Gina received plenty of visits during her sentence, more that she could ask for. Sienna and Alex would drive down there once a week on the average, h the long travel just to say hello. Gina was happy to hear about Alex’s career advancement and prayed for her to be rewarded future success. However, she felt guilty upon hearing her mother’s decision to let her legal eagle fly free.
“Don’t blame yourself,” Sienna consoled. “I only came back to make sure you wouldn’t waste your life in a prison cell because of a waste-of-life your husband turned out to be.”
“Mom, please,” Gina pleaded.
“Sorry baby, but I got to speak my mind. Don’t ask me to feel any type of sympathy for that man. Knowing all the strings I pulled couldn’t set you free, I just feel like I failed you.”
“Never, Mom -”
“Let me finish sweetie. Any normal person would’ve been convicted, being
right or wrong or whatnot. But, I manipulated to court into thinking you were
a prisoner of the moment. A victim of circumstance. Even though I would do it again for anyone in my family, I refuse to pull such a stunt for anyone else. Ever. And that’s why I’m done with the law.”
“Guess Paul killed two careers that night.”
“That’s not all that’s been killed,” Alex chimed in. Gina gave an
awkward stare. “Let’s just say I made sure those divorce papers got processed immediately. Practically overnight. No forgery, in case you’re wondering. I met with Paul’s lawyers and they were very cooperative - with a little persuasion. You’re a free woman. You can thank me now.”
Gina sighed. “I don’t know whether to scold you or thank you.” She leaned over the table and hugged her little sister, nearly knocking her glasses off her face.
“I’m sorry for putting you out there like that,” Sienna said. “I hope you can learn to forgive me.”
“I already have,” said Gina. “I understand why you did it. Now that I’ve been given time to reflect, I’m very grateful that you did. Sometimes a child thinks they have all the answers but forget that their parents have already been down the road they’re traveling. Thank you for giving me another shot at life. I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too, mija.”
Captain Davis was next on the frequent visitor’s list. Beverly accompanied him on the first few trips, but the sight of Gina in a hideous red-orange jumpsuit broke her heart. She couldn’t bear going back anymore. Instead, she put her emotions on paper and wouldn’t wait for Saxon’s next outing before mailing it. Understanding her reason to not return, Gina read every letter Beverly wrote, more than once.
With a big smile on her face, Gina looked up at Saxon and said, “State Police, huh? Good for you, sir! They could use someone like you to whip that department into shape. Bunch of rookies can learn from your wisdom as I did.”
“Thanks, Vasquez,” said Saxon modestly. “Just hope those officers are as
eager to learn as you were.”
“If they’re not, lock them in the dojo with Bev for about an hour. She’ll knock some sense into them.” Saxon laughed. “Her lessons did a number on me when I asked her for help in self- defense. I was always a tough chick, but damn, she turned me into an ultimate fighter.”
“I remember,” Saxon giggled. “She wanted to make sure you can open a can
of whoop-ass on males just as much as females. Never had she invested so much of her time in an officer as she did with you. She loves you as much as our own kids.”
“And I’ve proclaimed many times that she’s my mother in the field.” Gina
laughed. “Has she started her mixed-martial-arts classes yet?”
“I don’t think she’s going to for a while.” Saxon’s face suddenly dropped. “Quiet as kept, Beverly hasn’t been feeling well lately. She’s not as spunky as
she used to be. I noticed a change in her before your trial, but now the signs have been clearer after your conviction. We’ve gone to the hospital a few times but
the doctors can’t pinpoint what’s wrong. She’s optimistic though. I wish I could share her positivity.”
“You of all people should know Bev is a fighter. There’s not an illness in the world she’ll submit to. But I believe she’ll only get stronger with your uninvited support, even if it’s forced. Sometimes when a thunderstorm is pounding on
your window, a vision of a sunny day can make us smile. Unless, of course, there’s more to her condition that you’re not telling me.”
“No-no-no. Nothing like that. I just hate dwelling in the unknown, sitting around helpless and confused. I want back the Beverly we all know and love...I need her.”
“So do I, sir.”
Officer Sylvan Livingston visited one day. Accompanying him was John Hart, an officer he met soon after Gina’s arrest. John was a naïve cop who was motivated to expose Goldberg’s unfair treatment toward officers. He even built a web page that catered to civilians and officers alike, whoever was willing to take a stand against political injustice.
