A Prisoner of Birth: A Novel

A Prisoner of Birth: A Novel

by Jeffrey Archer

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Overview

If Danny Cartwright had proposed to Beth Wilson on any other day, he would not have been arrested and charged with the murder of his best friend. But when the prosecution witnesses happen to be a group of four upper-crust college friends—a barrister, a popular actor, an aristocrat, and the youngest partner in an established firm's history—who is going to believe Danny's side of the story?

Danny is sentenced to twenty-two years and sent to Belmarsh prison, the highest-security jail in the land, from where no inmate has ever escaped. But Spencer Craig, Lawrence Davenport, Gerald Payne, and Toby Mortimer all underestimate Danny's determination to seek revenge—and the extent to which his fiancée Beth will go in pursuit of justice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312944094
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/02/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 108,306
Product dimensions: 7.54(w) x 4.10(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain's House of Commons and fourteen years in the House of Lords. All of his novels and short story collections—including And Thereby Hangs a Tale, Kane and Abel, Paths of Glory and False Impression—have been international bestselling books. Archer is married with two sons and lives in London and Cambridge.

Hometown:

London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester

Date of Birth:

April 15, 1940

Education:

Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute

Read an Excerpt

A Prisoner of Birth


By Jeffrey Archer

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 Jeffrey Archer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3449-7



CHAPTER 1

"Not guilty."

Danny Cartwright could feel his legs trembling as they sometimes did before the first round of a boxing match he knew he was going to lose. The associate recorded the plea on the indictment and, looking up at Danny, said, "You can sit down."

Danny collapsed onto the little chair in the center of the dock, relieved that the first round was over. He looked up at the referee, who was seated on the far side of the courtroom in a high-backed green leather chair that had the appearance of a throne. In front of him was a long oak bench littered with case papers in ring binders, and a notebook opened at a blank page. Mr. Justice Sackville looked across at Danny, his expression revealing neither approval nor disapproval. He removed a pair of half-moon spectacles from the end of his nose and said in an authoritative voice, "Bring in the jury."

While they all waited for the twelve men and women to appear, Danny tried to take in the unfamiliar sights and sounds of court number four at the Old Bailey. He looked across at the two men who were seated at either end of what he'd been told was counsel's bench. His young advocate, Alex Redmayne, looked up and gave him a friendly smile, but the older man at the other end of the bench, whom Mr. Redmayne always referred to as prosecution counsel, never once glanced in his direction.

Danny transferred his gaze up into the public gallery. His parents were seated in the front row. His father's burly tattooed arms were resting on the balcony railing, while his mother's head remained bowed. She raised her eyes occasionally to glance down at her only son.

It had taken several months for the case of The Crown versus Daniel Arthur Cartwright finally to reach the Old Bailey. It seemed to Danny that once the law became involved, everything happened in slow motion. And then suddenly, without warning, the door in the far corner of the courtroom opened and the usher reappeared. He was followed by seven men and five women who had been selected to decide his fate. They filed into the jury box and sat in their unallocated places—six in the front row, six behind them; strangers with nothing more in common than the lottery of selection.

Once they had settled, the associate rose from his place to address them. "Members of the jury," he began. "The defendant, Daniel Arthur Cartwright, stands before you charged on one count of murder. To that count he has pleaded not guilty. Your charge therefore is to listen to the evidence and decide whether he be guilty or no."

CHAPTER 2

Mr. Justice Sackville glanced down at the bench below him. "Mr. Pearson, you may open the case for the Crown."

A short, rotund man rose slowly from the counsel's bench. Mr. Arnold Pearson QC opened the thick file that rested on a lectern in front of him. He touched his well-worn wig, almost as if he were checking to make sure he'd remembered to put it on, then tugged on the lapels of his gown; a routine that hadn't changed for the past thirty years.

