Power Games Excerpt
Up in the Water Mountains, which could be seen stretching above the tops of the trees that lined the perimeter of the O’Brian backyard, Virginia was also worrying about getting caught for participating in an immoral act as she stood in the foyer of the Riches mansion anxiously toying with her wedding band while she waited for Sapphire, who was currently sitting on the white and gold couch in the living room talking to one of her clients on her cell phone, to be finished with her call. I know Lucifer told me not to tell anyone about his newest plan to get rid of Dennis Lawrence, she thought. But I have to know. I have to know exactly what legal consequences he could be facing if he goes through with it and gets caught. So how can I ask Sapphire without explaining the plan to her?
As Virginia stood contemplating how to broach the subject of Lucifer’s scheme with her sister-in-law, Sapphire finally said, “Yes, Mrs. Tierney. I will do a practice run with Francis tomorrow morning so that he knows what kind of questions the prosecutor might ask him about the car accident. That way, he’ll be able to think about how he might respond to them ahead of time.”
“Car accident!” Virginia softly gasped. “That’s it! If I pretend like I’m interested in this case that Sapphire’s preparing right now, then I might be able to get some answers out of her about what to expect if Lucifer winds up back in the courtroom thanks to his latest plan.”
Clearing her throat, Virginia smoothed her skirt and lifted her chin so that her face portrayed an expression of calm confidence. Then she coolly strolled into the living room where Sapphire was now wrapping up her phone call.
“All right,” said Sapphire, nodding after she had taken a moment to listen to something Mrs. Tierney had said. “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll see you and Francis tomorrow. Goodbye.”
As Sapphire took her phone from her ear and hit the end call button, Virginia cleared her throat again. “That sounds like a very interesting case that you’re working on,” she declared as she unconsciously went back to twisting her wedding band.
Sapphire just shrugged. “It’s just your standard vehicular accident case,” she declared as she tossed her phone onto the white glass-topped coffee table and picked up her pen. “Not anything that’s really a big challenge for me, so it’s actually kind of boring. I mean, no one died, so there aren’t any manslaughter charges to work around or anything like that.”
“Manslaughter charges,” repeated Virginia as she wandered over to the couch and slowly sat down beside Sapphire. “Is that what someone gets if they cause a car accident?”
Sapphire, who had started scribbling some notes down on her large yellow legal pad, just shrugged. “It depends,” she replied. “If the accident and resulting death was clearly the fault of some other force like weather or an animal stepping into the path of the oncoming cars, then the charge might be involuntary manslaughter, which means that the surviving driver didn’t actually intend to kill anyone.”
“But if they did?” Virginia curiously asked as she tightly folded her hands on her skirt and inched forward so much that she was just barely sitting on the edge of the couch.
“Then the charge would be voluntary manslaughter,” replied Sapphire.
“And the consequence for that would be?” Virginia pressed.
Frowning, Sapphire slowly looked up to meet her sister-in-law’s gaze. “At the most, eleven years in state prison,” she replied. Suspiciously narrowing her eyes at Virginia, she asked, “Why? Who do you know who’s thinking about committing voluntary manslaughter?”
But just as Virginia was beginning to sweat with nervousness over the fact that Sapphire was just seconds away from extracting Lucifer’s plan from her brain, out in the foyer, one of the tinted glass front doors opened and closed, and a few moments later, Cahuenga came hurrying into the living room with her arms loaded down with shopping bags.
“Sapphire!” Cahuenga gleefully exclaimed as she turned and dropped her bags on the floor beside the living-room entryway. “I need you to help me sue somebody.”
Shaking her head in annoyance, Sapphire agitatedly tossed her pen back onto her legal pad. “What is this?” she demanded as she flopped back against the couch cushions, crossed her legs, and then crossed her arms over her chest. “Free Legal Help for Family Members Day?”
“Well, you are the family lawyer,” Cahuenga, who had wandered over to the coffee table, reminded her as she stepped around it, brushed her hair back from her face, and then flopped down in the pink and gold upholstered chair that stood at the head of the table. “And not only that, but you’re also the best lawyer in the whole state, so…”
Too busy to take the time to bask in her little sister’s obviously manipulative compliments, Sapphire turned to her and sighed. “Who do you want to sue?” she defeatedly asked. “And why?”
“Caterina Lawrence,” replied Cahuenga. “She said something nasty about me at school today and then got everyone talking about me. It was so bad that I had to leave after first period and go to the mall for some retail therapy so that I could recover from it.”
Disbelievingly narrowing her eyes at Cahuenga, Sapphire demanded, “Are you serious? You honestly think that I can help you sue Caterina over something that small?”
Cahuenga just shrugged. “Well…yeah!” she exclaimed. “She made us look bad, and she shouldn’t be allowed to do that, right?”
Sapphire shook her head. “No,” she agreed. “No, she shouldn’t. But, Cahuenga, if you’re going to drag someone into court over something like that, then it needs to be much bigger than just some stupid comment made at school.”
Cahuenga frowned. “What do you mean?” she asked. “Isn’t it illegal to say things about someone that aren’t true? And isn’t it illegal to make people look stupid?”
Sapphire nodded. “It can be,” she replied as she sat up and began to gather the paperwork that she had spread all over the coffee table together. “But in order for something to truly count as a defamation-of-character charge, it has to be something that causes much more harm to your reputation than just some high-school students laughing at you for a few days. And it needs to be something that other people have witnessed and that can be proved false about the defendant.”
“So let me get this straight,” ordered Cahuenga as she leaned forward and folded her hands on her skirt. “In order to sue Caterina, she has to do something ten times worse than getting people laughing at me at school?”
Sapphire nodded. “Pretty much,” she replied as she gathered her paperwork into her arms, stood up, and hugged it against her chest. “Now if you two are done asking me legal questions, I’m going up to my room so that I can actually concentrate on my work in peace.”
As Sapphire turned and began to make her way out to the foyer, Cahuenga flopped back in her chair, dropped her arms onto the chair’s arms, and blew a loose strand of hair off her forehead. “Great,” she muttered. “Here I was thinking that I could finally take Caterina down for good, and Sapphire pretty much laughs my idea right out the door. So I guess I’m going to go party tonight and then take a few days off from school until people stop talking about me.”
As Cahuenga pushed herself up out of her chair and walked over to the entryway to re-gather her shopping bags, Virginia remained on the couch with a solemn expression on her face. Cahuenga might not have gotten what she wanted out of Sapphire, she thought. But I certainly did. And now it’s time to go warn Lucifer to put the brakes on his plan before he ends up spending more than a decade of his life in jail. Rising from the couch, she turned and briskly walked out of the room to begin searching for her husband.