“We’re going to rally against City Hall,” said Sylvan. “He’s trying to
turn our city into a cash cow just to make him and his political sellouts richer, stuffing their pockets with our hard-earned dollars! Pensions are being cut. Medical insurance reduced. This can’t go on. And it all starts with your trial. With your involvement, we can get every cop in the city to join us and take that son of a bitch down. Just say you’ll back us up and -”
“Back what up?” asked Gina doubtfully. “You plan to form a regime against
City Hall? That sounds ludicrous. Besides, my life has become too much of a
spectacle already. I’m done with the lights and the cameras. Count me out.” “And whose fault is that?”
“Mine! I made a bad decision and now I’m paying for it. That’s it. Now, if this is the only reason for your visit then you need to go. You know I love ya Syl, but I don’t want to hear this right now.”
“Detective Vasquez,” John Hart injected.
“I’m not a detective anymore,” Gina rudely interrupted.
“But you’re still one to us. I know all about you Gina, who you are
and what Goldberg has made you become. Your case was a grave injustice, handled insensitively by a corporate clown whose sole motivation is personal gratification. With that, he’s made many departments in the city look like
crap because of it. So, if the constituents won’t vote him out, then he must be overthrown by us. Now I’ve been networking with several officers across the city. If we can come together as one voice, then the mayor will have no choice but to listen.”
“So that’s your answer? Marching down Broadway while holding up big signs, demanding for the mayor to resign? News Flash: rallies don’t work anymore. You have a better chance of ranting about him on social media to get citywide attention. People will care then. By the way, if you’ve truly been following my case then you would’ve realized that I wanted to serve time. As
far as your network goes: you’re officers, not college kids. Do your damn jobs and protect the innocent!” Gina walked away without saying goodbye. Sylvan and John left the facility disappointed. However, they decided to carry on their protest as planned.
Veronica Silverblaze, Deputy of Eagle Nest, New Mexico, and Gina’s closest friend, made a surprise visit. Just recently, Alex reached out to her about the unfortunate series of events. Perhaps a new face may bring some light to her dismal days.
Even though Gina was quite the looker, especially to the eyes of Owen Law, Veronica looked as if she jumped off the pages of Vogue magazine. Her long brown hair with blonde highlights drapes passed her shoulders. Brazilian facial features made people gawk at her like a celebrity. Although not as athletically-fit as Gina, her tones and curves stood out in the right areas.
Besides being a skillful officer, two ingredients made Veronica a deadly adversary to criminals: her sassy attitude and the fact she was a knife-throwing marksman. She can throw any blade under the windiest conditions and still hit her target dead center every time.
Gina was so happy to see her long-time friend. They hugged for several minutes without uttering a word. Other than her parents, there are three people in this world that Gina would put her life on hold to help: Alex, Owen, and Veronica. Although cordial while attending Lehman high school together,
Gina and Veronica’s friendship blossomed once they both joined the police academy. Latinas Azules - a cute nickname that cemented their law enforcement sisterhood.
Veronica was the hothead of the duo, the cowboy who ran out with both guns blazing. Gina was the level-headed one, remaining calm under the most strenuous situations. Although both ladies were outstanding on the field, Veronica learned from Gina how to think things through and use excessive force as a last resort.
Having enough of dealing with seasonal frigid temperatures, Veronica moved out west after graduation. During a brief stint in San Francisco, she fell in love with the city of Albuquerque after flying out there to attend a friend’s wedding. The feeling of comfort, security, and a laidback lifestyle filled her heart. Months later, New Mexico became her home.
Finally letting each other go, the ladies exchanged pleasantries while wiping the tears from their eyes. Veronica also added a wisecrack on how Gina’s red
hair and reddish jumpsuit made her look like a cherry popsicle. Gina popped so loud with laughter that the other visitors in the room jumped as if a bomb exploded.
At that moment, Dr. Richard Han, Gina’s psychiatrist, approached her with more good news. Due to her miraculous progress, Dr. Han had granted her access outside of the institution. Little did he know that Gina had been perfectly sane the whole time. Buried in depression is what’s preventing her from returning to normal behavior.
