‘It can’t be!’ Christopher exclaimed, jumping from the barstool and making his way through the frightened crowd scrambling to safety.
‘Why not?’ Herbert replied sheepishly.
Christopher looked around and saw bodies dropping lifeless around him.
‘Don’t worry about the bullets. They aren’t meant for you … yet.’ Herbert added.
‘What do you want?’ Chris asked with his free hand covering his ear. He wondered if Gina and the Chief made it out in one piece.
‘Oh, I’m just calling you to gloat,’ Herbert announced. Christopher’s heart pounded wildly against his chest. He saw the weasel die. How could this be?
He tried to collect his thoughts and hoped the security he had at the house was able to keep the girls safe. ‘Tell me what you want,’ Chris demanded, trying to stay calm.
‘It’s simple. I … Hang on a minute,’ Herbert said.
The shooting stopped.
‘There. Yes! What I want. I want you to suffer, Christopher Wallace. Did you think I was going to let you live in peace?’
Chris heard police sirens in the distance, and his anxiety reduced a bit. ‘ Why shoot at these innocent people then? If it’s me you want, take me!’ he retorted. It was clear to Chris that one of them had to bite the dust for this to end.
‘Let’s face it, Chrissie, these people are hardly innocent, and how do you suffer when you are dead?’ Hebert reasoned. ‘Now, how do I make you suffer? Through the ones you love. See? I might not have gone to some fancy school like you, but I still have my wits about me.’ Chris cringed. His voice sounded like vomit, but he wasn’t about to provoke him. From the corner of his eye, he saw the Chief and Gina approaching him and unconsciously heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Herbert, you always want something. Tell me what you want.’
‘In due time, pretty boy. For now, I have a surprise waiting for you at home. Ciao!’
Chris froze. He was at the house! Were the girls safe? Frantically, he dialed their numbers, but none of them picked up their calls. How did he not see this coming? ‘Chris, thank God you are alright! The police are here. I’m so frightened!’ Gina cried, hugging him tightly.
The Chief was in a murderous mood and looked at Chris with a straight face. ‘Was that the guy that did all this?’
The thought of what Herbert might have done to the girls made Christopher numb, and it took him a while to answer the Chief’s question. ‘He didn’t die, Chief. He’s alive, and he’s after my family,’ he uttered in fear.
He had to get home. Now.
‘Then we will go after him,’ the Chief responded. ‘He will wish he never messed with us!’
‘Chief, I have to go,’ Christopher murmured absent-mindedly.
‘I can’t let you go alone! It’s dangerous! He might have you followed!’ the Chief pointed out, dialing a number. ‘I’ll get one of the units to take you. We’ve had enough bloodshed for one night. I can’t afford to lose you too.’
‘He won’t hurt me,’ Christopher assured him. ‘He said he didn’t want me dead. The units are needed here. I need to get home.’
‘I’ll go with you,’ Gina offered. She brought out a small pistol from her purse. ‘I’m good with guns. I’ll protect you.’
Christopher was barely listening. He simply nodded and headed towards the entrance with Gina hot on his heels.
The Chief was livid. That crazy son of a devil almost killed them!
In no time, he had the judge on the phone. ‘You foolish old wretch. You almost had me killed! Did you forget our arrangement?’
The judge chuckled. ‘Calm down, Chief. The boys are professionals. You act like you don’t know how they do things on the street. Their orders were to shoot to scare. They would never have hurt you or your precious Regina.’
‘Keep her name out of your filthy mouth! Do you think this is funny?’ the Chief retorted, looking at the dead bodies around him. ‘He didn’t stick to the plan, that wretch! Has he at least completed the mission?’
‘Yes, yes. The party proved to be a great distraction, and my brother is the best at what he does.’
What did he mean by Herbert didn’t stick to the plan? What did he do? The judge wondered.
‘Just do your part, and by tomorrow, we will all get what we want,’ the Chief added, then cut the call. Insolent wretch! He turned a simple job into a blood bath! Herbert would rot in jail for this massacre.
Christopher and Gina reached the house in record time, and Chris still had the engine running when he leaped out of the car. The front door was hanging on its hinges. Even with just the street lights on, he could see the damage Herbert inflicted on the house. There was blood spattered on the snow close to the driveway, and the car, the security detail drove, was still there.
