A Penny For Christmas Chapter 39: Intrigue

‘He gave me an anxiety shot to calm my nerves when he saw that I wouldn’t stop crying.’
Sarah sighed heavily and glanced cautiously at Christopher before continuing her story. His expression had softened a little, but she wasn’t sure if it was because she was opening up to him or he was empathizing with her.
Still, she knew she had to cut to the chase before he lost interest.
‘He was Captain Sacramento then, and according to Herbert, it was their first day at the club. I could tell that Herbert was scared of him when he shoved me into the closet and warned me not to make a sound. It took a while, but Herbert said he had things under control, but if I wanted to remain safe, I had to stick with him and do as he asked. ‘
She laughed sarcastically as fresh tears streamed down her face.
‘I couldn’t beat him, so I joined him, you know? We were on the road for almost a decade running Herbert’s more profitable line of business. Tim kept tabs on the police and let us know when it was time to cash in on our con and move on.’
The tension in the room was intense, and Sarah shifted uncomfortably and decided to skip some details.
‘I didn’t know he was the same man that sat across our breakfast table that day when we were laughing over Gina’s anonymous letters to you. When I told Herbert about the encounter with the Chief, I remember him turning white and increasing his pressure on me to leave you. He didn’t tell me why. I thought it was because he was a cop and Herbert was nervous, but now I guess it was because he didn’t want me to slip up. Just as we both feared, the Chief had me investigated, and I started receiving texts from him with evidence of my previous cons. It became clear that I couldn’t stay with you. The pressure the Chief and Herbert were putting me under was overwhelming. Then I decided to come clean and tell you everything.’
‘Right,’ Christopher said sarcastically, but Sarah kept a straight face. ‘I know I haven’t done anything to deserve your trust, but I swear I’m telling you the truth this time. Daisy had that accident on the day I was going to tell you. All hell broke loose. He knows everything, Chris. He called me Annabel. He knows what I did.’
Christopher nodded and rose from his seat.
Sarah panicked. ‘Please forgive me.’
Christopher’s phone rang, and he ignored it while shaking his head in disbelief as Sarah looked desperately on. ‘If I didn’t say anything when you asked earlier, it was because I knew what I had to say was unforgivable,’ she explained slowly. ‘Please forgive me, Christopher.’
Christopher rose from his seat and turned around, raking his hair in frustration as he headed for the door. ‘Please, don’t abandon me,’ Sarah cried from behind him, but he was out the door before she could finish her plea.
‘Dear God,’ Sarah cried. I’ve lost him! I’ve lost my family!’

He heard her cry, but he didn’t turn back. His mind was in disarray as he tried to process all he had learned. He closed his eyes and tried to picture the events he could recollect from the last ten years, piecing it all together before his phone jolted him back to the present. Who in the world could that be? Irked, he yanked the phone from his pocket and placed it to his ear.
‘Sorry to bother you, Dr. Wallace, but we need to talk.’
‘Who are you?’ he asked, walking towards the director’s office.
‘I can’t tell you over the phone, sir, because I fear someone may be listening. I will send you a location. You don’t have to come but what I have to say will help Sarah’s case. Please be there within the hour. No one can see us together. ‘
Before Christopher could blink, he received directions to a place he knew.
His phone may be compromised. The man was probably right. The Chief had to know something was off. He broke his phone card and tossed the phone in the trash. Then, he took a detour down the elevator and towards the entrance.
Then he stopped. He couldn’t take his car or go out the front door in case someone was following him. He took his right towards the loo and found an emergency exit after walking to the end of the hallway. The officer at the door looked awkwardly at Christopher as he approached him but opened the door after politely warning him that the exit was for emergency purposes only.

Outside the building, Christopher waited for a taxi that took him to the cafe close to Brenda’s place, which was surprisingly busy at this time of the day, even though it was Christmas.
It was surprising that he was back there, solving another one of his family’s issues. He wondered how many times his fate would bring him down this path. Inside, he saw the same scruffy-looking man he sighted at the police station sitting across a more-refined gentleman who looked like caffeine replaced his blood from the way he fidgeted.