"If it please your lordship," he began in a slow, ponderous manner, "I appear for the Crown in this case, while my learned friend"—he glanced to check the name on the sheet of paper in front of him—"Mr. Alex Redmayne, appears for the defense. The case before your lordship is one of murder. The cold-blooded and calculated murder of Mr. Bernard Henry Wilson."

In the public gallery, the parents of the victim sat in the far corner of the back row. Mr. Wilson looked down at Danny, unable to mask the disappointment in his eyes. Mrs. Wilson stared blankly in front of her, white-faced, not unlike a mourner attending a funeral. Although the tragic events surrounding the death of Bernie Wilson had irrevocably changed the lives of two East End families who had been close friends for several generations, it had hardly caused a ripple beyond a dozen streets surrounding Bacon Road in Bow.

"During the course of this trial, you will learn how the defendant," continued Pearson, waving a hand in the direction of the dock without bothering even to glance at Danny, "lured Mr. Wilson to a public house in Chelsea on the night of Saturday, September eighteenth, 1999, where he carried out this brutal and premeditated murder. He had earlier taken Mr. Wilson's sister"—once again he checked the file in front of him—"Elizabeth, to Lucio's restaurant in Fulham Road. The court will learn that Cartwright made a proposal of marriage to Miss Wilson after she had revealed that she was pregnant. He then called her brother, Mr. Bernard Wilson, on his mobile phone and invited him to join them at the Dunlop Arms, a public house at the back of Hambledon Terrace, Chelsea, so that they could all celebrate.

"Miss Wilson has already made a written statement that she had never visited this public house before, although Cartwright clearly knew it well, which the Crown will suggest was because he had selected it for one purpose and one purpose only: its back door opens on to a quiet alleyway, an ideal location for someone with murderous intent; a murder that Cartwright would later blame on a complete stranger who just happened to be a customer at the Dunlop Arms that night."

Danny stared down at Mr. Pearson. How could he possibly know what had happened that night when he wasn't even there? But Danny wasn't too worried. After all, Mr. Redmayne had assured him that his side of the story would be presented during the trial and he mustn't be too anxious if everything appeared bleak while the Crown was presenting its case. Despite his barrister's repeated assurances, two things did worry Danny: Alex Redmayne wasn't much older than he was, and had also warned him that this was only his second case as leader.

"But unfortunately for Cartwright," continued Pearson, "the other four customers who were in the Dunlop Arms that night tell a different story, a story which has not only proved consistent, but which has also been corroborated by the barman on duty at the time. The Crown will present all five as witnesses, and they will tell you that they overheard a dispute between the two men, who were later seen to leave by the rear entrance of the bar after Cartwright had said, 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' All five of them saw Cartwright leave by the back door, followed by Bernard Wilson and his sister Elizabeth, who was clearly in an agitated state. Moments later, a scream was heard. Mr. Spencer Craig, one of the customers, left his companions and ran out into the alley, where he found Cartwright holding Mr. Wilson by the throat, while repeatedly thrusting a knife into his chest.

"Mr. Craig immediately dialed 999 on his mobile phone. The time of that call, m'lord, and the conversation that took place were logged and recorded at Belgravia police station. A few minutes later, two police officers arrived on the scene and found Cartwright kneeling over Mr. Wilson's body, with the knife in his hand—a knife that he must have picked up from the bar, because Dunlop Arms is engraved on the handle."

Alex Redmayne wrote down Pearson's words.

"Members of the jury," continued Pearson, once again tugging at his lapels, "every murderer has to have a motive, and in this case we need look no further than the first recorded slaying, of Abel by Cain, to establish that motive: envy, greed and ambition were the sordid ingredients that, when combined, provoked Cartwright to remove the one rival who stood in his path.

"Members of the jury, both Cartwright and Mr. Wilson worked at Wilson's garage in Mile End Road. The garage is owned and managed by Mr. George Wilson, the deceased's father, who had planned to retire at the end of the year, when he intended to hand over the business to his only son, Bernard. Mr. George Wilson has made a written statement to this effect, which has been agreed by the defense, so we shall not be calling him as a witness.