Gina and Veronica walked through the courtyard as if they were strolling through the park on a Sunday afternoon. Nurses engaged with their patients either through pleasant conversation or performing exercises to stabilize their minds. Other patients, however, showed their psychological handicap: restrained
to a wheelchair while wildly rocking like a fan at a heavy metal concert - running around the yard screaming as nurses and guards gave chase - or even standing like a statue while staring off into space.
Gina sat up against a tree while Veronica sat on the grass in the criss-cross applesauce position. “Never thought in a million years that I would see you in
a place like this,” said Veronica. It baffled her to see her best friend in such a
“I’m not crazy Ronnie,” Gina explained. “At times, I admit, I do find myself searching for a reason to live, but not with suicidal tendencies or anything to that effect. Guilty of depression, yes. But, I’m not crazy. This was the result of my mom’s desperate attempt to keep me out of jail.”
“And for what? Because that jerk thought a quickie was more important than honoring the finest damn woman I’ve ever known in my lifetime? Should have pounded his teeth out when I had the chance.”
This goes back to a time shortly before Veronica moved out west. For
Gina’s birthday, Veronica had planned a girl’s night out. Paul, on the other hand, had planned a night of his own: candlelight dinner and drinks at home. Even Alex liked the party idea because she wanted Gina to have a good time with her friends as well.
Veronica tried to explain this to Paul, but his ego wouldn’t allow him to listen, feeling insulted. The two got into a huge argument with Paul saying very hurtful things, referring to Veronica as a flirty woman who was easy with a price.
Once word got back to Gina, she wanted to break-up with Paul after breaking his face. But Paul begged, pleaded, and even cried for a second chance. He walked on his hands and knees and promised her the world. He even poured out a warm apologized to Veronica, making sure his woman was there to witness it, of course. With the heart of gold she has, he was forgiven.
“You warned me about him,” Gina regretfully admitted.
“There’s something about those ‘car salesman’ types that rub me the wrong way, ya know? That guy’s got more lives than a cat, especially after calling me a slut. But not even I could’ve predicted he would sink so low.”
“The day he called you that should’ve wised me up to who he was. Being in
love makes you do stupid things, I guess. I thought he would change but...did he ever try hitting on you?”
“Hell no! I would’ve broken both of his arms if he did. Imagine how your wedding photos would’ve looked: you all glamorous in your beautiful white dress and him looking sorry with a black eye and both of his arms in slings.”
Gina giggled and added, “Girl, there wouldn’t have been a wedding. We would’ve double-teamed his ass, South Bronx style!”
Veronica leaned over and gave Gina a high-five as they laughed like high school girls at recess. Then the gleefulness died down as ongoing rants from the yard reminded them where they were. “I should’ve been there for you, like all those times you were there for me,” Veronica said.
“Ah, you got your own life to worry about,” said Gina. “Besides, I don’t remember you ever getting into trouble like this.”
“Excuse me? What about the time when we ran that obstacle course and I pounced our instructor into the mud because he said I was too girly to be tough? Remember that?” Gina held in her laughter. “They could’ve kicked me out of
the academy for that. But, what did you do? You remember, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Gina giggled. “I told him I slipped coming down the wall and bumped into you by accident.”
“And since he thought so highly of you, the incident got dismissed. That jerk. And how about the time we snuck off to that nightclub with Owen and Shane?” Gina facepalmed. “Shane got a little loose with the hands and put them on me.” Veronica chuckled.
“And then you clocked that fool in his eye!” Gina giggled. “He stumbled
around the dance floor like Fred Sanford saying, ‘Oh, my eye! Oh! My eye!’”
Howling with laughter, Veronica rolled back on the grass while drool hung from Gina’s lip from her silent laughter. Red faces and cramped stomachs showed that none of them could breathe. Patients looked at them as if they were the crazy ones. Minutes were needed to calm down before they started talking again.
“But seriously,” Veronica reminded. “How did you do resolve that situation:
you worked up a miracle on his face using my makeup. Nobody on campus had the slightest idea Shane’s eye was black and blue.”
“Yeah, I pulled that one out of my butt,” Gina said. “The next day he thanked me and apologized to you.”
“If word got around that we snuck off campus that night, none of us would’ve graduated. You prevented that from happening. Come to think of it, you saved my career.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Damn! I wish I was there for you, Gina. I feel like I owe you so much.” “How could you have known, Ronnie? It’s not like I planned this thing.
