Dread boils in my stomach as I knock on my dad’s office door.
I spent all night tossing and turning, replaying the events in my head. I can’t let this go. He might be my father, he isn’t getting away with this.
Getting my mom new treatment is not an excuse for trafficking girls. He’s actually putting both of us at risk. Mom doesn’t need the stress. Not now.
Is he more dangerous to me than Frankie?
How deep is he in this?
I can’t follow Frankie anymore. He gave me his warning and I believe him. I also know he doesn’t want to kill me. Whatever this weird pull is between us, he feels it, too.
And we’re both fighting it.
He might be dangerous, brutal, and the most powerful man in the city. I’m not frightened of him.
I am scared of the man behind this door. Frankie doesn’t hide the monster he is, but my dad does. That’s worse.
I’m stuck between two evils. One wants me to embrace the chaos within, while the other tries to force me to fight it.
A shiver runs down my spine, I won’t let him see my turmoil. I tip my chin up and enter.
“Commissioner,” I greet him, keeping my tone light.
“Sit down,” he orders.
I smooth my skirt and take a seat in front of his desk. I made sure to dress ‘appropriately’, masking my tattoos so I don’t anger him up any further.
He taps his pen, each time increasing the pounding in my head.
“What can I do for you, Zara?”
I shuffle in my seat, mustering the courage.
“You are a piece of shit, Dad.”
I jerk back as his hands smash against the wood, sending our family picture crashing to the ground.
“Don’t you dare speak to me like that,” he grits out.
“It’s the truth. I’ve seen enough. There is no excuse for what you’re doing. I’m going to let everyone know exactly what kind of monster you are.”
I don’t owe either of them anything. Yet, only one of them stoops low enough to abuse and traffic women. The lines are blurring. Frankie’s first concern last night was if I was okay.
“No. You won’t.”
He stands and steps around the desk, towering over me. I scoot my chair back and stand, looking up at him.
His fists ball at his sides. “Do you want to know why?”
“You don’t get to make the orders here, Zara. Otherwise, those bullets that were pulled from a cop’s stomach, from your gun, might make their way into the right hands. Let’s not forget, the murdered ex-boyfriend of yours. That’s a lot of time in jail,” he smirks.
My eyes sting.
“What kind of father are you?” I whisper.
He growls under his breath. “I told you to leave it alone. You just couldn’t help yourself. Now look at the mess you’ve got yourself in. I can’t protect you, not from this. So, you need to leave the NYPD and this family. We are done.”
“W-what about Mom?” I hold back the tears. He can’t stop me from seeing her. She hasn’t done anything to deserve this.
His face reddens and his nostrils flare.
“If you can’t understand that I’m doing this for my family, you are no longer part of it.”
His hand starts to shake next to his leg.
“Fine. I don’t want to be a part of any family who believes trafficking women solves their problems. You make me fucking sick.” My chin juts defiantly. I’ll find a way to take him down, and I’ll do what I have to protect my mom, even if it is from her own husband. I’ll make sure of it.
“You little bitch!” he shouts. His hand comes hurtling towards my face and connects to my cheek, sending me flying sideways. I scream out as my head smashes into the wooden arm of the chair.
I pull myself up on all fours, holding back the tears and rub my throbbing temple.
“You think you’re any better than me? After what you did?”
My back presses against the wall as he looms over me.
“I did that to protect myself, you know that. There are no excuses for what you’re doing. Those girls don’t deserve this. You can still stop this; I can help you.” My eyes burn, I won’t let him see me cry. He’s not the man I knew who had gentle words and treated the scrapes on my knees when I fell off my bike. It’s like he’s possessed, high on power and corruption.
I bring myself up to stand on unsteady legs.
He shakes his head violently enough that his hair ruffles. “Get out, Zara. I never want to see you here again.”
I brush the stinging mark.
A life in jail would be better than this hell. I want to get out of here.
“If I go down, you’re coming with me. Just remember that,” I snarl.
His fingers twitch like he wants to hit me again. We enter a silent battle. This is the first time I’ve ever fought back, and it’s electrifying. He lets out a grunt and leans against the desk.
The man looks defeated. I could feel sorry for him, but he got himself into this mess on his own.
I spin on my heel with the pain radiating on my face, my vision starting to blur. I force myself to walk out the door and slam it shut behind me.
Finding a cardboard box in the cupboard of the breakroom, I toss in the minimal items I own from my desk.
As I leave, I see the poster for tonight’s Halloween ball, and stop.
I’m feeling particularly violent. He thinks he can blackmail me, hit me, and I’ll just slink away with my tail between my legs? He’s got me so wrong.
Especially now, I have something on him. Tonight is the perfect opportunity while he is distracted to dig a little deeper. I know all of his secrets will be in a drawer in his office. That old school asshole can barely use a computer.
If I can get the information about the girls, I can stop them. I can save them and my mom.
And I’m going to try and do what I can to make that happen.