"Members of the jury, you will discover during this trial that the two young men had a long history of rivalry and antagonism which stretched back to their schooldays. But with Bernard Wilson out of the way, Cartwright planned to marry the boss's daughter and take over the thriving business himself.

"However, everything did not go as Cartwright planned, and when he was arrested, he tried to place the blame on an innocent bystander, the same man who had run out into the alley to see what had caused Miss Wilson to scream. But unfortunately for Cartwright, it was not part of his plan that there would be four other people who were present throughout the entire episode." Pearson smiled at the jury. "Members of the jury, once you have heard their testimony, you will be left in no doubt that Daniel Cartwright is guilty of the heinous crime of murder." He turned to the judge. "That concludes the prosecution opening for the Crown, m'lord." He tugged his lapels once more before adding, "With your permission I shall call my first witness." Mr. Justice Sackville nodded, and Pearson said in a firm voice, "I call Mr. Spencer Craig."

Danny Cartwright looked to his right and watched as an usher at the back of the courtroom opened a door, stepped out into the corridor and bellowed, "Mr. Spencer Craig!" A moment later, a tall man, not much older than Danny, dressed in a blue pinstriped suit, white shirt and mauve tie, entered the courtroom. How different he looked from when they'd first met.

Danny hadn't seen Spencer Craig during the past six months, but not a day had passed when he hadn't visualized him clearly. He stared at the man defiantly, but Craig didn't even glance in Danny's direction—it was as if he didn't exist.

Craig walked across the courtroom like a man who knew exactly where he was going. When he stepped into the witness box, he immediately picked up the Bible and delivered the oath without once looking at the card the usher held up in front of him. Mr. Pearson smiled at his principal witness, before glancing down at the questions he had spent the past month preparing.

"Is your name Spencer Craig?"

"Yes, sir," he replied.

"And do you reside at forty-three Hambledon Terrace, London SW3?"

"I do, sir."

"And what is your profession?" asked Mr. Pearson, as if he didn't know.

"I am a barrister at law."

"And your chosen field?"

"Criminal justice."

"So you are well acquainted with the crime of murder?"

"Unfortunately I am, sir."

"I should now like to take you back to the evening of September eighteenth, last year, when you and a group of friends were enjoying a drink at the Dunlop Arms in Hambledon Terrace. Perhaps you could take us through exactly what happened that night."

"My friends and I were celebrating Gerald's thirtieth birthday—"

"Gerald?" interrupted Pearson.

"Gerald Payne," said Craig. "He's an old friend from my days at Cambridge. We were spending a convivial evening together, enjoying a bottle of wine."

Alex Redmayne made a note—he needed to know how many bottles.

Danny wanted to ask what the word "convivial" meant.

"But sadly it didn't end up being a convivial evening," prompted Pearson.

"Far from it," replied Craig, still not even glancing in Danny's direction.

"Please tell the court what happened next," said Pearson, looking down at his notes.

Craig turned to face the jury for the first time. "We were, as I said, enjoying a glass of wine in celebration of Gerald's birthday, when I became aware of raised voices. I turned and saw a man, who was seated at a table in the far corner of the room with a young lady."

"Do you see that man in the courtroom now?" asked Pearson.

"Yes," replied Craig, pointing in the direction of the dock.

"What happened next?"

"He immediately jumped up," continued Craig, "and began shouting and jabbing his finger at another man, who remained seated. I heard one of them say: 'If you think I'm gonna call you guv when you take over from my old man, you can forget it.' The young lady was trying to calm him down. I was about to turn back to my friends—after all, the quarrel was nothing to do with me—when the defendant shouted, 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' I assumed they were joking, but then the man who had spoken the words grabbed a knife from the end of the bar—"

"Let me stop you there, Mr. Craig. You saw the defendant pick up a knife from the bar?" asked Pearson.

"Yes, I did."

"And then what happened?"

"He marched off in the direction of the back door, which surprised me."

