Twelve hours before the drop.
Judge Wilcox couldn’t believe what he saw on T.V. Did he have to take that many lives while trying to scare one man? The images from the assault on the Waldorf Astoria were gothic, and he cringed in his seat. Why didn’t Herbert listen to him? ‘Shoot to scare,’ he said aloud as if Herbert could hear him. Did he think the Chief was going to protect him if this went south?
From the looks of things, things were already going to hell. Timothy had received calls from two districts, seeking emergency warrants for urgent arrests. He had to oblige, but he couldn’t afford to have this blowback on him, so he had his spies keep close tabs on the investigations, but he was nervous. Something wasn’t right with his brother.
His phone rang for the fifth time, and he decided he might as well kiss sleep goodbye. Which one of those sorry sots wanted a favor now? He picked up the phone rapidly and glanced at the caller id.
He stared at it in horror.
The Chief! At this hour? Did something go wrong?
His hands trembled as he pressed the answer button and put the phone to his ear. ‘Yes, Chief?’ he asked nervously.
‘What’s this talk about a ransom?’ the Chief asked, going straight to the point.
Ransom? Was Herbert mad?
‘Sir?’ the judge asked, wiping his brow.
‘Do you think I’m fooling around, judge? I have the location for the drop,’ the Chief retorted. ‘Where is he?’
No! He couldn’t tell the Chief where Herbert was, not in his current state of mind. He had to talk him down.
‘Chief, please. I assure you, Herbert would never try to double-cross you. He needed the kidnapping to sound believable.’
That sounded ridiculous, even to him, thought the judge.
‘Ten million dollars?’ the Chief iterated.
The judge swallowed a lump in his throat. He told Herbert not to screw with his man.
‘I promise you Herbert will stick to the plan and get rid of the girls as you requested. He won’t dare cross you,’ pleaded the judge, desperately.
‘I won’t ask again, Wilcox. Where is the weasel?’ bellowed the Chief.
‘He didn’t tell me where he was taking the girls, Chief. I swear. We never talk about these things for security reasons, but I ..’
The phone went dead.
Judge Wilcox sprang from his seat and fumbled with his phone. What was the Chief going to do? He had his contact in the NYPD on the phone in a matter of seconds. ‘You need to keep your ears on the ground. Chief Sacramento is up to something, and I need to know what.’
‘That’s suicide, judge,’ his contact protested. ‘I don’t want to be on the receiving end of the Chief’s wrath, and they say he’s going to be in town longer than previously thought. We are all treading lightly here.’
‘You don’t want to be on the receiving end of my wrath, you twat!’ the judge snapped. The Chief was more revered, but he wasn’t about to show weakness.
‘Let me know what he plans to do to Herbert. That’s all,’ he continued, wiping his brow in anticipation.
His contact sighed and agreed. ‘I’ll let you know if I hear anything, but please, sir, it didn’t come from me.’
Fool, the judge cursed. He needed the Chief out of town, fast. He couldn’t have anyone doubting his power. Why did Herbert deviate from the plan? His obsession with Christopher Wallace was going to cost them more than he hoped to gain. By the time the judge’s phone rang again, it was 5:00 am, but he was quick to answer.
‘He’s placed a bounty on Heb’s head, sir. His men gave up his location. Try to reach him as soon as you can,’ his contact said before hanging up.
Few hours before the drop
How could that old and decrepit man think he would throw away two gold mines while he was still breathing? It was not like Herbert cared what anyone thought about his surprise move because he couldn’t do all that work and come out empty-handed. Besides, this was always his plan; to have both brats in his custody and Christopher by both his balls. Yesterday, he took risks and might have ended up with just one of his targets because the idiots he put on the job blew up the mediation building before they got Penny out. The little one was strong. She was almost on the other side when they brought her to him, but she fought hard. Now, that fight had dissipated, and fear had taken over. He reckoned Christopher spoilt them rotten in the short time they were with him, but he was going to erase that illusion and introduce them to the business their mother foolishly messed up.
Sarah, he thought with a sigh, as he moved closer to the girls. He was glad she didn’t die. She would be with him soon, and everything would be back to normal.
His gaze shifted to Daisy, who was groaning and twisting incessantly. He smiled as he reached for a bottle of pills he stashed in an old mahogany cabinet in front of the girls.
‘I have what you need, Daisy,’ he teased, dangling the bottle in front of her. Daisy’s eyes widened, and she tried to wriggle out of her chains in a bid to grab the bottle.
‘No need to fret. I will give you a couple if you promise to be good,’ Herbert assured her as Penny turned to them in confusion.
‘I will be good, dad!’ Daisy said desperately, opening her mouth to receive the reward for her obedience.
He popped two pills in her mouth and gave her water to wash it down. ‘This is stronger than any of the stuff you’ve had. You’ll be brand new in no time.’
Daisy was about to pass out when Herbert slapped her heavily across the face, causing Penny to gasp aloud.
‘You don’t get to die until I say you do!’ he barked, sending a deadly glance at Penny’s direction. Penny’s heart skipped a beat. They were in serious trouble.
How were they going to get out of this? Escape was impossible. Her hands were tightly bound to an iron pole, and she could barely move.
She thought of her phone in her coat and realized that she couldn’t feel it anymore. Her dad wouldn’t be able to trace them. Panic crept in, and Penny peed on herself.
Herbert approached her like a tiger hunting its prey and watched as she shrunk in fear. ‘I’m glad you remember who I am. What’s this? Did you wet yourself?’ He laughed aloud, and Penny burst into tears. ‘Please, dad!’
