It was a strange snowfall. The flakes of snow turned to water droplets when they hit the ground. Looking up, one can see a lot of snow and looking down a lot of water. People were running here and there hiding themselves from the chilly snowy water.
Tracy firmed her grip on the little girl’s hand. She was jumping in the water puddles splashing the water on all the sides. It snowed often and this was the first time when water puddles replaced the thick carpet of snow. Not only Sierra, but every child of the city was busy jumping in puddles. They enjoyed it. The sky was getting darker and Tracy had no good feelings about it. She wanted to get home as soon as possible. Tracy could experience the stinging bite of the winter as the harsh cold snow came down on her. Sierra was covered in her snow jacket and was more engrossed in looking at all those puddles and jumping in it. Tracy held her back again and again. As Tracy walked down the chaotic street with people running for shelter and shop owners picking up their outdoor display, she felt two eyes burning a hole in the back of her head.
“Mamma can I play for some time in the puddle?” Sierra was enjoying the water puddles.
“It’s not healthy Sierra, you will fall sick,” Tracy said in her firm voice discouraging Sierra to ask again
They reached the apartment where she lived on 3rd floor. She cornered her eyes towards the parking space. Eric’s car was not there. She glanced at her watch. It was 5 pm. Eric left office at 4 pm and it was located half an hour away. The weather was getting worse and he should have been home by now. Eric was a detective and Tracy lived in constant fear of enemies Eric made. It was not an easy profession. He dealt with the worst of criminals and in a course of time had a bundle of muggers and hooligans after his life. Tracy had made it very clear with Eric he had to inform her in case he was getting late from work.
Eric had not called and the clouds of uneasiness had started to surround Tracy. She consoled herself that it might be traffic taking time. She removed the key to her apartment from her ocean green pouch.
“Sierra go clean yourself and change” Sierra was all wet with the watery snow fall. She had mud on her legs due to her puddle play. Sierra was 8 years old and she had started bathing and dressing on her own. Tracy still made her hair while getting her ready for the school.
Tracy entered her own room. She passed through pictures of her family decorating the passage wall. Bad thoughts came back. Her mind was back to the worries of where Eric could have been. She peeked at the watch again. 5.30 pm. Eric should be back now and she could not stop herself from turning towards the blue telephone that was hanging on the wall near kitchen. Eric sometimes went to Peter’s place after office to chit-chat and spend some time with him. Peter’s wife Sara had just passed away and Eric was trying to accompany him for better.
“Hey Peter, its Tracy here.”
“Hi Tracy, how are you? How is Eric, it’s been a week since I met up with that smart ass”
“Eric is not there? I thought he must have come to your place.”
“No Tracy, he’s not here, what happened? You sound worried.”
“Eric left the office at 4 pm. He’s not home yet.”
“Don’t worry Tracy, the snow is bad, he might be stuck in bad weather and would be home soon.”
“Ok thank you.”
Tracy comforted herself that Eric would be back soon. He would enter the door anytime and give her the strongest hug. Tracy had tears in her eyes.
“Mamma, I am clean and dressed, can I watch the cartoon now?”
Tracy looked at her daughter and held back a forceful smile
“Let me make some peanut butter Sandwiches for you, eat them and you can watch the cartoon.”
Tracy was in the kitchen looking at the clock time and again. She peeped out of the kitchen window and saw the sky covered in shades of grey. Her intuition was telling her again and again that something was not right. She had to be strong in front of her daughter. She made the peanut butter sandwich for Sierra and walked towards the fridge to put the butter back. Suddenly the phone rang. Tracy ran towards the receiver thinking it to be Eric.
No one spoke on the other side
There was a long silence and then someone simply hung up the phone. Tracy kept the receiver back in its place and turned toward Kitchen when the phone again rang
“Who is it? will you please speak?”
“Tracy, you look beautiful today.”
Tracy could not identify the voice. It was someone unknown. The phone again rang
“Who the hell are you?” Tracy suddenly realized that Sierra might be listening and she lowered her voice but the phone was disconnected once again.
Tracy made a quick move and dialed 911.
“Hello officer, this is Tracy Fosters from 15, eden street, Northridge. Someone has been calling me again and again and harassing me on the call. Can you please look in to it?
“Sure mam, don’t worry, we will trace the call in a few seconds and get back to you.”
Tracy was confused. The past two hours had been harsh on her. Eric was missing, the weather was getting bad and now someone on the call was harassing her. The phone rang again.
“Mam this is officer Bradly from California State Police, we request you to get out of the house right now as the call is coming from a private number that is just 30 meters away from you. We believe someone is inside the house. Get out of the house till the officer reaches there”
This sent a wave of panic in her heart. Her first thought was of Sierra.
Sierra was not responding back. Tracy saw a shadow in the hall and shouted. She called for her daughter again but there was no reply. She got a kitchen knife and ran towards the shadow. The phone rang again.
Tracy answered the call.
“The beauty with a knife, interesting”
“What do you want?”
“Your blood,” and the call disconnected with a strange laughter which was heard from inside the house.
Suddenly the door broke open. It was Eric covered in blood. He was attacked but it looked as if he managed to run. He had a gun in his hand and was panting heavily. Tracy run towards him giving him a tight hug. She was still wet as she never changed her clothes. Her face had been drained of color and her eyes wet with tears.
“Sierra’s with him,” Tracy burst out in tears. Eric ran after the man inside the room with Tracy behind him.
The intruder was true to his words. He wanted Tracy’s blood and Sierra was a part of her. The lifeless body of her daughter lay across the cold floor. Her throat had been slit neatly with blood all over. The intruder was standing above her lifeless body looking over her innocent face. Eric shot him in the back and the next moment there was his body next to Sierra.
Officers entered through the door and an ambulance parked below. Sierra and the intruder’s bodies were taken on the stretcher out of the house. Sierra still had a slight pulse. Tracy hoped she would survive but she didn’t. Sierra died on the way to hospital. The intruder survived as the bullet hit his back.
He was in police custody where the shocking truth was revealed.
Sierra’s burial had all their relatives at one place. Tracy and Eric had tears on their face with eyes swollen in grief. There lay a small white coffin decorated in dolls and toys. Relatives had got flowers and toys for Sierra while bidding her a final good bye. She lay beautifully in her coffin like a sleeping baby. Tracy looked for one last time at her daughter. The peanut butter sandwich still lay on the kitchen table. Sierra never got a chance to eat it.
Suddenly the officers entered and arrested Peter. Eric and Tracy had their mouths wide open n disbelief.
“There must be some mistake officer?”
The officer revealed that the intruder had survived and it was Peter who hired him.
Sara’s death had made Peter a mentally unstable person. Sara died during child birth and their baby died as well. Sara adored Sierra and always wanted a daughter like her. After Sara’s death Peter wanted Sierra to be with Sara to make her happy. Peter had forgotten the difference between living and dead. He plotted everything to make it look like one of Eric’s enemies. He knew Eric well and was sure that Eric would kill the intruder if he reached home in time and if he didn’t, a part of his plan, the intruder would run away as Tracy wouldn’t be able to catch him. He had sent a separate intruder to harm Eric. While leaving the office, Eric was hit on the head and he lay unconscious, but woke up in time. Peter was arrested.
Tracy and Eric watch in horror at their best friend. They would need time to come out of it. Sierra left the world.