Both men rose from their seats when they saw him coming, and Christopher sat between them.
‘Would you like anything to…’ the older man started to ask, but Christopher cut him off. ‘Please cut to the case. I need to get back to my girls.’

‘Right,’ he said, clasping his hands nervously. ‘My name is Aaron Knox, and he is Gareth Connor. Apologies for disrupting your day, doctor.’

Christopher saw that Gareth was doing his best to avoid his eyes. His name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t remember where he heard it. ‘You said you could help Sarah,’ Christopher reminded Aaron.

Aaron and Gareth stole nervous glances at each other before Aaron continued. ‘Yes. You need to know that Sarah is in jail because someone powerful wants her there, and he used my friend here to do it. ‘
He pointed to Gareth, who decided to focus on his empty cup of coffee.
‘is that so?’ Christopher asked Gareth, arching his brow.
‘What did she do to you?’
Gareth swallowed a lump in his throat. ‘Sarah’s my ex. She swindled money off me. The man in question helped me find her and press charges.’

Christopher blinked twice. One of the exes. A Christmas that wouldn’t stop giving. ‘So what am I doing here?’ Christopher asked angrily with his eyes throwing daggers at Gareth. He couldn’t deny it. He was jealous. The thought of another man touching Sarah made him want to kill.

Beads of sweat formed on Gareth’s forehead as he shrunk under Christopher’s intense gaze. The man was as handsome as he was in the tabloids, but he didn’t know he was this imposing in person. No wonder the Chief resulted to schemes and games to stay close to him. He thought hard before responding, ‘I was tending to my business when he showed up, promising to help me get even with the b … Sarah if I did the legal work.’

Christopher leaned back and folded his arms. The cafe was empty if not for a local family having a Christmas lunch at the corner. Still, he looked around, just in case.

‘Why are we here, Mr. Connor?’ asked Christopher impatiently. Gareth heard the irritation in his voice and realized there was no dancing around the truth.

‘Look, Dr. Wallace, I found out she was with you, and if there was a chance I could get my money back before throwing her in jail, then I was going to take it. ‘

Christopher nodded and looked at Aaron. ‘And what’s your deal? ‘

‘Well, the chance Mr. Connor was talking about is my specialty. I am a mediator who brings parties together on behalf of the law but on neutral ground. We try to reach an arrangement, so the law doesn’t get involved unless the parties can not reach one .’

Christopher frowned. ‘When did this mediation take place, and how come I am just finding out?’

‘Sarah was supposed to bring you in as a character witness, but she chose to turn herself in when Gareth and Bryan insisted she pay up and her transformation wasn’t enough compensation.’
Gareth smirked.
‘Bryan?’ asked Christopher, puzzled.
‘Another one of Sarah’s exes,’ Gareth said bitterly.
‘Unfortunately, he died from the injuries he sustained from the explosion,’ added Aaron.
‘They killed him,’ whispered Gareth, with his eyes bulging out. ‘as a warning to me.’
More intrigue, Christopher thought.
The mysterious disappearances she couldn’t explain.
‘Dr. Wallace, Gareth is ready to drop the charges if you are willing to help him disappear,’ Aaron announced after a lengthy silence.
‘Why? You got what you wanted.’ asked Christopher sarcastically.
Gareth and Aaron exchanged another nervous glance, and Christopher feigned an exasperated sigh.
‘I don’t do well with riddles. If you can’t be straight with me, don’t waste my time.’
‘Look, doctor,’ Gareth implored. ‘this man can end all of us with a snap of his finger. He’s tried to kill your children once before. I assure you he will try again and Sarah…’
‘What do you know about the attempt on my children?’ Christopher asked, leaning forward to intimidate Gareth more. The man knew more than he was letting on. Of the two, he was the one that sparked Christopher’s interest.
‘I know he will try again because they aren’t in his long-term goals, and he hasn’t for now because he needs you level-headed for his plans to work,’ Gareth informed him without pausing. The silence that followed was deafening.
He tapped his lips as he pondered deeply.
‘Who is this person?’ he asked. Is he an acquaintance of mine?.’
‘I’m afraid we can’t tell you that,’ Aaron confessed, tilting his empty cup of coffee, hoping there was still some liquid left. Christopher bought another cup. ‘Forgive us, but we have to be careful about the information we pass around. You never know who could be listening.’
‘At least tell me his end game,’ said Christopher. ‘All I know is that he wants Sarah in jail, and he wants a confession without a trial,’ said Aaron.
Christopher frowned. ‘A confession about what? The three of us sitting on this table know of her sordid past. What more does he want from her?’
‘It’s more than that, doctor. It has to be. That woman has skeletons in bags of skeletons,’ warned Gareth. Aaron darted him a warning look.
Christopher sighed, straightened his jacket, and rose to go. ‘He doesn’t have to worry then. She has to pay for all the lies and deceit that have cost my family so much.’

