over the center of Hernando, Mississippi, Jerry’s wife, Kerrie Lynn Lewis, is reading aloud a letter she had written to speed up the passport application of one Lynn Noel, who was to accompany Jerry on a tour of Europe in 1997.
“And so you were requesting an expeditied passport so that your lover could go on a tour with you and Mr. Lewis, weren’t you?” says Beth Cocke, Jerry’s divorce lawyer.
“No, ma’am,” says Kerrie.
“How else do you explain that letter?”
“Well, I think we’ve read it and it’s self-explanatory. He worked for Mr. Lewis. This doesn’t state I’m taking my lover.”
“You were having sex with Lynn Noel at this time?”
“Ninety-seven? Yes, ma’am.”
“And you were the person who arranged for road managers and security people, weren’t you?”
“To do what?”
“To accompany you on tours with Mr. Lewis.”
“So, you’re hiring your lover to go on a tour with you and Mr. Lewis. Is that right?”
“No, ma’am. I left that tour early and Mr. Noel stayed and took care of Mr. Lewis.”
“I bet. Mr. Lewis didn’t know that you were having sex with him, did he?”
“You would have to ask him that.”
“You didn’t tell him, did you?”
“Not that I recall.”
Sharply dressed in a black pinstripe suit and black patent-leather cowboy boots, Jerry hadn’t shaved and his face had broken out in something that appeared stress-related. As hi wife, an aspiring gospel singer, is forced to admit numerous infidelities, he sinks further and further into his chair until a merciful lunch break. Married in April 1984, one month after his fifth wife had died and five months before he went on trial for tax evasion, Jerry and Kerrie had threatened each other with divorce every year or two starting in 1985, never quite finishing the job. Jerry nonetheless turned his career management over to his wife, who was twenty-one when he married her. She developed a reputation among promoters for making last-minute demands for more money and five-star hotels. As Jerry’s finances and showmanship dissipated, it even became a question whether he would arrive at the gig.
“Jerry literally does not know how to write a check,” says Johnnie Wilson, a former assistant at the Lewis Ranch who was waiting to testify. “It’s very embarrassing for him. He wants to act like he knows what’s going on, but he really doesn’t comprehend finance. He has to trust somebody else to find out. He doesn’t have but a seventh-grade education. Even before Kerrie, people other than Jerry were paying his bills and taking advantage of the situation.”
The lunch break stretches until late afternoon as the lawyers negotiate a settlement in the judge’s chambers. Jerry fidgets in the waiting room.
“Any time a man slaps a lady, he’s lost the ballgame,” Jerry opines to no one in particular as he signs autographs for court officers and their children. “It’s not right, and you can’t get away with it, anyway. That’s one huge advantage they have on us men.”
Declaring his butt dead from sitting all day, Jerry continues to reminisce about his Corvette that he got up to 175 mph and then tore up the speeding ticket, which he threw at the policeman. “Wish I’d kept that car,” he says wistfully.
Beth Cocke and Phoebe return from the judge’s chambers with a tentative deal of $30,000 a year to Kerrie for five years, $20,000 a year for the college education of Jerry Lee III (son of Kerrie but no of Jerry, who nonetheless raised him as his own), and Kerrie would be out of all Jerry’s business affairs.
“Take it!” says Jerry.
“It’s a good deal, but are you just saying that because you’re frustrated?” Cocke asks?
“Aw, bull! It’s only money, just green paper!”
“Do you really understand this? Are you authorizing me to accept?”
“I just wanna go to sleep.”
“What’s the trouble, Jerry? You’re almost a free man.”
“It’s too late,” he says. “I’m gonna miss Gunsmoke.”