A Penny For Christmas

A Penny For Christmas Chapter 26 – The drop zone

It took a while, but Christopher found a decent hotel for the night because the hotels had their rooms fully booked for Christmas.
Christmas, he lamented inwardly. Christmas was turning out to be a nightmare.
After carrying Sarah to the room, amidst prying eyes, he settled her down on the king-size bed and called his accountant to arrange the ransom.
Herbert said nothing about returning the girls. He suspected that this was to ensure that they stayed alive and his demands would grow in the future.
He raked his hair with his fingers in frustration and tried to stay as calm as he could because Sarah was about to have a nervous breakdown. As his accountant spoke, he watched her intently.
She was as pale as a ghost, and big, dark circles surrounded her emerald green eyes. Her silence on their way to the hotel and now, as she stared blankly at the window that overlooked the Manhattan cityscape, spoke volumes. Herbert was back, and she was afraid.
He averted his gaze to her swollen leg. She had to have walked a long-distance or exerted too much pressure on it for it to get that bad. The news on the radio mentioned an explosion at the outskirts of the city. Was that where she took Penny? Did she walk all the way?
How did he miss this?
He needed answers.
‘We don’t have much time,’ he said to the accountant before ending the call and thought about what to do next.
Her leg. If Chris didn’t attend to it, she would lose it.
Without warning, he placed her leg on his laps and used his arms to brace it in place.
‘Ouch, Christopher, Please!’ yelled Sarah, holding on to Christopher’s arms and digging her nails into his flesh. but he didn’t flinch. ‘Sarah, tell me what happened.’ At that moment, she forgot about the pain, and her pulse quickened. What would he think of her?
Christopher could feel her trembling, and he cursed himself silently. He forgot they shared the same pain. He needed to stop looking at her like the heartless animal that ripped his heart and see her as she was now. A victim of a vicious abuser. A grieving mum.
She was traumatized, and he could imagine she was feeling guilty that Herbert kidnapped Penny under her watch.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said calmly, trying to meet her eyes. ‘I’m sorry I attacked you like that. I thought it had happened again.’
It was like the weight of his feelings lightened with that revelation, and he looked away, ashamed.
Sarah felt it too. ‘It’s alright, Chris. I understand. I wouldn’t trust me too, but I swear I would never do anything to hurt you or the kids. You mean everything to me.’
Her admission warmed his heart.
‘I know you tried to talk to m,e and I gave you a hard time. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to deal with …’
The past. Christopher stopped.
He was so obsessed with what was gone that he forgot to live in the present.
In retrospect, his experiences were nothing compared to Sarah’s. Both he and Herbert had ruthlessly punished her for the same crime and different reasons.
‘I know, Christopher, and I don’t blame you. I’m grateful to you for allowing me to stay with you and the kids. Lord knows I don’t deserve your kindness.’
A soothing feeling overcame her when he applied an ointment, and she purred lightly, forcing Christopher to focus on her mouth. In another reality, he could think of ten different ways to make her reproduce that sound that awoken his desire just now.
Ten insanely pleasurable ways.
But his kids were his immediate priority, and if he was to go by the pills he saw on the kitchen counter, Daisy was using again. He had to get to her before it was too late, and he needed to know if Sarah knew anything useful.
‘Please tell me what you wanted to say. I promise I won’t judge you,’ Christopher continued calmly.
‘I give you my word. I will when all of this is over,’ Sarah assured him. If she had to be honest, she wasn’t sure how to tell him she was supposed to be in jail, but it didn’t feel like the right time.
‘Alright, I won’t press anymore,’ he said, resigned. He didn’t think Sarah would hide information relevant to the kidnapping. ‘You need to rest.’
He secured the cast on her leg and placed it carefully on the bed.
‘I’m sorry,’ she blurted out. ‘If Penny didn’t come with me, she would have…’
‘He would have found her and taken her all the same. Don’t blame yourself,’ Christopher reasoned.
‘He must have been keeping tabs on us for days. I should have tightened the security,’ he uttered with deep regret. He slowly sat beside Sarah on the bed and let his head drop.
That was why it was his fault, he concluded. With all the money he had, he still couldn’t keep his family safe. He took their safety for granted and became complacent when the Chief told him not to worry. However, Herbert being alive was the rudest shock he could have ever received. No one saw that coming.
They hadn’t talked about the elephant in the room. and it made Sarah nervous. ‘Chris, what are we going to do?’ she asked with a trembling voice. She didn’t want to go back to Herbert, but there was no other option.