Aaron gulped the hot liquid so fast that it burnt his throat before he spoke up. ‘Doctor, I know a lot of things went sideways, and you got caught in the crosshairs, but if you believe everything we have said here is a lie, know that Sarah loves you immensely, and this is the truth. She did try to do better.’
He looked away in shame. Christopher smirked, ‘And here we are. I don’t believe that anymore.’
‘You will be playing into his hands,’ warned Aaron. ‘Please consider our offer.’
‘I’m protecting my girls. There’s nothing to consider. She’s where she belongs,’ said Christopher before turning around and strolling out of the cafe.
Aaron sighed heavily and frowned at the smile forming on Gareth’s lips. ‘What’s so funny?’
‘If he wants to keep the broad in the slammer, that’s good, right?’
Aaron shook his head. ‘We have to dissuade him, Gareth or my career will be over. They won’t even think of re-instating me now that the FBI is involved. Don’t you dare play me again!
Gareth winked and left the cafe, leaving a stunned Aaron staring at his back.

It was 2 pm, and the director decided to use the hour he had left to arrange the files on his desk. He frowned at the pile of cold case files and wondered how long it would be before a replacement came knocking.

If he could only get this one nipped in the bud, he thought. His bosses upstairs would give him the capital he needed to get things done.
He sighed.
Christopher left before he had a chance to speak with him. On the bright side, she must have said something to provoke a reaction, and he understood if the doctor wanted to keep things to himself. Or m …
He saw a tall silhouette at his door and rushed to open it. ‘Doctor, you are back!’ the director cried, unable to hide his excitement.
The doctor didn’t look pleased. His brows were tightly knit together like he had been thinking for a while.
‘Did she say something?’
‘A lot,’ Christopher replied after closing the door behind him.
‘But before I tell you, I need you to do something for me.’
‘What?’ the director asked eagerly.
‘I want to press charges against my ex-wife.’

He was glad he listened to Aaron. What a fruitful meeting that was! He had never felt so relieved ringing the bell in front of the Chief’s building before.
Now he had grounds to appeal for his freedom. Who would have thought the doctor could be so reasonable?
The Chief was looking out the window with a glass of very expensive cognac in his hands when Gareth saw him. He looked like a demon at rest. Gareth was content just standing in front of him till he was ready to speak.
Eventually, the demon spoke.
‘Why are you here?’ His cold and calculating tone sent shivers down Gareth’s spine, but he didn’t mind.
‘I bring good news,’ Gareth answered quickly. He needed this to be over. If he was lucky, he could hit the road in time for the new year celebrations. ‘ We don’t need to worry about Sarah pushing for a trial. The doctor will be ensuring that she rots in jail. He’s had enough of the bitch.’
‘You spoke with him?’ the Chief asked, cradling his glass between his palms. He wasn’t looking at Gareth. His stone-cold black eyes were staring into space like his spirit was at work elsewhere.
‘Yes. I had to. If Sarah was going to push for a trial, he was the only one who could make it happen. Now that he’s against her, I don’t see her fighting the inevitable.’
‘Fantastic,’ the Chief responded. He sounded more relieved than excited.
‘Our business is done then.’
Gareth beamed. ‘Yes, sir, I believe it is, and he knows nothing about your involvement in all of this.’
‘Good,’ the Chief exclaimed, downing the rest of the cognac. ‘And he never will.’
Gareth didn’t have time to react before the slug from the Chief’s gun tore through his rib cage. His lifeless body landed on the floor with a heavy thud. ‘Waste,’ the Chief uttered before he poured himself another glass.

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