our guy is no Mr. Olympia, gang.
  • He takes a look at the men gathered in the yard, and at Beau's corpse.
  • Mapes tells Griffin to turn off a tractor that had been left running, to tell another deputy—Russell—to get out to Fix's place and make sure he doesn't leave, and to call the coroner, Herman, to come pick up the body.
  • After a minute staring at all the old men with shotguns, Griffin agrees and starts in on the list.
  • Turning to Lou, Mapes says he counts about 18 men.
  • Lou says he's not sure how many there are. Mapes turns to Candy and asks her.
  • Candy says that all she knows is that she's the one who killed Beau.
  • She gives Mapes the same story she gave Lou, with a little more detail added.
  • Mapes doesn't say anything, but makes it pretty obvious that he's not buying it.
  • Candy says she'll swear to it in court and tell it to all the newspapers.
  • Mapes starts to question the old men, telling Griffin to bring him "one of them."
  • Candy tries to protest. Lou tries to calm her down.
  • Griffin does what he's told, and brings up Billy Washington (Lou says it's probably because Griffin is too afraid to bring up one of the younger men).
  • Knowing that Billy isn't from around there, Mapes asks him what he's doing so far from home.
  • All Billy says, without making eye contact, is that he's the one who killed Beau.
  • Not surprisingly, Mapes—who says that today is the day he normally goes fishing—doesn't believe it for a second.
  • Billy's about to say the same thing again, but, just as he starts, Mapes smacks him across the face.
  • There are cries of alarm and shock from the porch. Candy is really ticked.
  • Mapes doesn't care. He asks the same question again.
  • As Billy gets ready to give him the same answer, Mapes hits him again. He's bleeding.
  • Mapes tells Griffin to bring him "another one." This time, it's Gable.
  • Candy is getting angrier by the second. She demands to know if Mapes is going to beat them all.
  • Mapes tells Lou to get Candy out of there.
  • Candy says there's no way in hell she's leaving.
  • Mapes starts interrogating Gable. He asks what Gable is doing so far away from home.
  • Gable says the exact same thing that Billy said. He says he killed Beau.
  • Trying a slightly different strategy, Mapes tells Gable that he doesn't want to hurt him.
  • Gable tells Mapes that he shot Beau.
  • Amid more groans from the women on the steps, Mapes hits Gable, and hits him hard, making spit fly out of his mouth.
  • Gable isn't scared. He looks Mapes in the face and tells him that he can smack him around all day long if he wants to.
  • Mapes smacks Gable again. Gable shakes it off and keeps right on staring at Mapes.
  • The sheriff tells Griffin, again, to "bring him another one"
  • As Griffin walks Gable back, Lou notices that Billy is looking at Mapes and grinning. Lou knows there's no way smacking these guys around is going to get them to talk.
  • In the meantime, Candy is getting more and more agitated. She even tells Mapes—getting really sarcastic with him—that he may as well use a piece of pipe or a stick to hit them all.
  • Mapes accuses Candy of lying again, and Candy insists that she killed Beau.
  • Griffin, realizing the men aren't going to fight back, starts to get a little courage as he heads back to pick somebody else for Mapes to needlessly assault.
  • Snookum, who we know is kind of a troublemaker, runs off the porch and stands in front of Griffin.
  • Griffin—who Lou tells us is always really tough around young kids and old people—tells him to sit down before he gets smacked down.
  • Apparently not worried, Snookum tries to go up to Mapes.
  • Candy stands in front of him and stops him from moving, but Snookum doesn't go back until Aunt Glo calls for him.
  • Griffin has decided to pick the Reverend Jameson.
  • Mapes asks the Reverend why he's not at home reading his Bible.
  • Jameson tells the sheriff that he's not going to say anything.
  • Mapes tells him that he better say something.
  • He doesn't, and so Mapes gives him a tickle. JK, gang—of course this crummy sheriff hits him.
  • The blow sends Jameson crashing down onto his back.
  • As Jameson gets up, the rest of the people there start to form a line in front of Mapes, with Candy at the very front of it. She tells him that she's next.
  • Mapes basically gives up. He motions for Lou to follow him to his patrol car.
