John had left the office before his father got back. Mary Joe and the children were at their house at 24 Mason Drive near Fort Benning, and he drove there from work. The tenants had moved out, and they were moving in. Mary Joe had worked all day getting the house in order. After supper John lay across the bed to read "Scottsboro Boy," an expose of the Alabama prison system. Albert, meanwhile, had arrived back in town and gone directly to the office. It had been a long, hot drive from Montgomery. The afternoon rainstorm hadn't even settled the dust. Instead of cooling things off, the rain had left the air hot and sticky.
He parked in the first parking space in the alley beside the Coulter Building and went up to his office. He signed some letters, came back down, and went around the corner to the post office to check his mailbox. Sometime around eight o'clock, after he returned to the office, his friend Leland Jones dropped in. They chatted for a few minutes, and Jones left. His wife was waiting in the car. They were on their way to dinner, and thought Albert Patterson might like to join them. But he was worn out and said he was going straight home after he finished up at the office.
Roughly an hour later, Albert Patterson turned off the lights and locked up. The lights going out could be seen as far away as the courthouse, and the tap of his cane on the steps would have alerted anyone lurking in the dark alley that he was coming down. When he opened the door to the Olds and sat behind the wheel, the killers were standing outside the car. He knew them. One leaned with his hand on the edge of the window to talk. One of the killers pulled a gun. Three shots rang out. The killers ran from the alley. Their defenseless victim staggered out of the car onto the sidewalk where he fell mortally wounded in a pool of blood.
At the house on 24 Mason Drive, John was still reading in his bed when the killers ambushed and murdered his father. No telephone had been hooked up yet, and John had left word that he could be reached at a next-door neighbor's number in an emergency. The neighbor came over about fifteen or twenty minutes after nine with a message that something had happened at the office, and John needed to get down there as soon as he could. "They didn't tell me what it was," he recalled. "So I tore me a piece of paper, and stuck it in that book and laid it down. I ain't never finished it. Every time I see the book I think about that."
Today, that book is locked away in a bottom drawer of the desk in Judge Patterson's study. He can't bring himself to resume reading the book, but he can't bear to part with it either. Keepsakes of his father's and his family's sacrifice are always around to remind him of that night of endless sorrow. Among them the book is al that ties him to the moment his father was struck down. The slip of paper he stuck between the pages is still there.