Bright ivory snow blanketed the mountainous landscape of Syracuse, New York as gray cloud hovered in the sunless sky. Plow trucks plowed through the slippery roads. Locals got their legs swallowed in the waist-high snow as they marched through town, struggling to stay balanced. Rush hour hadn’t quite started yet, but already the day was off to a busy start.
Cruising down the snowy highway was Gina Vasquez, a cadet of the New York Police Academy, returning to campus from a weekend getaway at her parent’s house in the Bronx. Besides being blessed with stunning good looks, she was athletically gifted. Chin-length ginger red hair with light brown eyes and toned physique.
Although considered as the kid in her unit, the twenty-year-old was mature for her age, never afraid to get her hands dirty, especially when it came to prevailing justice.
Many people dread traveling so early in the morning, but not Gina. She’s
a definite morning person, approached each day as another life lesson to
be learned. Besides keeping a careful eye on the road, she was swaying her shoulders and enjoying a classic Salsa song blasting out from the speakers: “Pedro Navaja,” by Ruben Blades.
Lucky for her, traffic was absent due to the wintry weather conditions. Therefore, a usual six-plus-hour journey had been reduced to a five-hour drive. Having a couple of hours to spare before her first class, Gina decided to stop and
have some breakfast.
After passing several packed waffle houses, she came across a small diner called ‘Round the Clock.’ The parking lot looked empty, so she figured the wait wouldn’t be too long. She parked close to the exit ramp and hopped over ice puddles like a game of hopscotch.
The morning rush crowd might stampede through the doors at any moment. She hurried up the snowy steps hoping to get a table right away. But as soon
as she entered the diner, her worst-case scenario became a reality: a crowd of hungry people waiting to be seated. Hearing a passing waitress say it’d be about an hour wait, the cadet suddenly lost her appetite.
As Gina was about to leave, she heard someone call out her name over
the indistinct chatter. Looking through the sea of faces, she spotted Owen Law sitting alone in a booth, motioning for her to join him.
Owen, also a Police Academy cadet, had a crush on Gina since orientation. Standing a little over six feet tall, he had a slim physique and a charming smile. His cleverness and athleticism made him a great officer in the making. However, his need to showboat has led instructors to question his passion for the job.
Owen and Gina had three things in common: Puerto Rican ethnicity, both born and raised in the Bronx and were the youngest rookies in their respective squads. “What brings you out here so early?” Gina asked as she approached the booth.
“Waiting for you, of course,” Owen kidded. Gina slid into the booth and
laid her coat next to the window. A waitress came over with two glasses of water and placed them on the table. She then asked for their orders. Owen wanted a three-cheese omelet with sausage and toast. Gina ordered blueberry pancakes
“You’ve yet to answer my question, Mr. Law,” Gina said. Owen shivered
and answered, “I love it when you call me that.” Gina just smirked while tapping
her finger on the table. “Okay, seriously. I went out for a run.”
“Not the smartest move to be running in this blistery weather. And so far, may I add. Besides the snowfall picking up, you’ll be running back to campus
on a full stomach. Know what that means? The next place you’ll be running to is the bathroom.”
“Ha-ha! You’re a riot!” chuckled Owen. “Just so you know, I didn’t plan on jogging through this winter wonderland. I woke up at five this morning and a weird feeling came over me like I just needed to get out and do something. Spent two hours in the gym, but not even that tired me. So, I ran around the campus. I still wasn’t tired. In fact, I started feeling better than I did when I woke up. So then, I ran down the road and continued onto the highway. And so on and so on. Now I’m here having breakfast with you. Guess the old saying is true: no journey is too great when one finds what he seeks.”
“Oh, God, you sound like a soap opera,” Gina sighed.
“Yeah, it does sound kind of corny coming from a smooth chamaco like me, right? But, I mean it.” Gina smiled before taking a sip of water. “What about you? What brings you to this side of town so early?”
“Just coming back from spending the weekend at home. After having one of my Mom’s infamous Sunday dinners, I caught the Itis - too lazy to drive last night. Only operating on a few hours’ sleep, but I knew I could still get to class on time if I left home early enough. And with an hour to spare, I’d say I’m doing a pretty good job.”
“Yeah, you must’ve been doing 80 on I-87.”
“Something like that, but it was easy while driving down those empty roads. And luckily for me, the snowy conditions in the city weren’t nearly as bad as
they are up here.”
A half-hour had passed. Gina and Owen were enjoying their breakfast while chatting away at whatever subject came to mind. Then they started talking about their families, a subject Owen never liked to discuss. But since it was Gina who asked, he felt comfortable telling her the truth.