Raw emotion. I was a prisoner of the moment. Haunts me every night. In the academy, they teach you everything there is to know about being a cop except how to live with a mistake. If I had a wish? It would be for God to rewind time... to let me...”
“You’re a good person Gina. Warm-hearted. Everybody knows it. They still see it. But you have to see it, too.” Gina slightly nodded, not fully convinced. “Have you thought about what’s next, after you get out of this place?”
“Nope. One thing I won’t do is go back home. Hate to desert my family but...too much pain is left back there and I don’t want to be reminded of it. I want to just get away and start over, ya know?”
Veronica’s eyes lit up. “Boy, do I have an idea!” she said. “The Sheriff in my station is retiring next year, should be happening right around the time you get released. Why don’t you move out to New Mexico?! Work with me?! I’m sure I can get you the job. You can stay at my house until you get to know the area. The other deputies will love you as much as I do. What do you think?”
“Why don’t you go for the job yourself?” Gina questioned.
“I could do that. But we both know that you’re a natural leader. Besides, I need you to keep me in line when that old cowgirl in me urges to come out and play. Hey, I can’t think of a better place for you to start over.”
Gina wasn’t sure about going back to law enforcement. However, a smaller
city might be what she needed. Less chaos. Quieter. Private. “Let me think about it okay?” Gina responded.
Months later, Gina got a visit from another close friend: Owen Law. Now a detective for the Beverly Hills police department, Owen had become a local sensation from his hot dog shenanigans viewed on news outlets and social media networks. A real-life action star is how the people describe him. An ink spot on their linen white city is what city officials refer to him as. Pressure has been put on the department to have him fired.
At first, Gina was reluctant to see him. Embarrassed. She didn’t want Owen of all people to see her smothered in the stench of incarceration. Also, she wasn’t too thrilled to hear another voice of reason. But to her delight, Owen said he just wanted to see her gorgeous face.
“Are you kidding?” Gina rejected. “I can’t remember the last time I exemplified anything gorgeous. And even if I wanted to throw some makeup on my face, they won’t give me anything sharp or toxic.”
“You can throw mud on your face for all I care,” said Owen. “I’ll still say you’re the classiest woman in the room. Any room. Why do you think I used ransack your room at six-in-the- morning to drag you to class? I wanted you to be the first person I saw. So no matter how good or bad my day was going to be, I’ll be smiling.”
“Morning breath and all, huh?”
“Yup. Even when your hair was sticking up like the bride of Frankenstein
...in your case, I’ll say Carrot Top? Ronald McDonald? You can stop me when you’re ready.”
Gina’s cackle echoed through the cafeteria. Other inmates shivered and turned around as if she got shot with a gun. Veronica made her feel better before, but only Owen could make her feel brand new. He was special to her. More than a friend, but close like a brother.
Owen went to Gina’s wedding for two reasons: Alex needed a date, and
he wanted to support his true love on her big day. But he always hated Paul for stealing his dream. He hates him even more now. Whereas Sylvan offered to finish the job, Owen won’t bother to ask. It’ll be curtains for his career if he ever caught Paul wondering the streets.
While disappointingly accepting a role in Gina’s life as the good friend, Owen enjoyed being a single man: dated several women, came and went as he pleased, and had no responsibilities except his own. But he would give all of it up at the drop of a dime to be with Gina. He knows she loves him as much as he loves her. It’s her fear of loss that keeps them stagnant in the friendship zone.
“Paul is a loser,” Owen said. “In my opinion, he got he deserved.” “I know you don’t mean that,” Gina disappointingly stated.
Owen thought about his statement. “So maybe the pistol-whipping was a bit excessive, a little sloppy for my taste, but you can’t blame yourself for that.”
“Who else can I blame? I controlled that whole situation and I chose to go down the violent path. Going to my mother’s house to cool off would’ve worked, too. Then the next day I would’ve yelled every dirty thing I could think of at him before throwing his ass out of my house. Right now, as I think about it, I still want to drive my fist through his face.”
“I’ll do it for you. Give me his address.”