"Why did it surprise you?"

"Because the Dunlop Arms is my local, and I had never seen the man before."

"I'm not sure I'm following you, Mr. Craig," said Pearson, who was following his every word.

"The rear exit is out of sight if you're sitting in that corner of the room, but he seemed to know exactly where he was going."

"Ah, I understand," said Pearson. "Please continue."

"A moment later the other man got up and chased after the defendant, with the young lady following close behind. I wouldn't have given the matter another thought, but moments later we all heard a scream."

"A scream?" repeated Pearson. "What kind of scream?"

"A high-pitched, woman's scream," replied Craig.

"And what did you do?"

"I immediately left my friends and ran into the alley in case the woman was in any danger."

"And was she?"

"No, sir. She was screaming at the defendant, begging him to stop."

"Stop what?" asked Pearson.

"Attacking the other man."

"They were fighting?"

"Yes, sir. The man I'd earlier seen jabbing a finger and shouting now had the other chap pinned up against the wall, with his forearm pressed against his throat." Craig turned to the jury and raised his left arm to demonstrate the position.

"And was Mr. Wilson trying to defend himself?" asked Pearson.

"As best he could, but the defendant was thrusting a knife into the man's chest, again and again."

"What did you do next?" asked Pearson quietly.

"I phoned the emergency services, and they assured me that they would send police and an ambulance immediately."

"Did they say anything else?" asked Pearson, looking down at his notes.

"Yes," replied Craig. "They told me under no circumstances to approach the man with the knife, but to return to the bar and wait until the police arrived." He paused. "I carried out those instructions to the letter."

"How did your friends react when you went back into the bar and told them what you had seen?"

"They wanted to go outside and see if they could help, but I told them what the police had advised and that I also thought it might be wise in the circumstances for them to go home."

"In the circumstances?"

"I was the only person who had witnessed the whole incident and I didn't want them to be in any danger should the man with the knife return to the bar."

"Very commendable," said Pearson.

The judge frowned at the prosecuting counsel. Alex Redmayne continued to take notes.

"How long did you have to wait before the police arrived?"

"It was only a matter of moments before I heard a siren, and a few minutes later a plain-clothes detective entered the bar through the back door. He produced his badge and introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Fuller. He informed me that the victim was on his way to the nearest hospital."

"What happened next?"

"I made a full statement, and then DS Fuller told me I could go home."

"And did you?"

"Yes, I returned to my house, which is only about a hundred yards from the Dunlop Arms, and went to bed, but I couldn't sleep."

Alex Redmayne wrote down the words: about a hundred yards.

"Understandably," said Pearson.

The judge frowned a second time.

"So I got up, went to my study and wrote down everything that had taken place earlier that evening."

"Why did you do that, Mr. Craig, when you had already given a statement to the police?"

"My experience of standing where you are, Mr. Pearson, has made me aware that evidence presented in the witness box is often patchy, even inaccurate, by the time a trial takes place several months after a crime has been committed."

"Quite so," said Pearson, turning another page of his file. "When did you learn that Daniel Cartwright had been charged with the murder of Bernard Wilson?"

"I read the details in the Evening Standard the following Monday. It reported that Mr. Wilson had died on his way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and that Cartwright had been charged with his murder."

"And did you regard that as the end of the matter, as far as your personal involvement was concerned?"

"Yes, although I knew that I would be called as a witness in any forthcoming trial, should Cartwright decide to plead not guilty."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer. Copyright © 2008 Jeffrey Archer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Contents

COVER,
TITLE,
COPYRIGHT NOTICE,
DEDICATION,
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS,
PROLOGUE,
BOOK ONE: THE TRIAL,
BOOK TWO: PRISON,
BOOK THREE: FREEDOM,
BOOK FOUR: REVENGE,
BOOK FIVE: REDEMPTION,
BOOK SIX: JUDGMENT,
PREVIEW,
ALSO BY THE AUTHOR,
COPYRIGHT,

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