  • Once they're there, Mapes asks Lou if he knows that Mathu did it.
  • Lou tries to play dumb, and then asks Mapes why he doesn't just arrest him.
  • Mapes says there isn't enough evidence and that a case wouldn't stand up in court.
  • After being quiet for a minute or two, Mapes asks Lou if he's seen Charlie around. Lou says he hasn't.
  • Mapes isn't too worried. He goes back to rehashing how he thinks it all went down: Mathu killed Beau and Candy organized this whole gathering. He's convinced Mathu would have turned himself in if Candy hadn't insisted on organizing this thing.
  • Evidently trying to come up with ideas about how to resolve the whole thing, he asks why Lou hasn't just stuffed Candy in his car and driven off with her.
  • Lou says he's pretty sure that's illegal. Mapes says he's pretty sure that covering up a murder is illegal, too.
  • Mapes says Candy's got it all wrong if she thinks she can manipulate the Black community like this.
  • After Lou asks Mapes if he's got some kind of grudge against Mathu, Mapes says he actually admires how tough he is.
  • He also makes it clear that he's trying to avoid a race riot—because, even if Fix doesn't show up, some other folks wanting revenge probably will.
  • A hearse driving up the road interrupts this cheerful little conversation.
  • In it is Herman, the county coroner.
  • Instead of getting out right away, he just takes a look at all of the people standing around.
  • Herman gets out of the car, along with his assistant George.
  • It's pretty obvious that they're waiting for an explanation, but Mapes doesn't give them one.
  • Instead, he just tells them—kind of politely, at least—to go ahead and get a move on.
  • On orders from Herman, George gets the stretcher and a blanket.
  • As they're walking toward the hearse together, Mapes asks Herman about for just how long he thinks that Beau's been dead.
  • Herman guesses for around 2 or 3 hours. Mapes figures 3 hours would have given Candy enough time to get all of these people together.
  • Poor Herman is one confused little dude, and he finally asks what's going on with Beau's murder and this giant crowd of elderly African American men with guns.
  • Mapes just tells him he needs to do his job and move Beau's body.
  • Herman is pretty rattled. He tells Mapes that Mapes better get to the bottom of this quickly before Fix or anybody else decides to start any trouble.
  • Trying to keep his comments to a minimum, Mapes tells Herman not to tell anybody about the bunch of old men with shotguns.
  • Herman says he's not going to tell anybody, but he doubts that anybody would believe it anyway.
  • The coroner and his assistant pick up Beau's body and take off.
  • Mapes tries to get the crowd to disperse.
  • Guess what? Nobody moves.
  • Billy starts in about how he's the one who killed Beau again.
  • Figuring that Mapes is going to hit him again, everybody gets quiet as he walks over to Billy.
  • All he does is take Billy's shotgun, remove the shell, and sniff it. He can tell it's been fired.
  • Mapes tries all kinds of questions to get Billy to admit that he didn't kill Beau and that Candy put all of them up to this.
  • Billy sticks to his story, and Mapes keeps plying him with questions.
  • It's pretty clear that Billy isn't going to say anything other than what he's been saying from the very beginning.
  • Deciding he's going to scare Billy, Mapes tries to describe what it looks and feels like to die in the electric chair.
  • Billy keeps on saying he did it.
  • Finally, Mapes asks why Billy would kill Beau—and things start to get serious.
  • Billy tells Mapes about his son
  • His son was so severely beaten he sustained permanent brain injuries. He no longer recognizes anybody, he can't talk, and he can't even eat like a normal human being.
  • Billy says he knows that Fix and his boys did it.
  • Mapes still isn't buying it. He tells Billy to try and aim his gun and hold it steady.
  • Billy manages to do it, but it takes every ounce of strength he's got and he's huffing and puffing after just a few seconds.
  • Still out of breath, he tries to tell Mapes that he waited until the last minute to shoot so he wouldn't get too tired or miss.
  • Mapes still isn't having it. He tells Billy to go back to where he was, which Billy does—still insisting that he killed Beau.
  • Talking out loud to himself, Mapes says he knows people would think he was crazy if he tried to pin Beau's murder on Billy.
  • Mapes tells Mathu to come down and talk to him.

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