The New York City Police Department, 105th Precinct, was buzzing with activity after a recent street raid, so much so that it took Christopher a while to get an officer’s attention. ‘How can I help you, mister… Hello Dr. Wallace!’
‘Hello Sergeant,’ he replied. ‘ I don’t know if you can help me. I’m looking for a woman named Penny McKenzie. You arrested her husband on charges of domestic violence. His name is Herbert Wilcox.’
The Sergeant blinked. ‘Heb got out of jail several hours ago. You know, Judge Wilcox is his elder brother, so charges never stick long. That’s why he’s famous on the streets! If you are looking for his wife, you can start by finding him. He never lets her go far.’
He found it interesting that the police had all this information about them but failed to do anything about their situation. ‘Where do you think he might be?’ asked Christopher.
The Sergeant looked away. ‘To be honest, I don’t have that information. You can try their house. He doesn’t have many friends left. The only relief he gets is what his brother gives him. Spends it all on beer and girls anyway.’
So Hebert was in a pub somewhere, but this man had not told him all he knew, Chris thought.
‘It’s a shame,’ Chris said, checking his pockets. ‘I wish I could find someone I could pay to take me to him.’
He started to walk away.
The Sergeant caught up with him and took him to a corner. ‘Look, Doctor, Judge Wallace is feared around these parts. It’s best not to ask too many questions about his brother. It’s better to get the information about Heb’s whereabouts from the judge. You both speak the same language, he might bend a little for you, but no one here will rat Heb out.’
He understood, but he didn’t think he had time to seek the judge out.
‘Sergeant, Sarah is in danger. He might kill her,’ he confessed, showing him the note she left for Penny.
The Sergeant wasn’t interested. ‘Doctor, stay out of their business. They’ve got bad history on the streets. They are no good.’
He wished he could, Chris thought, as the Sergeant walked back to his table, but he had to keep his promise.
So the police station was a bust. Where to next? Chris thought as he entered into what was becoming a raging snowstorm. Brenda’s place. Madam Brenda knew Hebert, and she might have had his most recent phone number and location. Goosebumps crept up his arms as he remembered the events from a couple of hours before. Chris couldn’t believe that he was thinking of going back there. Sitting in his car, he tried to block out images of what he thought Hebert must have been doing to Sarah. He had to reach her, for their daughters’ sakes, but Brenda’s Place?
Then he received a call.
‘Hey, rich boy. I hear you are looking for me,’ said the voice at the other end.
Chris stiffened. ‘Where is Sarah? What have you done with her?’
‘Now, now, she’s alive….barely. If you want her to stay alive, transfer ten million dollars to the account I will be sending you shortly within one hour or tell her minxes to bid her farewell!’
The line went dead.
Blackmail was his forte. He said nothing about releasing Sarah once he had the money. He would use her again to get more, Chris thought.
He had no other options left.
Turning the car around, he took a shortcut to the brothel and parked two blocks away, taking the usual precautions. It was a busy evening, so Chris made sure to stick to the corners to avoid being seen. Madam Brenda was chatting away with a client and pretending to laugh at his jokes. She looked like a plum tomato with all her make-up, and for a second, Christ felt the urge to laugh. So people find these kinds of things appealing? Chris thought. He walked up to her, but a bouncer blocked his path. ‘I need to talk to her,’ he said, putting his hands up so they could search him. She looked his way. ‘Not you again! What do you want?’
‘Can I have a second of your time?’ he asked.
She sighed and turned to her client. ‘Give me a moment, sweetie.’
‘Come along,’ she said to Chris, who followed obediently, keeping an eye out for anyone that looked familiar.
She took him to her office and locked the door.
‘Speak up. What’s your deal?’ Brenda asked.
‘I need to find Hebert Wilcox and his wife, Sarah. I know you talk to him…’
‘Damn right, I do,’ she interrupted. ‘That asshole owes me a lot of money, and I promised him I would collect,’ she said, with her fingers pointing to the ceiling.
‘You promised him?’ asked Chris. ‘You have spoken with him. Does he know I took Daisy?’
She smiled. ‘How’s the little munchkin? Hope we didn’t ruffle her feathers too much for daddy, did we?’
He ignored her question. ‘I need to find him, madam. It’s a matter of life and death.’
‘What’s in it for me?’ she asked, rubbing her fingers together.
‘ A thousand dollars,’ he said, producing the bundle from his jacket.
‘Whoa,’ she exclaimed. ‘You should have just led with that honey! He’s at Cobblestone’s Pub, just a few blocks from here. You can’t miss it. Go down to the basement. That’s where sewer rats like him like to hide.’
She folded the bills and put them in her bra.
‘Safest safe yet,’ she said with a smile.
‘Thank you,’ Chris replied while heading towards the door.
‘Wait!’ she said. ‘Are you going alone?’
He turned around, ‘I can’t trust the police.’
‘It’s a suicide mission, honey. Heb might not have men, but he’s pretty handy with a gun, I can tell you that.’
She twisted her lips like she was thinking of something.
‘Tell you what. I’ll saddle you up with a few of my men for protection. I have a score to settle with that rat! Besides, if you can’t do what is needed, they will.’
She tapped her chest. ‘Besides, you’ve paid for it! Might as well give you your money’s worth!’
Chris couldn’t believe his luck. Madam Brenda turned out to be a real sweetheart with him. Her men were armed to the teeth and instructed to protect him with their lives. In a few minutes, Chris was driving to Cobblestone’s Pub with a convoy on each side.