He didn’t know why but he was gasping for air. His eyes darted quickly towards the oxygen tank to his left and fell on strong masculine hands cutting the supply to his gas mask.
Someone was trying to kill him.
With all the strength he could muster, he lifted his heavy frame from the bed and tried to reach his assailant but just as quickly, his energy dissipated, and he fell back to his original position in resignation.
Who was this? His blurry vision prevented him from seeing the culprit’s face, but the assailant spoke as if he could read his thoughts. ‘You see, Gareth, no one double-crosses me and lives. Feel your life seeping away as you ponder on your foolishness!’
Sacramento? Gareth wondered. Wait, where was he? Why was he in a bed? What happened to him?
His mind tried to make sense of his situation but couldn’t focus because he was in survival mode. Why was the Chief trying to kill him?
‘Please!’ he muttered. The words barely came out.
‘Please?’ the Chief asked, tightening his palms on the pipe. ‘All you had to do was send the harlot to jail, but you and your friend chose to steal my money. ‘
Money? Gareth thought in panic. Not even in his wildest dreams could he think of messing around with the Chief. What was he saying? His eyes suddenly felt heavy, and suddenly it was dim. Moments before he gave in to the darkness, he felt a wave of fresh air flood through the pipes and into his nostrils, and he coughed violently.
‘Please, Chief, ‘ he said amidst the coughing and wheezing. ‘I would never.’
‘Quiet!’ the Chief bellowed, causing Gareth’s blood pressure to spike. The man was like the devil on earth, and his ruthlessness was beyond reproach. His pitch-black winter coat and hat added more cynicism to his expression. He wasn’t like the devil.
He was the devil.
Gareth shut his mouth.
‘Who came up with the idea to involve Christopher Wallace?’ the Chief interrogated, making sure his hot breath met Gareth’s face.
Gareth was dumbfounded. He didn’t think the Chief had any relationship of note with the doctor. How did he miss this? He had to weigh his words carefully.
‘Chief, I didn’t know, I swear. We tortured her just as we said we would, but when the mediator mentioned Dr. Wallace as her acquaintance, we saw an opportunity to get back all the money she took from us. If we had known he was associated with you, we would never have thought about it .’
He dared to meet the Chief’s eyes, but his eyes had so much anger and resentment in them that he looked away quickly.
‘Well, be thankful the incident prevented any paperwork from being recovered,’ sneered the Chief.
‘Due to your stupidity, I’ve been forced to step in and clean up your mess!’
Gareth’s eyes popped open. Was the Chief responsible for the attack on the mediation building? All to get to Sarah? What did she do to piss him off so much?
‘No, no, sir,’ Gareth cut in quickly. ‘We didn’t commit to anything. The mediator has no record that the mediation even took place. I can still make things right.’
Gareth saw the hard lines around the Chief’s eyes disappear, and he heaved a sigh of relief. Sending Sarah to jail might not have been the outcome he was looking for, but if it got him out of the Chief’s radar, he would take it in a heartbeat.
‘Just ensure that she stays there,’ ordered the Chief sternly.
Gareth swallowed hard. ‘Err sir, if she pushes for a trial, then what?’
The Chief shot him a daring look forcing him to sink back into the bed.
‘Just do your part and leave the rest to me,’ the Chief added as he headed towards the door.
Gareth opened his mouth to say something then decided to keep his thoughts to himself. Better to let sleeping dogs lie, he decided, watching the Chief exit the room.
‘God help me!’ Gareth exclaimed, placing a wary palm on his forehead. His heart rate spiked as he looked around for his clothes. He needed to get out of there, out of the city. He looked around frantically till he found them tucked away on a chair close to the window overlooking the street.
As he forced himself to stand, a sharp pain tore through his back, and he yelled. A young nurse hurried in and helped him lie back on the bed. ‘Please don’t move too much. You will make it worse.’
‘What happened to me?’ Gareth demanded. She was a young nurse, no more than twenty- three years of age, but she looked so confident that Gareth was sure she could shed some light on his current predicament.
‘You hurt your back and damaged your left lung,’ she explained. ‘It could have been worse. Your friend and associates didn’t make it.’
Friend? Brooks? Beads of cold sweat trickled down his face as he took the news in. Was Brooks dead? How did he die? Gareth needed to know.
‘Please tell me, was his name Brooks?’
‘Yeah,’ she replied, adjusting his drip. ‘Poor fellow. He looked like he was going to pull through when they wheeled him in, but before the doctors could prep him for surgery, he was gone. The others were gone before they got here.’
She shook her head as she recalled the incident.
Gareth moved around again. ‘I need to get out of here,’ he said shakily.
‘No can do, sir,’ said the nurse cheerfully. ‘If that happens, a host of us will lose our jobs. There’s a security detail outside your door, and we have strict instructions to keep you alive and in bed.’