Like a bipolar monster, he stopped laughing, his expression darkened, and he had Penny by the throat. ‘I told you. I’m not your dad! Now, I’m going to give you ten minutes to clean yourself up at the back. Any minute longer, and you will get the belt. If you still smell like pee, you will get the belt. All this time and you still don’t know how to control your bowels. Pitiful! Sarah never raised you right.’
He released her abruptly and untied her.
Penny rubbed her wrists instinctively because they stung, but she didn’t move.
‘Are you trying my patience, brat?’ Herbert barked as Penny’s sobbing intensified.
‘I’m scared. I can’t go alone!’ Penny cried, trembling more with each word. He was going to hit her for sure, but she wasn’t going to go to the back alone when there were scary men around the place.
He thought about it but remembered her ordeal an hour before, so he turned to Daisy instead. ‘Go with your sister,’ he ordered.
Penny watched as he untied Daisy and force her to stand. Her sister looked like a corpse, and Penny feared that she could drop dead at any moment, but she held on to Daisy’s hand and pulled her towards the direction of the bathroom at the back.
‘Ten minutes!’ Herbert called from behind them.
They turned back briefly to nod and continued moving.
Just then, his phone rang, and Herbert placed it to his ear in anger.
‘Why are you calling me?’ Herbert growled, lighting a cigarette. He kept his eyes on the direction the girls went.
‘Get out of there now!’ said his caller.
‘Why?’ Herbert asked, irritated. He looked out the window to observe his men. They were whispering and pointing towards his direction.
It looked like mutiny was afoot.
‘What’s going on, Tim?’
‘The Chief heard about the ransom and placed a bounty on your head. That was a stupid thing you did!’ the judge snapped.
Herbert sighed heavily. His men were approaching, and they were armed.
‘Do you still have the tapes?’ Herbert whispered, moving to the side of the room to look for where to hide.
‘Forget about the tapes, you fool! You won’t live long enough for them to make an impact. Leave the girls and get out while you still can.’
‘No!’ Herbert decided. ‘Those girls are worth more to us alive. Once I get us to safety, release the tapes and find somewhere safe to hide. I will handle this.’
He cut the call.
So the Chief wanted him dead. Big mistake.
He hid in the beams just below the ceiling and cocked two guns.
His men barged in and looked around, but he wasn’t in their direct sights. Herbert took all his men out with four quick shots and waited to see if they survived before descending to the ground.
He shot them in the head to make sure then looked briskly towards the direction of the bathroom because he thought he heard a shattering sound.
Penny and Daisy
They found the bathroom after leaving the room after taking a left turn, but they recoiled at the stench the moment they stepped in.
The tiles had molds on them and were barely sticking to the walls. Sand, blocks, and dirt littered the ground and the toilet seat.
Wherever they were, was an abandoned place, not that it mattered to the girls at that moment because they were away from Herbert, even if it was for a few minutes. The washbasin still looked decent to use, and Penny turned the tap on and was relieved to find water gushing out.
‘He said ten minutes munchkin. Wash your clothes quickly,’ said Daisy, leaning against the door. Penny turned to her. Her skin had regained some color, but she could barely stand straight. ‘What did he give you, Daisy?’ Penny asked curiously.
‘Stop asking questions and wash your clothes!’ Daisy snapped.
Penny took off her dress and tights, put them in the washbasin, and scrubbed away in silence. Daisy observed her little sister. Penny had always been the brave one, fearless and inquisitive, but this time, she could feel her despair, and that broke her heart. Sometimes, Daisy wanted to hate her for being Christopher’s daughter, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t Penny’s fault.
She understood what happened. Even though she had a lot to be mad at Sarah for, she knew no one could stay sane under Herbert’s influence, and out of anger and the fear of losing Christopher again, she had regressed and was suffering the consequences alone. No, not alone, Daisy thought, watching Penny struggle to put her wet clothes on in the blistering cold. Penny needed a big sister, and she couldn’t even count on her.
Yes, she was thirteen, but she had seen more of the world than Penny and been in tight situations like this in Brenda’s Place. It was time to step up. Daisy shook her head to reiterate her resolve and steady herself.
Herbert was never going to let them go, and she suspected he would have them working in brothels once he had the chance. She knew his mode of operation. They would never see their parents again, and Christopher would have to pay large sums of money to ensure that they stayed alive.
She had to do something, even if the cost was her life.
‘Penny, we have to get out of here,’ she said decisively, examining the bathroom as she spoke.
Penny turned to her in fear and surprise. ‘How? I think we are almost out of time. He will come for us any moment now.’
Daisy saw a broken window above the washbasin. If she could break it completely, they could escape through there. First, she needed to know if they were on the ground floor.
‘I need you to stand by the door while I check that window,’ Daisy instructed, pointing to the window above Penny’s head. Penny obeyed and kept an eye out for anyone turning the corner to the bathroom.
Daisy sighed. They were in luck, and it looked like all the men were at the front of the building, and no one was manning the back.
Just as she motioned Penny to join her, they heard several gunshots, and Penny froze for a second.
‘Daisy,’ she whispered in fear.
We are running out of time, Daisy thought. She quickly took off her jacket and punched through the window, shattering the glass before helping Penny go through.
‘Run, baby! I will be right behind you,’ encouraged Daisy, and Penny nodded.
Daisy thought she heard footsteps.
He was coming.
She forced herself through the opening and started running as soon as her legs hit the ground. In a couple of minutes, she caught up with Penny and took her hand to increase their pace. Her only fear now was that Herbert wouldn’t catch them, or the belt wouldn’t be the only thing they had to dread.