Cheaters Never Prosper Excerpt
Downstairs in the gold and white Drake living room where she had just finished speaking to Dennis and Johnny, Lucretia Deveroux stood up and extended a hand to Dennis. “Thank you very much for taking the time to drive up here and meet with me, Mr. Lawrence,” she declared as Dennis rose from the couch and took her hand. “After speaking with you and your son here, I think Mr. Drake was right. Your testimonies will be very valuable in helping to prove the scope of terror that Prescott experienced during the time that he was locked in the Riches bomb shelter.”
Dennis smiled as he shook her hand. “No problem,” he replied as he and Lucretia withdrew their hands. “My first goal in retaking my place as Mayor of Keystone is to undo all the damage that Lucifer did during his time in office. And while testifying in a courtroom wasn’t exactly on my list of plans, I’ll gladly do it if it will help to ensure that Prescott gets justice.”
“Me too,” Johnny, who was sitting on the couch with his hands resting on his legs, agreed as he emphatically nodded.
“Because no one messes with my girlfriend’s brother and gets away with it.”
“Except you, right?” Delia, who had just wandered into the room, asked with a smirk as she grabbed her black long-sleeve button-down leather jacket from where she had tossed it on top of the grand piano that stood in the corner earlier that afternoon.
As Johnny just shrugged and turned to reach for his own black leather zip-up jacket, which was laying crumpled beside him on the couch, Clinton, who had been quietly observing the conversation between Prescott’s lawyer and the two Lawrence family members, carefully rose from his white and gold armchair and turned his attention to his daughter. “Speaking of teasing your brother,” he began, giving her a serious look as he watched her pull her jacket on over her glittery top, “that’s not what you did when I sent you up to get him just now, is it? Because if it is…”
But before his father could finish admonishing his sister, Prescott came hurrying into the room. “Sorry I didn’t come down right away, Dad,” he apologized as he braced himself against the entryway and took a moment to catch his breath. “I just needed a minute to finish some homework.”
“O-kay,” Clinton uncertainly said, his forehead creasing with a slight bit of worry as he observed the dark circles under his son’s eyes and the faint red crease on the side of his face. “Well, since you’re here now, have a seat. Since you’ve never been to court before, Ms. Deveroux here would like to explain a little about what you can expect on Friday.”
Nodding, Prescott pushed off from the entryway and took a few steps into the room. “Okay,” he said as he stepped over a rectangular-shaped footstool that was standing in front of another one of the room’s armchairs and began to make his way over to the couch on which his lawyer had reseated herself. “I’m ready because I want to put this whole experience behind me as soon as possible.”
Lucretia, who was now sipping the tea that one of the Drake servants had given her as a refreshment, nodded as she took the teacup from her lips. “I’m sure you do,” she agreed, setting the cup down on the saucer that was sitting on her skirt as Clinton quietly led the rest of the group out into the foyer so that he could say goodbye to them. “And after Friday afternoon, it should be. Which is why I want to make sure that you’re good and prepared to tell your story in a way that will convince the judges that your side is the right one.”
Prescott frowned. “You think they might not believe me?” he worriedly asked. “Even though I’ve never told a lie in my life?”
Lucretia, who was taking another sip of her tea, turned and gave him a sympathetic look. “The thing you need to understand about court,” she began as she picked up her saucer and gently set it and her teacup down on the coffee table, “is that the judge and jury don’t personally know anyone involved in the case. And as a result, they have to decide who’s telling the truth and who’s not based on the evidence that’s presented to them and the way the witnesses answer any questions that the lawyers choose to ask them.” Giving Prescott a reassuring smile as his father wandered back into the room and reseated himself in his armchair, she turned so that she was facing him a little more directly and continued with, “But the good news, Prescott, is that, in your case, the evidence proving what you went through is very very strong. The police have several photographs of the bomb shelter that prove that you were held there, and our side also has the medical records proving that you were drugged and electroshocked. And in addition to that, you’ve given us all the proof needed to show that the election results were tampered with.”