“No! Please. Don’t do anything. Just stay with me. Alright?” Owen pressed his hands into a ball around Gina’s cold fingers. She took a deep breath, letting her emotions get the better of her again. Thank God she has people who will
ride or die with her. “I tried so hard to make it work,” she stressed. “I should’ve known he was just a freeloading know-it-all who only cared about himself.”
“You forgot selfish - lazy - and ungrateful...” Owen continued. Gina stared
at him with a slight curl on one end of her lips, which said that she got the point. Owen fanned his hand. “Enough about that jackass. I want all my attention focused on you. Gina Vasquez. Nothing else.”
“Take a good look. This is what’s left me now.”
“Second chances have been given to people who’ve committed far more treacherous acts - makes me sick to my stomach to think about which of those people get one. Why should you be any different? You still have so much to offer, great things left undone in this world. Don’t give up on life when it hasn’t given up on you. Why? Because you’re still alive. Remember, things could’ve gone a lot worst.”
Gina smiled and kissed Owen on the cheek. “Thanks, O,” she said. “You always know what to say to me at the time I need to hear it.”
“And I’ll always do so, for as long as you need me to.”
After the eighteenth-month period, Gina had been released early for good behavior. Family and friends were overjoyed to have her back home. However, the happiness didn’t last for long. Dismay filled the Vasquez household upon hearing her decision to accept Veronica’s offer to move to New Mexico. She thanked her mother for giving her a second chance.
Sienna couldn’t stand to see her daughter leave again, but understood that she needed to find her own way of healing. “This will always be your home,” she said. “Come back whenever you’re ready. I love you mija.” Raul, fueled on old-school machismo, thought it was wimpy to cry in front of women. He gave his best wishes and a kiss on her forehead but didn’t stick around to see Gina’s departure. He waited until he was alone in his room to let the salty water run from his eyes and down his seasoned face.
Gina called Saxon Davis and broke the news to him and Beverly. They invited her over for lunch, but she rejected, knowing it would make things harder. Besides hearing them try to convince her to stay, seeing Beverly’s saddened face after learning about her ailing condition would’ve drowned her in further guilt. She told Saxon it was an honor to work with him. “The honor was mine,” he replied. “God bless you, Gina. I’ll see you soon.”
Alex took it the hardest though. Her sister and best friend was going away again. While driving Gina to the airport, Alex thought of every scenario to change her mind, but none of them worked. Arriving at the passenger drop-off lane in front of LaGuardia Airport, Gina stalled to get out of the car. “Here we are,” she said. Alex’s eyes began to water. “Don’t start, Al. You hear me? Don’t start!”
But she couldn’t help it. Alex wept like a child who just spilled their ice cream on the street. Gina wiped her own eyes to stop her tears from falling, tightening her face from frowning. They both hugged each other. “I love you,” Gina repeated.
“Please, don’t leave,” Alex pleaded. “I have to, Allie.”
“Why?! Whatever pain you’re feeling we can get through it together. When you’re hurt, I’m hurt. Can’t you see that? Please. Stay.”
“I can’t. You, Mommy and Daddy, mean everything to me. You are my world. But, there’s no life for me here. In New Mexico I can still do some good, redeem some of the old me that’s left, ya know? Be strong, for me, please. The family will need you to be. I promise to call every day and come back to visit when I can.”
“Maybe I can get a transfer and join the Bureau in California.”
“ I would love that, but Mommy and Daddy need you here. Besides, you’re becoming a major player in your department. How could I ask you to give all that up for me?”
“...Why don’t you ask me?”
“Listen. You need to hold everyone together, okay? I know that’s selfish of me to ask, but a fresh start I believe is what’s best for me now. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. This isn’t the end, just a minor setback. Okay?”
“Okay. I hope God watches over you, since I can’t...although, technically I can. Jus’ need to hack into some satellite feeds and watch every move you make.”
Gina laughed. “Thank you, but I’ll be fine. Take care, Alex.”
Gina gave her sister one last hug and got out of the car. She couldn’t look back. Hearing her sister’s sniffling made it harder to take another step. She wanted to go back home, but she couldn’t. It was an act of faith, giving up everything in hopes that her sorrow will disappear.
Alex wept as her big sister walked through the terminal doors. Gina was starting a new life to replace the old, leaving behind an unfaithful husband and a dead career. Little did she know that after this day her life will change forever.