They were dead.
The yellow police duct tape surrounded the house.
He looked at his phone again. He didn’t get any calls from the police. Why? What happened to the girls?
His mind raced as he went under the tape and entered the house. There was a spot of blood on the floor just after the door, but he couldn’t find blood anywhere else in the house.
Or the girls.
‘That monster!’ Gina exclaimed, holding on to Chris as she jumped over objects littering the floor.
‘He has the girls,’ Chris said, deflated. ‘Why didn’t I see this coming? What the hell was the matter with me?’
‘Don’t blame yourself, Chris,’ Gina said, lifting his chin and meeting his eyes. ‘You couldn’t have seen this coming. No one could. For all we know, Sarah might have escaped with the girls.’
Sarah, Chris thought with a pained look on his face. Did she know he was alive? Was he the person she was meeting with all this time? He knew abusers had ways of getting into the heads of their victims, and maybe Herbert got to her. He clenched his fists. If he wasn’t so focused on not allowing Sarah back into his life and punishing her, he might have noticed something.
‘Sarah didn’t pick up when I called,’ Chris told Gina. ‘He might have Sarah too.’
‘I’m so sorry, Chris,’ Gina said with a low tone, stroking his chin to comfort him.
‘I have to wait for him to call with his demands. I hope he hasn’t hurt them.’
They were in the kitchen, and his eyes rested on a morphine bottle sitting on the kitchen counter. He picked it up and looked at the prescription label around it. Sarah. Did she leave this lying about with Daisy in the house?
Did she do this on purpose?
The past made it difficult for Christopher not to believe Sarah didn’t have a hand in this. The coincidences were too obvious. ‘Gina, please tell your dad we might need the police to come here after all. We were set up.’
‘By whom?’ Gina asked, reaching for her cell.
‘By Herbert and his muse,’ Christopher replied, with regret. Why did he let her back in his life?
She called the Chief. ‘Dad, Christopher wants you here,’ she said once her dad answered the phone.
‘I suppose he does,’ the Chief responded, ‘and I will be there in a few, but you need to get through to him. He’s going to need you when all of this is over, and he’s a broken man. It’s all up to you now. Don’t screw this up.’
‘I’ll tell him you are on your way,’ Gina responded, turning to Chris. ‘Dad’s coming.’
Christopher didn’t respond, nor did he look her way. His attention was on Sarah, who stumbled into the house and fell to the floor. He raced past Gina, grabbed Sarah by her neck, and pinned her to the wall just by the front door.
‘What did you do?’ he bellowed, squeezing her neck. She tapped his hand several times in an attempt to get him to release her but failed. ‘Where are the girls?’
‘I-I can’t breathe,’ she managed to say.
‘Chris, don’t kill her!’ Gina protested from behind him.
‘Where are the girls?’ he asked again, feeling Sarah’s pulse fade beneath his palms.
‘How will she talk if you won’t let her breathe?’ Gina asked, slowly approaching him.
Chris released her suddenly and raked his hair with his fingers. He was in a murderous mood because he was helpless again.
All because of this woman.
She gagged continuously for a while before composing herself. ‘Chris, Penny!’ she said, between muffled breaths.
Chris narrowed his gaze. ‘What about Penny?’
‘She-she was with me then there was an explosion.’
Chris thought his heart would stop. Just then, he studied the woman in front of him. She was bloody, with deep cuts on her arms and face, and one of her legs was bandaged and swollen.
He noticed the broken handcuffs.
‘Where is Penny?’ he asked in a menacing tone.
‘They took her!’ Sarah cried, putting her face in her hands. ‘I didn’t want her to follow me there. What have I done?’
‘Where?’ he snapped before his phone rang.
Private number. It was the weasel.
He walked away from Sarah and went into the kitchen. Sarah looked up and met Gina’s gaze. It had been a while since they last saw each other. Nine years. Her rival. The one that wouldn’t leave Christopher alone.
‘Hello, Sarah. It’s been a while,’ Gina said, echoing her thoughts. For a brief moment, a wave of jealousy swept through Sarah, but she banished it when she looked around and saw the state of the house.
