A Penny For Christmas

A Penny For Christmas Chapter 18: Chief Sacramento

Christopher relieved himself of his winter coat and collapsed on the sofa, just beside his office desk.
She got to him again.
There had been a few women over the years that piqued his interest, but none were like the green-eyed beauty that was his ex-wife.
He tried.
He sent her to the attic even though there were empty rooms in the house and ignored her every chance he got, but his efforts were futile.
She no longer looked decrepit. Christopher could even see glimpses of the woman he married. Heck, she even made breakfast the way he liked it, and he couldn’t deny the glee he felt inside when he saw how nervous she got in the kitchen.
And at the breakfast table.
‘Christopher Ryan Wallace, you are the weakest man on the planet,’ he uttered to himself. If only his mother could see him now, God rest her soul, she would curse his stupidity out of him.
His mother.
Memories of her brought him out of his reverie. Money wasn’t the only thing Sarah took from him, so he would be a fool to let his guard down. Come to think of it, where did she go in the afternoons? He couldn’t let himself believe Sarah was back on the streets. Was she that dense? After all the horror they had gone through?
He asked his secretary to deliver all the yearly reports to his desk because he needed the distraction. She returned with the files, and she wasn’t alone. A lanky sixty-five-year-old man strolled in after her and took his seat unapologetically by Chris.
‘I’m sorry, sir,’ his secretary said, taking a step back. ‘He said you wouldn’t mind.’
‘Mind?’ the man exclaimed. ‘I’ll put him back in his diapers if he dares to mind!’
‘It’s alright,’ Chris assured her.
She left in a hurry.
‘That one likes you too,’ the man observed, tapping Christopher on the shoulder.
‘She is about to become a grandmother,’ Christopher announced, incensed.
‘When has that ever stopped anybody?’ the man asked, genuinely puzzled.
‘Why are you here, Chief?’ Chris asked with an urgent tone.
The chief helped himself to some candy on the center table in front of the sofa.
‘You asked me a question I couldn’t answer over the phone, and I was in town so…,’ the chief replied, biting into his candy.
Chris moved over to his desk. ‘What’s the latest?’
‘Nothing Chris. I believe you are worried for no reason. After the death of his brother, the judge has been careful and quiet because he knows we are on to him.’
Chris shook his head. ‘That’s not good enough for me. I want him behind bars.’
The chief had a humorless look. ‘Look, Chris, no one likes to mess with a judge, and this isn’t my jurisdiction. The last thing I want to do is step on other people’s toes. If I dig deeper, that’s what I’ll be doing. It’s not safe for either of us.’
Chris tapped his fingers on his desk as the chief spoke.
‘He knows we are watching. He won’t dare come after you or the girls,’ the chief pointed out.
‘And Sarah?’ Chris added. Her name felt heavy off his tongue.
The chief cocked his head to one side. ‘Your ex-wife? Well, she’s another kettle of fish. While I was searching for dirt on the judge, I saw some cold case files with her name written all over them. If we shake the judge too hard, those cases may become active again.’
Christopher’s heart skipped a beat.
‘She disappears during the day,’ Christopher cut in. ‘I found out from my daughter, not the bodyguards I put on her.’
‘Well, they came highly recommended,’ uttered the chief, a bit embarrassingly.
‘I fired them,’ Chris said, bluntly.
‘Well, if she’s been around her old neighborhood, workplace, or friends, my people haven’t seen her,’ confirmed the chief.
Chris shook his head in disappointment.
‘I was doing some research on your ex-wife and her handler,’ said the chief. ‘I heard you were the only one that got away easy.’
‘Should I be thanking her for that? She put my daughters through hell! My mother couldn’t recover from the shock!’ snapped Chris, banging his fist on the table. ‘I’m sorry,’ he muttered, raking his hair with his fingers.
The chief was on his feet.
‘No, you shouldn’t. You can’t trust that woman. People like her go back to the only place they know. The streets. We will keep an eye on her when that happens.’
Christopher rose too.
The chief had a sympathetic look on his face.
‘Christopher, I’ve known you since you were in diapers. I watched you ace every exam, graduate from Harvard, start this business and become the mega-millionaire you are now. I was also there when you broke the heart of every girl that has dared to come close, even my daughter’s.’
Chris looked away, embarrassed.
The chief continued,’ and the woman you fell for turned out to be a con.’
Christopher closed his eyes to shut out the emotions building up in his chest.
‘Don’t let that woman pull you back in that destructive bubble. She isn’t worthy of you,’ added the chief.
‘Thank you, Chief,’ Chris said, giving him a handshake.
‘Look. Gina’s still single and wouldn’t mind looking after the girls. I’ll tell her you’re back in the saddle…’
‘I’ll consider it,’ Christopher interrupted as he closed the door after the chief.
After five meetings and a ton of paperwork, Christopher drove home in a pensive mood. His life would have been simpler if he married Gina or one of those other women that swooned after him. Instead, he avoids parties and hangouts so his brain wouldn’t go on recess, like the last time.
Sarah, he thought. What kind of power did she have over him?
He had just pulled over at the house when his phone rang.
Unknown number.
‘Get a life!’ he snapped at the phone as he tossed it into his pocket. ‘Psycho!’ he cursed as he walked towards the house.
The lights in the living room were on.
Penny, he thought.
She was waiting for him as she always did.
He didn’t expect the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread cookies to fill his nostrils as soon as he opened the front door or to find Sarah, in an apron, holding a tray full of them.
He suppressed a smile.
‘Penny couldn’t wait up. She was exhausted after our activities in the kitchen,’ Sarah explained as she walked up to him.
Chris kept his eyes on the gingerbread cookies.
‘I know they used to be your favorite,’ Sarah teased, holding the tray out.
‘Please have some.’
Their eyes met for a moment before Chris walked past her.
‘Christopher. Please. Let’s talk, please,’ Sarah pleaded, holding his arm.
He shrugged her off.
‘Good night, Sarah,’ he said while ascending the stairs.
From the corner of his eye, he could see her shoulders drop.
Good, Chris thought. Not this time.

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