A Penny For Christmas

A Penny For Christmas Chapter 36: A complication

From the Flaming Blog

Gareth Connor walked past a clothing store with the ‘Closed For Christmas’ sign posted at the entrance and stopped to look at his reflection. He was as pale as death, and his winter coat hung loosely around his shoulders, and he shook his head in dismay as thoughts of what brought him to this moment invaded his mind. As he tore his eyes away, his phone rang for the umpteenth time.
His wife.
She wanted to know if he was still in the hospital. With all this commotion, he had forgotten his promise to spend Christmas together for once. He had run out of excuses and was too exhausted to come up with more. He never went through this with Sarah because she was always so accepting. This one wanted to know his every move. He winced as he continued to stroll to his apartment in lazy strides. They said another marriage was good for his image and career, especially after Sarah almost wrecked both. The new Mrs. Connors was hot, and he had to give her that, but he was never going to be a one-woman man. Two heavily decorated Christmas trees stood on either side of his apartment building, and Gareth took a moment to admire the work. If he could only turn back the clock, he would have done things differently and ended up on a snowy resort in the Hamptons instead. It was quiet on his floor, probably because most of the residents had traveled for the holidays. Stupidity is cheap, Gareth moaned as he fished for his key card in his pockets. At least, he could drown himself in some brandy and bury his head between his newly found breasts.
If only he could understand why the broad left the apartment door open.
Strange. The hairs on Gareth’s hands rose in anxiety as he went past the front door because he sensed something was off. . He didn’t have to go far before bumping into the lifeless body of his housekeeper in the pool of her blood. He gasped and took several bloody steps back, unable to look away.
From the corner of his eye, he saw a figure move in front of him, and he forcefully tore his eyes away from the body to the towering figure pointing a gun at his companion’s head.
‘You sure know how to pick the pretty ones,’ the Chief said, corking the gun.
‘Please, don’t!’ Gareth pleaded, moving slowly towards them with his hands up.
‘You haven’t learned your lesson, have you? Does your wife know about this pretty blonde?’ he asked sheepishly.
‘Please, Chief. I haven’t done anything!’ Gareth pleaded desperately.
‘And that’s the problem,’ the Chief pointed out, turning the gun to Gareth. ‘You got discharged and didn’t tell me. Were you planning to flee the state?’
‘No sir,’ Gareth answered with his eyes on the weapon. ‘I can’t leave even if I wanted to. There are no flights out of New York until after Christmas. I was going to call you. That’s the truth.’
The Chief helped himself to a glass of brandy. ‘Good stuff,’ he muttered as he observed Gareth’s body language. He didn’t look the part, but he had to be sure. ‘What do you know about the FBI showing up at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel this morning?’
Gareth looked confused. ‘Nothing, Chief. I got discharged this morning and decided to walk back here. I swear to you! I haven’t had time to check social media or watch the news.’
‘Hmmm,’ the Chief answered. ‘You better not be lying to me.’
‘Never,’ said Gareth, firmly. He was trying to stay calm, but Gareth could see that the Chief was frazzled and unhinged. Lying wasn’t an option today.
A deafening silence followed before the Chief said,’ The Feds have picked up Sarah’s case. It looks like a trial is imminent.’
Gareth blinked twice. ‘Chief, I promise this won’t go to a trial. I will get Sarah to plead out of court.’
‘If the Feds are interested, someone else might have filed a case against her. I need names,’ the Chief ordered. Gareth nodded briskly.
The Chief put the glass down, straightened his jacket, and walked towards Gareth, who made sure he kept some distance from him.
‘How’s your wife?’
Gareth’s heart jumped. Did he do something to her too?
‘She’s expecting me for Christmas, and I’ve run out of excuses on why I am still in New York,’ Gareth explained with a hidden plea in his tone.
The Chief turned around swiftly and shot Gareth’s female companion in the head.
Gareth froze in shock.
‘There. No more excuses. Do your job, then run along to Betsy,’ the Chief said, with a pat on his shoulder. ‘For now, clean up this mess before I get a call to bail you out of jail.’
It took a few minutes after the Chief sped out of his driveway before Gareth rediscovered that he could move. He spun around the room in horror as he came to an obvious conclusion. There was no way the Chief was letting him live once he got what he wanted.
He was a loose end.
He locked the front door, retrieved his phone, and dialed a number while gasping for air. ‘Hello Gareth, are you out?’ said the voice at the other end.
‘You were right! He’s out of his mind. He killed my housekeeper and my … friend right in front of me! What do I do?’
‘Stay put till my associate gets there and make sure there’s nothing that can tie you or them to that apartment before you leave. In the meantime, I will set up the meeting after I see him tomorrow. Watch your back, Gareth. Things are unraveling fast.’
Gareth felt his body slide to the floor and the space in between the two bodies as he trembled uncontrollably. ‘Please help me! I promise to do what you say from now on!’
‘Just pray we come to an agreement, or I fear there won’t be a next time for either of us, Gareth,’ the voice said before the line went dead.

It had been years since the Chief found himself behind a steering wheel, but today was as good a day as any to hit the road, especially when he didn’t know who to trust. So Gareth was off the list, but it was still a long list with most of his suspects emanating from the FBI.
One thing was clear. The Chief had a mole in his ranks.
Gina called him paranoid and blamed the Chief for not signing Sarah’s release papers. ‘They must have thought she escaped and alerted the FBI since hardly anyone of note trusts the NYPD these days!’ she had pointed out.
Made sense, the Chief thought, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that someone somewhere knew he had plans to take out Sarah and her kids and make it look like they took her down for absconding from jail.
He rubbed his forehead in frustration. Whoever this was, had friends in high places. The Mayor, the FBI… he was looking at a big player. He zoomed past the Ritz-Carlton hotel when his phone rang.
Christopher, again. Such impeccable timing.
He pushed the phone away in disgust because he wasn’t in the mood for Christopher’s incessant whining. If only he had more balls! Christopher’s reaction to the news that the FBI apprehended Sarah irritated him. The man almost wet himself! If he didn’t need steady income, he would have made light work of him right there.
Speaking of cash, he had to talk to Christopher soon whether he liked it or not. He was his only solution to the pending issue with the Mayor, and come to think of it, here lay another reason he believed someone was sabotaging his efforts from the inside. There was no way the Mayor would have had all the information without help from one of his people.
His mind drifted back to Sarah as he made his way to the High Street. The woman he wanted to torture immensely could be his downfall if he didn’t take care. He should have killed her when he had the chance. Now, she was out of his reach, but maybe Gareth could convince Sarah to plead guilty to all the charges and avoid a trial.
Controlling the outcome of this case was the priority now that the FBI showed interest. They needed a platform to bury him so the state and federal police wouldn’t engage in an internal war. Sarah had a history with him, and she knew things that could bury him if they could get her to talk. His heart skipped a beat.
Whoever the mole was, they knew how to hurt him and Gareth being his only weapon bothered him. He couldn’t get to Sarah’s other victims without re-opening more cold cases and arousing suspicion. If someone filed charges against Sarah, he needed them as his ally.
It was time to put Regina back on Christopher while monitoring this unfortunate turn of events carefully. Whatever the plan against him was, Sarah wouldn’t open her mouth if she didn’t have Christopher’s support, and he was going to rob her of that. Tomorrow was Christmas. He would shop for gifts for the doctor and his kids and use the opportunity to get more information from Christopher as to why the FBI took her. Then he would make his move. If they thought he would back down and give it all up without a fight, they were in for a shocker. He made a call.

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