Owen was an only child. Most of his life, he was raised by his mother, Karina Law. Childhood memories were bitter and full of vigor, uprooting from the grudge he held against his father for choosing his career over his family.
Marshall Law, born Manuel Lovado, served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War as a part of the 5th Infantry. He received plenty of medals for acts of bravery and heroism in the line of battle. After his tour ended, Marshall got with a few of his Army buddies and worked as mercenaries for
hire. With that decision came major consequences.
Between his near-death experiences and constantly leaving home in the middle of the night, not returning for days, Karina became emotionally spent and filed for divorce. She believed that Marshall’s reckless lifestyle would
endanger the lives of her and their son. Marshall promised to explain everything once he was old enough to understand. But Owen was too angry to care.
Gina’s upbringing, however, was more inspiring. Her mother, Sienna Vasquez, was a distinguished officer for the NYPD, who years later entered the criminal law system. She then became the hottest prosecutor for the New York County District Attorney’s office. After thirty years of service, she retired and moved to the Bronx suburbs with Raul, Gina’s father, who retired from the U.S. Postal Service shortly after.
Alexandra, Gina’s younger sister, was a junior at Princeton University and labeled the genius of the family. At a glimpse, she could pass for Gina’s twin, except she was a couple of inches shorter, had long brown hair and wore round- rimmed glasses.
“Alex wants to follow in your footsteps?” asked Owen.
“Kind of,” Gina responded. “She wants to work for the FBI, which
threw me for a loop. Not to say she can’t handle it, but field agents have to be physically fit, ya know?”
“I take it she’s not a world-class athletic?”
“Far from it,” Gina laughed. “She’s not a weakling, but graceful is something lacking when it comes to her with physical challenges. That’s the
part where we differ: physicality comes easier to me whereas she can face more cerebral challenges. With her brains, I thought she would follow my mother’s path and study Criminal Law. Still, I know she will be an overnight success if she ever gets into the Bureau. I’m so proud of her.”
Owen held up his glass of orange juice and proclaimed, “Here’s to us one day celebrating her recruitment with a bottle of champagne.”
“Here-here.” They clinked their glasses together and took a drink while sticking their pinkies in the air.
Snow continued to fall, piling up to knee level. Gina checked her watch and gasped at seeing that she now had twenty minutes to get to class. Owen left a
generous tip on the table before walking to the cashier to pay the bill.
Gazing at the continuous snowfall, Gina and Owen stood in front of the diner and zipped their coats up to their necks. “I’m sure those strong legs of yours will be able to handle another wintry workout,” Gina joked, “I won’t hold you up. But thank you for breakfast! It really hit the spot.”
Owen wasn’t sure if she was serious as his lips slowly curled to a smirk. “I’m only kidding!” she giggled, showing perfect rows of ivory teeth between her full cheeks. “Of course, I’ll give you a ride back!”
The cadets wrapped arms and carefully stepped down the front steps which looked like beds of marshmallows. Gina found humor in watching Owen struggling to keep his balance as they hopscotched through the slushy parking lot. “If I see you slip and fall, I swear I’m gonna be laughing so hard!” she heckled.
“Don’t laugh too hard, baby,” he interjected. “If I can get a hold of your coat then best believe I’ll be dragging you down with me- ee-EEEEEEEEE!!!” Owen’s feet flew up the air as he slipped on an ice patch and flipped down on his back. He looked like the letter X as he lied still, basking in the moment of embarrassment.
Gina could hardly breathe from her ongoing hilarity, grasping on her stomach, unable to withstand the muscle cramps. She offered to help him up, but her laughter made it impossible to stand straight. Due to her lack of focus, however, Gina plunged into a huge slush puddle. Both her boots got soaked.
“Ah-ha!” Owen teased. “Go ahead! Start laughing now! What goes around comes around, baby!”
Both cadets were red in the face, laughing until no sound came out of their mouths. Gina shook the ice chips off her boots as Owen rolled up to his feet.
When they got to Gina’s car, Owen tilted his head and gave an awkward eye to a gray, worn down Cutlass Ciera. “I may be a fan of the old school,” he said, “but this ride of yours might be going a bit overboard.”
“Sorry, but my Benz is in the shop,” she sarcastically snapped back. Gina unlocked the doors and both she and Owen rushed inside. “Yeah I
know it’s an eyesore,” she mentioned while turning the ignition key. “Compared to that lousy town bus though, this contraption is my best friend.”
