The collision was decisive.
Gina felt like it was her own body that had gone through steel when she rammed into Herbert Wilcox, but she didn’t press the brakes until she felt the tires crush his body underneath the car.
Then she took deep breaths to steady herself. The rush of blood to her brain felt strange even though it happened every time she took a life, but she had never done it this way.
Still, she needed to be sure because he had come back from the dead before.
She opened the door slowly and put one foot before another into the snow, cringing at the cold air that slapped her face. The silver protector at the front of her car had bloodstains, and there was more underneath Herbert’s head.
His eyes were bulging out of their sockets. By Gina’s standards, this was gruesome, but he deserved it. He must have had men guiding the place, she thought. She pulled out her gun and looked around before her eyes settled on a frightened Penny.
They shared a long look like they were trying to anticipate what would happen next, then Gina shifted her gaze to Daisy.
Herbert shot her leg.
She didn’t see a pool of blood as she expected. The bullet must have only grazed her or exited without causing too much damage.
Tough luck, Gina cursed. But she could end it all right now.
The story played over and over in her head. ‘It happened in the shoot-out, Christopher,’ she would say. ‘I tried to save them, but I couldn’t!’ He would cry, and she would hold him in her hands and let him pour all his frustration out on her while he purged himself of the memory of his children and subconsciously created room for her. Sarah would fade away in time as everything connecting her to Christopher would be gone, and Gina would have her place in his life and his bed at last.
It was perfect.
Before she remembered Christopher’s words, If anything happens to my girls, I will die. What if he killed himself? She let the gun slide to the ground, and she held on to the car for support. She couldn’t have that. Her gaze rested on Penny, who was studying her intently and making her heart flutter.
I could save them, she thought. I could be the hero.
Why didn’t she think of that before? She could usurp Sarah in a heartbeat with this single act of kindness, and Christopher’s gratitude would gradually turn into love. The sun had just risen over the horizon, and little streaks of light illuminated the parking lot, so she composed herself and turned on her empathetic face.
‘Are you alright little one?’ she asked Penny, moving slowly towards her. Penny crawled back in fear, forcing Gina to stop.
‘It’s alright. I’m a friend of your father’s. I’m here to rescue you.’
The girl didn’t buy it, and Gina grew slightly impatient.
Yes, the injured one.
Gina reached for Daisy and examined her leg. ‘She will be fine. She fainted because of the shock,’ she said, deliberately not looking at Penny. ‘We need to get her to your dad so he can have a better look.’
From the corner of her eye, Gina could see Penny’s shoulders relax. ‘Please help me get her into the back seat. We don’t have much time.’
Penny moved closer and helped Gina lift Daisy into the car before slowly settling herself in the passenger’s seat at the front.
Gina didn’t get in immediately. She made sure to wipe the bumper clean of blood and check the car for signs of incriminating evidence before joining the girls and starting the engine.
As the car navigated onto the highway leading into the city, she stole a glance at Penny. She looked lost but not as frightened as she was before. Must be used to trauma, the little thing thought Gina. She was going to put her out of her misery soon enough. First, she needed to get close to her. ‘Your dad will be so happy to see you. I’m taking you to him now,’ Gina continued with a smile. Penny returned it with a wry smile of her own before looking away into the horizon.
Enough small talk Regina. Just drive, Regina scolded herself as she turned her attention back to the road.
Then it came to her.
Wouldn’t it be better to deliver the children to Christopher at the drop zone? Very dramatic and heroic, Gina reckoned.
But not while one of them was injured. Otherwise, Christopher would ask her why she didn’t go to the hospital first.
She pulled over at the highway and went to the back amidst Penny’s puzzled gaze.
‘I don’t want the wound to get infected,’ she explained. Penny nodded and leaned over to watch what Gina was doing.
The little one was one to watch out for, Gina decided. She retrieved her first aid kit with one hand and called the Chief with the other. ‘Gina, you are up already?’ enquired her dad.
‘Something came up,’ she said quickly. ‘Dad, where is the drop zone?’
‘Why?’ asked the Chief suspiciously.
‘I need to see… meet up with Christopher,’ she said, meeting Penny’s gaze.
‘I doubt there will be a drop, Gina. His men must have taken care of him already.’
Gosh, he was naive, Gina thought. ‘Of course, but Christopher doesn’t know that,’ she pointed out, applying gauges to Daisy’s leg.
‘True. Well, if you must go, it’s the children’s park by the Pier, and they will be there at noon.’
Too close to where she was. She needed her grand entrance. After she ended the call, she turned to Penny with a smile. ‘Are you hungry?’
Sarah squinted her eyes so she could see better.
The black Honda had barely stopped before Penny flew out of the passenger’s seat and into her mother’s arms.
‘Mum!’ she cried, hugging and kissing her.
‘My baby!’ Sarah rejoiced, holding her tight and letting her crutches fall to the ground. ‘You are ok!’
‘Mum, Daisy’s at the back,’ Penny informed her, pointing to the car. Just as Sarah looked towards Daisy’s direction, Christopher lifted Penny off Sarah’s laps, and Gina took that as her cue to alight from the vehicle.
