If the witness lied, p.17

If the Witness Lied, page 17


If the Witness Lied

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  “Cheryl might—”

  “Cheryl won’t be doing anything. The children’s grandfather will see to that. And you were so wise to download that paperwork to Mr. Wade. He could tell in a minute that Cheryl is fiddling with the accounts. He’ll show that paperwork to the local police along with the cell-phone photographs.”

  “Jack doesn’t want the police,” says Diana anxiously.

  “What Jack wants is to protect Tris. And now we’re here, and we’ll protect him. Something we singularly failed to do before. Let’s go downstairs.”

  * * *

  Through the open front door walks Reverend Phillips. He’s a big man with a big voice, and he more than fills the space Cheryl left. He looks around. “Hey, Maddy,” he says cheerfully.

  “Maddy” sounds good coming from him. Maybe she can be Maddy again, be the nice reliable laughing person that girl Maddy was once.

  “I got worried when you hung up on me,” says Reverend Phillips. “What’s going on?”

  Madison tells him everything. The minister is more shocked than anybody. “I believed her. I believed everything she said.”

  “We all did. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff we believed. But the police are on their way. Mr. Wade is talking to them.”

  And then, incredibly, Cheryl is back, offering cheese and crackers on a tray. She can’t leave, so she’s going to tough it out. “How nice of you to drop in,” she tells the minister.

  “Mrs. Rand, under the circumstances, I do not want you around the children,” says Reverend Phillips. “You and I—”

  Cheryl falls back on tears. She points to her bruised mouth. “Those children ganged up on me. They’re liars. I tried so hard to bring goodness into their lives and look at the thanks I get. They twist an accident into something ugly.”

  “What was accidental,” asks the minister, “about blaming Tris?”

  And then Mrs. Murray is bounding up the front steps, and in the front door, holding out the tiny terrifying film of Cheryl attacking Diana. She’s much thinner and smaller than Cheryl but the force of her wrath flattens Cheryl against a wall. “What is this?” she demands at the top of her lungs.

  Cheryl is cornered: Mrs. Murray, Reverend Phillips and Poppy. Jack takes advantage. “Call Angus Nicolson,” he orders Cheryl. “Cancel your arrangement.”

  “Oh, I can’t do that. They’re planning to film on Monday.”

  Poppy uses a voice Jack has never heard before. “Call,” he says to Cheryl. “Now.”

  Cheryl dwindles. She seems to lose weight and color and purpose all at the same time. She takes out a cell phone, and stares at it, puzzled, forgetting that it is Diana’s. She knows Angus’s number by heart and slowly taps it in. She tries to keep her options open, but Angus is a professional. He cuts his losses. “Okay,” he says. “That’s that.” He disconnects and all Cheryl Rand has to show for her efforts is a dial tone.

  “I’ll just go upstairs,” begins Cheryl.

  Tris is upstairs. Jack steps forward, his fears and fury back again.

  The minister gets hold of Cheryl first. “Mrs. Rand, you and I are going to wait outside for the police.”

  “This is my house! I’m not giving it up. You can’t make me.”

  “It is not your house. We’ll wait outside.”

  “It’s raining!”

  “Then we’ll get wet.” Reverend Phillips shoulders Cheryl into the cold.

  * * *

  How strange it will be, thinks Madison Fountain, to finish senior year in yet another school.

  It’s not what anybody wants. But Madison has figured out the order of things. First you want your family safe. Second you want your family.

  She opens her cell phone and pulls up her favorite photograph of her mother. She hasn’t looked at it in a long, long time. But there her mother is, waiting for her.

  Jack did his best, Madison tells her mother. I let you down. But I’m on the right track now. And Tris is fine. Isn’t that amazing? Tris is fine.

  You’d love Tris, Mom.

  You’d be glad he’s alive.

  * * *

  Smithy realizes that the house no longer matters. It isn’t Mom and Dad’s anymore. It’s okay to leave.

  Home won’t come to us, she thinks. We have to go home. Nonny and Poppy’s.

  She’s grateful for a semester and a half of boarding school. She has learned that there are good friends everywhere, waiting for you to appear. Distant as Missouri sounds, it will be the same: full of kids waiting to be friends. And Smithy will have her sister and her brothers, and the grandparents who love her no matter what.

  Cheryl was treasure hunting, looking in a film, in fame, in a bank account. But treasure is where your heart is, and that is your family, and Elizabeth Smith Fountain is a lucky girl.

  She has a family.

  * * *

  Tris sleeps on.

  He doesn’t know about the troubles surrounding him.

  He doesn’t care where he lives. He just wants a kiss in the morning, and a big breakfast, and time to play outdoors.

  But one day he will know that he is blessed by two big sisters and one big brother. He is loved.

  CAROLINE B. COONEY is the author of many books for young people, including Diamonds in the Shadow; A Friend at Midnight; Hit the Road; Code Orange; The Girl Who Invented Romance; Family Reunion; Goddess of Yesterday (an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book); The Ransom of Mercy Carter; Tune In Anytime; Burning Up; The Face on the Milk Carton (an IRA-CBC Children’s Choice Book) and its companions, Whatever Happened to Janie? and The Voice on the Radio (each of them an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults), as well as What Janie Found; What Child Is This? (an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults); Driver’s Ed (an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and a Booklist Editors’ Choice); Among Friends; Twenty Pageants Later; and the Time Travel Quartet: Both Sides of Time, Out of Time, Prisoner of Time, and For All Time, which are also available as The Time Travelers Volumes I and II.

  Caroline B. Cooney lives in Madison, Connecticut, and New York City.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2009 by Caroline B. Cooney

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press,

  an imprint of Random House Children’s Books,

  a division of Random House, Inc.,

  New York.

  Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark

  of Random House, Inc.

  Visit us on the Web! www.randomhouse.com/teens

  Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at


  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Cooney, Caroline B. If the witness lied / Caroline B. Cooney.—1st ed.

  p. cm.

  Summary: Torn apart by tragedies and the publicity they brought, siblings Smithy, Jack, and Madison, aged fourteen to sixteen, tap into their parent’s courage to pull together and protect their brother Tris, nearly three, from furthur media exploitation and a much more sinister threat.

  eISBN: 978-0-375-89106-9

  [1. Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 2. Grief—Fiction.

  3. Orphans—Fiction. 4. Celebrities—Fiction. 5. Family life—Connecticut—Fiction.

  6. Reality television programs—Fiction. 7. Connecticut—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.C7834If 2009



  Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment

  and celebrates the right to read.




  Caroline B. Cooney, If the Witness Lied



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