“Easy choice. You can die of old age waiting for that junkyard- on-wheels. But sincerely, I really do appreciate the ride. How about you let me take you out to eat to express my gratitude?”
“Technically, you just did that.” Gina smiled and winked.
Wheels ground onto the thick snow as the car rolled down the exit ramp. She kept the speed at 15 mph and pumped the brakes while merging onto the freeway. Snowflakes flew wildly in front of the windshield, nearly obscuring the view of the road ahead.
Driving speedily behind them was a Kia Optima occupied by a group of impatient college kids. They cut into the opposite lane and honked their horn in annoyance as they sped past. Despite their rudeness, Gina slowed down,
allowing them to reenter the lane. She certainly didn’t want anyone to get hurt. But before the kids could switch back to their lane, a plow truck emerged from the snow fog in front of them. The driver swerved at the last split-second, but the snowplow still struck its back left side. The kids screamed at the top of their lungs as the vehicle spun out of control and crashed through the guardrail.
Teens flew out from the back doors as the car tumbled down the rocky mountainside. It landed upside down near a cliff. High winds violently rocked it back-and-forth, inches away from falling over the edge. Scared out of his mind, the truck driver immediately pulled over and dispatched 911 for help.
Gasping in fright, Gina stepped on the gas and sped toward the busted guardrail. Skidding onto the shoulder, she pressed the release button in the glove compartment and the trunk popped open. Both cadets raced around back and gathered some supplies: a first-aid kit and climbing rope. “Over there!” Owen shouted and pointed at two teens barreling over the cliff.
Gina followed the gray smoke coiling from the rocking vehicle. An orange glow illuminated from the windows. “You go after the kids!” instructed Gina. “I’ll check the car for trapped passengers!”
The cadets hurried down the snowy slope and then split-up. Gina tossed the rope to Owen and sprinted toward the busted Optima. Despite slippery conditions, Owen ran down the snow like it was asphalt.
Two teens, a male and a female, were seen hanging over the cliff, dangling like worms on a hook. Desperately they yelled for help, but their words sounded mumbled due to their endless sobbing. Frostbite seeped into their bare fingers, weakening their grip on the ice-cold rock.
Owen slid toward the edge and reached over to grab their wrists. “I got you!” he shouted as the teens expressed overwhelming gratitude. However, they accidentally peeked down at the long drop below, a field of blue-green evergreens poking out from a sea of white fog. They panicked! Kicking at the
rocks and screaming for help, their constant wobbling made it difficult for Owen
to hold them steady.
“Reach up and grab on my arms!” Owen grunted.
“We can’t!” the teens hollered, too scared to even flinch a finger.
“I can’t stay like this forever! ...You gotta reach up...or else we’ll all die!” Mustering enough bravery, the teens attempted to pull themselves up, tiptoeing against the mountainside for support.
As the winds grew stronger, Owen felt his biceps burn like Olympic torches.
Blustering snowflakes flew into his eyes, distorting his vision. His shoes began to slip along the icy surface. Pressure up against his ribs made it hard for him to yell to Gina for help.
Owen gave one more pull and lifted the teens halfway, but his strength was gradually departing. These kids will die if he drops his arms now. Dozens of negative thoughts bombarded his head, criticizing his poor decision-making.
But out of all the voices verbally bashing him, one voice could be heard over the rest, torturing him further. It came from the one man who he has despised since childhood: his father.
“You’re no hero! You’re no soldier! You became a cop because you’re too weak to fight a war! You’re a mama’s boy! I’m not your enemy. I’m your excuse. Don’t blame me for you becoming a loser!”
Pain and fatigue instantly vanished. An overwhelming surge of energy unleashed in him like a raging volcano. Screaming in anger, Owen astonishingly lifted the teens up from the cliff, throwing them a few feet back in the process. He then tumbled onto the slush, exhausted. Freezing ice pressed against his spine, pleasurably relieving the muscle cramps he felt in his back.
“Are…you…okay?” he stuttered, rolling on his stomach to catch his breath. Choked-up with gratefulness, the teens could only wipe their eyes and say, “Thank you.”
Unable to resist, Owen let his ego come into play. His lips pushed out to a
confident grin as he replied, “No need to thank me. This is what I do.”
Meanwhile, Gina shielded her eyes from the buzzing white flakes as she approached the vehicular wreckage. She found an unconscious teen just a few yards away. Fearing the car may explode at any minute, she dragged him to a safer distance and then continued charging toward the car.