‘Baby,’ he said softly, holding her close. She gave him a long peck on the cheek. ‘Dad!’ Penny cried.
Daisy opened the door gently and attempted to descend on her own.
‘Don’t forget me!’ she protested, causing Christopher to take long strides to her side. ‘Never!’ Christopher said, holding both girls close. ‘Oh my God, you are alright!’
‘Dad,’ Daisy said with caution. Christopher heard it and drew her closer. ‘Yes, daughter, I’m here.’
‘Dad, Daisy got shot,’ Penny announced, pointing to Daisy’s leg.
Christopher’s eyes widened as he followed her finger. ‘I’m fine,’ Daisy said quickly. ‘The nice lady took care of us. She fed us too,’ she said, rubbing her belly.
Gina kept her promise, Christopher thought. But how?
He spotted her sitting on the bench, behind him, with Sarah. Both ladies looked nervous, but Sarah twitched more like she was about to say something.
Eventually, she did.
‘Thank you,’ she said softly, meeting Gina’s gaze.
‘Thank you for saving our girls.’
Gina smiled and placed a hand on Sarah’s shoulder.
‘There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Christopher,’ she said flatly.
Sarah looked away. The message was clear.
Christopher transferred Daisy from Gina’s car to his own and settled Penny beside her before returning to the women.
‘Regina, I’m short of words. You brought my girls back safe. Thank you,’ he said to Gina, on reaching her.
He watched as color flooded her cheeks. ‘Christopher, don’t thank me. I just got lucky.’
His eyes narrowed, ‘How did you save them?’
Sarah closed her eyes in anticipation of Gina’s answer.
‘Oh Christopher, you were right. Dad found out where he was, sent bounty hunters after him, and things went out of hand. I’m so glad I got to the girls when I did. The good news is he won’t be bothering you anymore,’ Gina explained.
She gave a vague answer, but it looked like Christopher bought it.
‘That was a brave thing you did for my girls. I’m indebted to you forever,’ he said.
Warmth built up in Gina’s insides, and she took it as her cue to leave before Christopher noticed other physical reactions to his gaze. ‘You should take the girls home. They’ve been through a lot.’
‘Thank you,’ Sarah repeated, but Gina didn’t look at or respond to her. ‘I will like to check up on you and the girls later. Do send me an address,’ Gina said as she rose and walked to her car with Christopher by her side.
‘Sure,’ he said with a smile.
‘Don’t linger,’ Gina warned herself as she got in the car and drove off with Christopher looking on.
When they were well out of sight, Gina made a call to her dad.
‘Dad, I need a favor.
‘Shoot,’ the Chief said.
She hesitated before she continued. ‘I did something.’
‘Like flatten the weasel out like a washed-out cartoon?’ the Chief added.
She swallowed hard. Her dad didn’t sound elated.
‘You know?’ she asked in a hushed tone.
‘The reinforcements I sent this morning found your gun close to the body. Why don’t you listen? So that’s where you were coming from!’
‘At least I got the job done!’ Gina snapped in her defense.
There was a long sigh at the other end.
‘I’m just glad you are safe,’ the Chief said with a heavy voice. There was an uncomfortable silence between them as Gina approached the turn leading to her neighborhood.
‘Dad,’ Gina continued, taking a corner. ‘what are you doing about the Sarah problem?’
‘When this is over, I will personally put a bullet Gareth and Brooks. They tried to use the mediation to get Christopher to pay them back.’
Gina almost ran through a red light.
‘I thought they intended to punish Sarah before sending her to jail,’ Gina stated, confused.
The Chief sounded irritated as he explained the situation.
‘Well, they found about Christopher’s involvement with Sarah and figured they lined their pockets first. Sarah was on to them in no time. She turned herself in but eluded the police during the rescue, probably to find her daughter.’
‘Does Christopher know, though?’ Gina asked as she remembered Sarah’s nervous demeanor.
‘He never brought it up in any of our conversations, so I can’t be sure. He knows I don’t like the woman.’
She was at her apartment now, looking at the enormous Christmas tree that must have been erected overnight, in front of her apartment complex.
Three days to Christmas.
Everything moved at a snail’s pace in this cursed town.
‘He doesn’t know,’ Gina concluded, still admiring the tree, ‘and I have an idea.’
‘I’m listening,’ the Chief said.
‘I’ll tell you after I take a shower. I need to get the stench of the weasel off my body and my car.’
‘I’ll send the cleaners to take care of your car. Did you at least make sure to wipe it down?’ the Chief asked cautiously.
Gina sighed, ‘Yeah, I did.’
The Chief chuckled.
‘You miss the life, don’t you?’
‘Immensely,’ Gina admitted. ‘Christopher’s forever indebted.’
The Chief laughed out loud, and she joined him.
‘Go and get some rest, Gina,’ the Chief advised.
‘Haven’t you heard, dad? There’s no rest for the wicked. The timeline for our plan has just gone up.’