Still not once hundred percent confident about his chances of being believed over a powerful man like Sylvester Riches, Prescott apprehensively asked, “And the other side? What do they have?”
Folding her hands in her lap, Lucretia shook her head. “We won’t know until we get there and hear them present it,” she replied.
“Hear them present it?” Prescott repeated. “What does that mean?”
“It means that we and Ms. Deveroux will sit quietly and watch while Sapphire Riches asks the witnesses on Sylvester’s side a bunch of questions about the incident and presents evidence in his favor,” Clinton called from across the room as he sat back in his chair and rested his arms on its armrests. “And while she’s doing that, Ms. Deveroux will listen and come up with questions that she can ask those witnesses in order to prove Sapphire’s version of the story wrong. Then, when Sapphire is all finished, she will get a chance to ask them and hopefully sway the judge and jury’s decision in our favor.”
“And the same will happen with you, Prescott,” Lucretia informed him as she turned her attention from Clinton back to the boy. “After I’m done asking you questions that will give the court the story of what happened to you, Sapphire will do what’s called cross examining you and ask you a bunch of her own questions.” Noticing the anxious expression that had formed on Prescott’s face, she shook her head and added, “But don’t worry. I can prepare a list of questions that I think she might ask you, and you can practice answering them with me or one of your parents before you ever get into the courtroom. That way, you’ll know what to say, and you won’t be so nervous.”
But despite his lawyer’s reassurances, Prescott was feeling nervous. Nervous to the point that his heart was now pounding, and his palms were beginning to sweat. And it was all because…
“What’s wrong, son?” asked Clinton, his brow once again furrowing with worry as he watched Prescott begin to anxiously toy with the hem of his sweater.
Swallowing hard, Prescott slowly forced himself to look up at his father. “You…you said that Sapphire Riches is going to ask me some questions,” he anxiously repeated. “And that we’re going to sit and listen while people say good things about Sylvester Riches.”
Clinton nodded. “Uh-huh,” he confirmed. “That’s correct.”
“So-so that means that it’s not like when you go to the principal’s office?” Prescott stammered. “You know, when each person tells their story to the principal without the other person being there.”
Again, Clinton nodded. “Yes,” he replied. “That’s right. We’ll all be in one big room together.”
His face immediately turning pale, Prescott stammered, “S-so that means that Sylvester will be there too. And I’ll have to see him again. Right?”
As a squeak of fear punctuated Prescott’s question, Clinton uncertainly narrowed his eyes at him. “Yes,” he slowly replied. “He’s the defendant, and even if the defendant doesn’t testify, he must still be present in the courtroom.”
“No!” Prescott exclaimed in a voice that was completely infused with tormented anguish as he immediately leaped up off the couch. “I can’t!”
As Prescott turned and raced out of the room, leaving his father and lawyer staring after him in complete shock, his mother, Jessamine Drake, came hurrying in from the dining room dressed in black heeled boots, brown pants, and a gold ribbed long-sleeve sweater duster that was open over a black silk tank top that had a gold and cerulean-blue arrowhead print on it. “What is going on?” she demanded. “Why did Prescott just let out the type of wail he only makes when he finds out that one of his mentors has died?”
“Because something just did die,” replied Clinton as he braced his hands against his chair’s armrests and pushed himself up into a standing position. “His illusion of court being just like going to the principal’s office.”
Setting the handful of silverware that she had been using to set the dining-room table for dinner down on a nearby end table, Jessamine gave her husband a confused look. “So he didn’t know that he would be seeing Sylvester in person again?” she guessed as she reached up to tighten her loose curly brown bun.
Clinton nodded. “Apparently not,” he replied. “And now I don’t know what we’re going to do. Because, on the one hand, I don’t want to put our son through seeing that monster again if he’s too petrified to handle it. But on the other, if he doesn’t testify…” he swallowed hard, “well, then Sylvester Riches might just get away with yet another serious crime. Just like he did after the Citrus Grand Country Club Regatta all those years ago.”