Looking inside the foggy windows, Gina saw the driver still strapped to
his seat, hanging upside-down like a bat in a cave. Head and limbs dangled like tinsel on a Christmas tree, but no movement was made on his own. Was he still alive? Was it worth her life to find out?
Strong winds pushed the car closer to the edge. A matter of inches separated the sleeping kid from taking a daylong plunge into a wintry abyss. Gina pulled
on the handles, but the doors wouldn’t open. The violent tumble had sealed them shut. Like a football punter, she kicked at the rear passenger window. Glass shattered off her steel-toed boot.
“Can you hear me?” she hollered, sticking her head inside the car. There was no response.
She crawled headfirst through the broken window and reached for the teen’s arm. He was too far away. As she climbed in further, the car shifted from the added weight. Making matters worse, sparks shot out from the radio, sparking awfully close to the gasoline-drenched dashboard.
Sucking it up, refusing to turn back, Gina squeezed in between the front seats and crawled closer to the youngster. She pressed her feet down to keep the car balanced while reaching for the seat belt button. Almost there! Two of
her fingers touched the red button. Click! His body dropped onto the cold steel.
Scraping sounds grew louder as the car tipped a bit further.
Desperately, she wiggled backward to the broken window while tugging
the teen by his shirt. His massive-sized body was wedged between the seats and the armrest. Another frenzy of sparks erupted from the radio. Uh-oh! A burst
of flames ignited by the driver’s feet and then spread across the dashboard. It
rapidly traveled toward the backseats. Then it engulfed the trunk. And then ate its way toward the gas tank!
Summoning every ounce of strength, Gina gave one strong pull and loosened the teen from between the seats. It felt like dragging sandbags in the desert as she pulled his dead weight closer to the opening. Scraping sounds grew louder as the car rocked over the cliff. By the skin of her teeth, Gina and the teen plopped onto the powdery snow. Thunderous sounds of tearing metal, crumbling rocks, and deafening bangs echoed down the mountainside.
She checked the driver’s vital signs and blew a sigh of relief knowing that he was still alive. She looked across the snow and witnessed Owen helping the other teens to their feet. He nodded and waved at her. Completely spent, she nodded back and stuck up her thumb. Job well done.
An hour later, both roadways were flooded with squad cars, ambulance trucks, and news vans. The shaken teens were being treated for their injuries while the driver had been carried away on a gurney, wearing a neck brace. His condition remained stable.
Town sheriff Jimmy Van Nash commended the two young cadets for their heroic acts of bravery. “The police force is sure lucky ta have two dashin’ young officers like yerselves,” he said with a heavy country accent.
Police Academy instructor, Lieutenant Jacqueline Grier, pushed through the sea of spectators to check on her cadets. She looked at Gina’s ragged condition and said, “You look like hell, Vasquez. Now I see why you didn’t show up for class this morning.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Gina replied. “Does this mean I’m getting thrown out?” “Don’t be silly, cadet. I’ve done a lot worst during my training - quiet as
kept. You have the same tenacity as your mother, that same ‘never say die’
attitude. That kind of quality cannot be taught. Good job.” “Thank you, ma’am.”
Lt. Grier turned to Owen and said, “How ya holding up Law?”
Being the showoff, Owen folded his arms and answered, “All in a day’s work, ma’am.”
“Yeah, I notice. Just remember that saving a life takes more than skills and guts - compassion is what truly makes you great at this job. Having said that, if there was a braver hero than Marshall Law, it would definitely be his son.”
“Only better, ma’am.”
Winds diminished and snowflakes floated down like sprinkles on an ice cream cone. For the first time that morning, the sunshine crept through the gray clouds and shone on the woodsy community.
Walking through the medical chaos and passed the yellow tape, Gina and
Owen stared at the accident scene, replaying the daring rescue in their heads.
“Well, after what happened this morning, there’s no doubt in my mind,” said
“About what?” asked Gina. “That we undoubtedly have what it takes to do this job?”
“Nope. I’m never going out to eat with you again.”
They smiled at each other. They made a great team. Both knew they had what it took to do this job. Gina then wondered how much her parents will freak out after hearing about this latest stunt.
Many venturous thrill-rides awaited Gina Vasquez and Owen Law during their schooling at the academy, becoming the only two cadets to be tested
both on and off-campus. Owen continually pursued Gina for a more intimate relationship, but it never went there.
However, the bond they shared was unbreakable. They needed each other.
Unbeknown to them, angelic forces witnessed their selfless acts, defining
their spiritual significance. As time went on, saving lives took on a whole new meaning. Destiny.