What was going on?
Instinctively, she went into the kitchen after Chris. Gina followed closely behind.
On seeing them, Christopher put the phone on speaker.
‘Did you like my gift?’ Herbert asked Christopher, mocking him.
‘What have you done with my girls?’ Christopher asked impatiently.
Herbert was silent.
‘Look, you wanted to punish me. You have succeeded. Now, what do you want?’ Chris asked, his fists almost punching a hole in the kitchen wall.
‘You have till noon tomorrow to get me ten million dollars in cash. My boys tell me Sarah made it out alive. Good! She will deliver herself and the money to me at a place of my choosing.’
‘Ten million dollars!’ Gina exclaimed in outrage. Chris and Sarah shot astonished looks her way, and she covered her mouth in apology.
‘If she’s late,’ Herbert continued, ‘ the girls die like they are supposed to.’
He cut the call.
Sarah gave Chris a pleading look. ‘Chris! Herbert! He’s got the girls!’ she croaked, sobbing uncontrollably.
I was so wrong, Chris thought, and without thinking, he drew her into a tight embrace. ‘We will get them back, don’t worry.’
Gina felt nauseous watching them. ‘I think I better tell my dad about this new development. He will know what to do.’
As she turned to go, she remembered she hadn’t shown her sympathies and turned around. ‘Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. You’ll see.’
Chris nodded, placing his chin on Sarah’s head as she remained in his embrace, sobbing away. Gina sprinted out of the house and called an Uber. That wretched fool was about to blow their plans to thy kingdom come, and it was a pity that he didn’t know with whom he was dealing. Her heart felt like it was tied in knots when she remembered the scene she left behind in the kitchen. She had to admit Sarah was a formidable opponent, but she was going to get her out of the way momentarily. For now, she would let her grieve.
A blue Sudan stopped in front of her, and she checked the license plates before getting in. The driver confirmed the address before starting the trip and said no more till they reached their destination, but Gina was restless.
Things were not going according to plan, or were they? She had to be sure. It was late, and she wasn’t sure if her old man was asleep. At this point, she didn’t care. She dialed his number and tapped her heels nervously while it rang.
‘Gina?’ asked a sleepy voice at the other end.
Only her father could sleep at a time like this.
‘Have you heard he asked for a ransom?’ she asked sharply, shooting a deadly glance at the driver to deter him from eavesdropping.
‘He did what?’ asked the Chief, in disbelief. Gina’s brows narrowed in confusion. ‘You said you had everything under control. Things better not go sideways tomorrow.’
‘They won’t,’ assured the Chief, authoritatively. ‘The weasel is trying my patience. He doesn’t know what I’m capable of.’
‘I think you need to remind him,’ Gina advised. ‘He asked for 10 million dollars. Is he mad?’
The Chief grunted, ‘Did he now? He wants a payout, does he? He will get one into the afterlife.’
Gina looked out the window as the car pulled over at a five-story apartment complex. ‘I’m home now, dad.’
‘What? Why didn’t you stay with Christopher? That was your moment,’ he said, alarmed.
She alighted from the car and dug her heels into the snow as she searched for her keys.
‘Sarah’s alive, and don’t ask me how she survived. I don’t trust those men. All they had to do was shoot her when they were taking the girl.’
Her father was silent. He knew about Herbert and his obsession with Sarah. They assured him that she was dead, and he didn’t think the weasel would go out of his way to save her, considering that he almost killed her the last time they crossed paths. ‘Must be some dumb stroke of luck,’ he said after a while.
Gina wasn’t convinced or comfortable with the arrangement. ‘Dad, you need to do something fast.’
‘I will. Don’t bother your pretty little head about it. I want you to focus on Christopher,’ he advised.
‘Then get that wh**e out of the way!’ she snapped before cutting the call. She was irritated, and rightly so. Her dad had been on the force for too long to make such rookie mistakes. She spent a pretty penny on the sexy lingerie she wore under that yellow dress, and it hadn’t served its purpose.
‘Not today,’ she said to her reflection. ‘Definitely tomorrow,’ she chuckled, blowing herself a kiss.