He drew her close so her head could rest on his shoulders. ‘I can’t send you to him, Sarah. You know he won’t keep his word. Once he gets the money, he’s going to take you and the girls away or worse.’
She let her body relax and let his masculine scent intoxicate her as she relished the moment. ‘Please let me go. I need to be with the girls. I may not be much protection, but I can take the heat and keep them safe as best as I can.’
His phone beeped, and they turned to look at it like it was the enemy. ‘He’s sent the location,’ Christopher said, hurriedly picking up the phone and reading the message. He looked thoughtful as he assessed the situation. ‘I’ll make the drop,’ he decided.
‘No!’ Sarah exclaimed almost immediately. ‘He asked for me. We can’t take that risk. He might hurt the girls. Please let me go,’ she insisted.
Christopher sighed because she was right. ‘Sarah, it’s going to be dangerous,’ he warned.
She managed a crooked smile as she tried to find a more comfortable position for her leg. ‘I will be with them till you find a way to rescue us, Chris,’ she told him.
His heart melted because she trusted him so much.
‘Alright. I’ll take you to the drop zone,’ Christopher said with a heavy voice. He felt like he was sentencing her to death. Sarah nodded and let her head hit the pillow. In a short while, she was asleep.
Chris made sure she was out before making a call to the Chief.
‘Chief, I’m sorry for waking you up at this hour,’ he said.
‘Nonsense, Christopher. I should be awake, but my old bones never let me do what I want. Any news from the weasel?’
‘Yes,’ Christopher said, looking at Sarah. ‘He asked for 10 million dollars and sent an address. He wanted Sarah to make the drop.’
‘I see. Is this a ransom for the girls’ release?’ the Chief asked curiously.
‘I don’t think so, Chief. He only said this was to ensure that he didn’t kill them. I believe he’ll be asking for some more in the nearest future. What do you suggest I do?’
‘I will ask you to make this drop and leave the rest to me. We will trace the money and find Herbert. Don’t worry,’ the Chief assured him.
‘I know this isn’t your jurisdiction. I hope I’m not getting you into a pickle with your bosses,’ Chris asked.
‘Your kids’ lives are in danger. Fuck jurisdiction. If this gets me fired from the force, it will be an honorable discharge!’ the Chief declared.
Christopher smiled. ‘Thank you, Chief. I have sent a text message with the address. Please bring my babies home. You are my only hope.’
‘I will or die trying,’ the Chief stated before hanging up.
Chris heaved a sigh of relief before laying quietly by Sarah and letting sleep claim him.
Sarah didn’t sleep for long. She woke up screaming Christopher’s name after watching Herbert shoot him multiple times in the back, in a nightmare. Sarah was grateful Christopher didn’t wake up, but she didn’t want to go back to sleep because Herbert would strangle her with his leather belt when he saw her again. Sarah put on the bedside lamp and looked through the pills on the bedside cupboard for blood pressure pills. She couldn’t break down now because she needed Christopher to believe in her. He looked so peaceful when he slept even though his heart was troubled, and she was happy that they were sleeping side by side, even if it was just for today. Suddenly, Gina came to mind. Was he seeing her? A pang of jealousy took over her mind. They looked like they were coming from a party together. Were they dating?
She couldn’t deny that Gina was a better match for him. No Herbert and no troubles. He would live a perfectly stress-free life with Gina.
And Christopher would be lost to her forever.
‘Wonderful mother you are, Sarah! Your girls are in trouble, and you are thinking of other things. That’s why he’s going to choose Gina. You never do things right!’ she thought, shutting her eyes in anger. The next time she opened them, Chris was clean, dressed, and ready to go.
‘I was just about to wake you,’ he said, helping her up. ‘The accountant dropped the briefcase off. I’ll help you get ready. Are you still sure you want to do this?’
She nodded briskly.
They got to the address Herbert gave; a small children’s park in Queens, sparsely populated at this time of the day. Sarah used the crutches Christopher got in a store to keep up with his long strides. He was both desperate and angry, Sarah thought. If Herbert came to collect alone, Christopher could kill him with his bare hands. At 11:00 am, they were at the drop zone, a secluded trash can at the other end of the park. The instructions were to drop the briefcase in the trash can and have Sarah sit on the nearby bench, awaiting pick-up.
Christopher settled Sarah on the bench and hurried out of sight but stayed within range of the drop zone. Herbert was clear about the involvement of the police, so Christopher had to be alert in case something went wrong.
They waited for two hours before a black Honda pulled over at the drop zone.
Sarah looked curiously at the vehicle because it had tinted windows.
Herbert was never that stealth.
Her heart almost stopped when she saw its occupants.
How? she thought.

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