The Chief wasn’t taking any chances, Gareth thought in resignation. He watched as the nurse injected what he hoped was morphine into his drip and felt its effect moments later when his limbs became too heavy to move. He let out a tired sigh. He always knew greed and spite were going to get him killed. Why else would he have gone after and married the girlfriend of one of his clients to get back at him for reporting his dealings to his supervisors?
As his dumb luck would have it, she was a better con, and she robbed him blind. Legally. Talk about Karma. He didn’t even realize he was the target until it was too late.
Now, he was in a predicament which, for once, was not his doing. He couldn’t refuse the Chief, even if he wanted to. The Chief had evidence of all the shady deals he mediated his way through.
He could bury him professionally with a snap of his finger.
‘Keep her in jail,’ he ordered, but if she fought for a trial, there was no telling how it would affect him or which way the Chief would turn.
His job was to strengthen the identity theft case against Sarah. However, if this made it to court, her defense could expose his professional crimes. Maybe that was the Chief’s plan, but he couldn’t be sure. All he knew was that the Chief only cared about one person. Himself. Or maybe two. That crazy psychopath of a daughter of his.
Gareth sighed heavily.
Sarah had a child with Christopher.
The Chief wanted Sarah gone. Sarah and her daughter might have died in that explosion. Was he trying to get his daughter hitched to the doctor?
He blinked twice in denial as the effects of the morphine grew stronger. All it took was a bullet to Sarah’s head. Why the drama?
Why involve him? He thought the worst things that could have happened to him were Sarah and her handler, but this was much worse. He needed a plan, and one flashed through his mind before sleep claimed him.
‘Is he dead?’
The Chief shot a disgruntled look at his daughter.
‘Do you think it will be in our best interest if he is?’ he asked, clearly irritated. The cold winter breeze slapped their faces as they exited the hospital and walked to the parking lot.
‘The other one would have been easier to manipulate. Just saying.’ added Gina, putting her gloves on. ‘This weather is barbaric!’
The Chief rolled his eyes. ‘Gareth’s a lawyer. He knows the loopholes, and he was the smarter of the two. Christopher would have seen through Brooks in a heartbeat. That fool was still pinning for the whore.’
‘There’s no need for all of this, dad,’ explained Gina. ‘I can win Christopher over. In time, he will forget Sarah and choose me.’
‘You had eight years and still couldn’t manage a date with the man!’ the Chief accused.
Gina was stung hard by his words.
‘You make it sound like I was the only one who failed to get Chris. He wasn’t interested in anyone for eight years!’ she yelled.
‘Exactly! All it takes is for her to waltz back in with her kids, and she’s Sack in the saddle. You need to get pregnant, fast!’
“I’m saying it as if you can manage it,’ sneered the Chief.
‘Do you doubt my abilities? I have already shown you how capable I am,’ defended Gina.
‘Oh, I don’t doubt you, dear, but riddle me this. Why were you at the penthouse?’
She hesitated because the question suddenly exposed the foolishness of her actions.
‘I couldn’t resist,’ admitted Gina. ‘I needed to see him again.’
‘At the exact moment Sarah got arrested?’ the Chief continued.
‘I don’t know!’ Gina yelled. ‘I couldn’t resist. I missed him.’
The Chief shook his head in displeasure.
‘One word from Christopher, and you take leave of your senses. Stay away from him till all of this is done, then you can put your abilities to use in Christopher’s bedroom,’ advised the Chief.
Gina looked away from her dad and out the window as the driver pulled away from the parking lot. So what if she was there? She loved him, and she wasn’t going to apologize for it.
She got rid of the weasel.
She got Christopher to trust her by returning his kids safely.
She orchestrated the arrest.
She deserved more than his short-lived admiration.
‘Speak of the angel,’ announced the Chief. ‘Hello, Christopher.’
‘Hello Chief, I just wanted to thank you for bringing my girls home. I’m sorry, I’m just calling now. I haven’t had time to process anything,’ said Christopher.
‘Nonsense, my boy. I understand. Gina told me about the arrest. What are they charging her with?’ asked the Chief.
‘Extortion, identity theft, and other stuff. I don’t know. I’m heading over there,’ said Christopher, exasperated.
The Chief smiled.
‘One of her old cases must have caught up with her. I can meet you there, and we will sort this out. There’s no need to worry.’
‘Will you? Thanks, Chief. I’m almost at the precinct.’
‘See you there,’ the Chief said before hanging up.
‘He’s at the precinct?’ asked Gina, apprehensively.
The Chief hesitated before responding. ‘Yes, but you are not coming along. We will drop you close to your apartment so you can get some rest and get your mind in order.’
It sounded like an order that Gina knew she couldn’t refuse. Just before she alighted, a call came in for the Chief from the Mayor.
‘Hello, sir,’ the Chief answered enthusiastically before his brows narrowed. It wasn’t good news, Gina thought. He was silent for most of the call, and she didn’t have time to ask him what transpired before the car zoomed off, leaving her by the ugly Christmas tree in front of her apartment.