An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):
They turned, only to find their path blocked by an imposing figure.
“You!” Tucker exclaimed.
The man chuckled. “Now boy, is that any way to greet your pa? Especially after he’s been away for so long.”
Tucker squeezed Brooke’s hand.
“Let’s go, Tucker,” Brooke said. “Your foster parents will be wondering where you are.”
The man grinned. “Aw, ain’t that cute? You done got yourself a little girlfriend while I was banged up. Pretty one, too.”
Tucker released Brooke’s hand and pushed her behind him. “What do you want?”
“It’s what I don’t want. I don’t want to go back to that jail cell. You should have seen the scum they put me in with. But bad as it was, it’ll be worse if they convict me and send me to state prison. There’s even nastier guys there, serving long sentences, and they do things to the new guys that… well, since your little girlfriend is here, let’s say they’re things you don’t want to know about, let alone experience.”
Tucker cringed. “What’s that got to do with me?”
His stepfather’s lip curled into a crooked smile. “Everything. They’re going to call you to testify at my trial. Probably in the judge’s chamber or in a recorded deposition. Either way, they’re going to ask you a bunch of questions. If you answer them the right way and tell them none of those things happened, then they’ll have to drop the charges and I’ll stay out of prison.”
“You want me to lie to save your butt?” Tucker studied his stepfather. He knew the older man was afraid of what awaited him in prison. Tucker had never seen him fearful; he had always been an intimidating figure to the boy. It dawned on him his stepfather was not a particularly large man, and indeed, placed among other men he might be fodder for the hardened prisoners.
“Smart boy. Make it convincing and I won’t even punish you for the hell you put me through. All I want is to stay out of prison.”
“Don’t listen to him, Tucker,” Brooke said. “Tell the truth and they’ll lock him up for years. Maybe he’ll get what he deserves behind bars.”
“Feisty little thing.” Tucker’s stepfather grinned. “It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to her.”
“Leave her out of this,” Tucker said. “This is between you and me.”
“Then, you’d better be sure to testify the right way. I’d hate to see your pretty little bird get hurt. I remember the last time you brought a sparrow home.”
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Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!