Fine and steady snowflakes were falling in New York; obscuring the upper stories of Midtown's black and silver buildings. It covered stone monuments, the Plaza's dormant fountain, and avenues faster than city plows could clear it away. As night closed in lights turned on in every window, the woman stood with the young girl breathing in the cold air.
"The snow looks so magical in the city" Chloe, twelve said in amusement.
"It's so beautiful" Brittany agreed
"But where do the kids go sledding?"
"In Central Park, I think. Right over there," Brittany said, pointing at the trees coated in white, the yellow lights glowing through the snow.
Chloe just stared. Everything about New York was magical, and Brittany loved seeing it through her eyes. Fresh from the quiet marshlands of eastern Connecticut, they had checked into the Plaza hotel, visited Santa at Macy's, and gone ice skating at Rockefeller Center. That night they had tickets to see the New York City Ballet dance The Nutcracker.
Standing outside the front of the hotel three cabs stood at the curb with their headlights covered in thick snow. A line of at least twenty people scanned the streets for additional cabs. Overwhelmed with excitement, Brittany hesitatingly took Chloe's hand and made their way a down the steps.
Standing by the curb, she checked the map and weighted the idea of walking to the Lincoln Center hoping to risk missing the curtain by waiting in a long taxi line.
"Brittany are we going to be late?" Chloe asked
"No, we're not" Brittany said, making up her mind "I'll get us a cab."
Chloe giggled at the sight of her friend standing in the street outstretching her arm like a real New Yorker. Brittany wore a blue velvet dress, a black cashmere cape, a set of diamond and sapphire earrings, and platinum necklace from her best friend.
"Oh let me hail a cab," Chloe said dancing with delight waving her arm like Brittany. Her movement was sudden causing her to slip on the snow grasping for Brittany's handbag. The strap was long enough to get Brittany's attention. Nearly losing her balance on the icy street, Brittany caught Chloe in time and steadied them both.
They smiled caught in the momentary embrace. Just as Thanksgiving had passed, Christmas lights glittered everywhere. The city enchanted beneath its snowy veil. A Salvation Army band played "Silent Night" as bells jingled on horse drawn carriage passing through the city.
"I've never been anywhere like this," Chloe said.
Her hazel eyes gazed into Brittany's with rapture of being twelve, on such a wonderful adventure.
"I'm so glad you came with me," Brittany said.
"I wish Lily were here," Chloe said.
Touched by the affection for the girl and missing her own daughter, Brittany didn't see the cab at first.
A snowplow and a sand truck drove by in the opposite direction as the taxi spun on ice clipping the bumper of a black Mercedes limousine. The cab caromed off the plow's blade crushing its front end shattering the windshield. Brittany lunged for Chloe.
Everything happened in slow motion. Brittany grabbed the child as her low black boot fought for traction. Spinning around not once but twice the cab spun on the icy street. Glass tinkled on the pavement as onlookers screamed. Arms around Chloe, Brittany tried to run in the seconds it took to register what was happening. Unable to reaction fast enough she wrapped her body around the child trying to shield her from the impact.
People flew in the air together, tumbled apart landing with separate thuds when the taxi struck the crowd. Skidding across the pavement, skin scraping and bones breaking, they slumped in shapeless heaps. For a long moment the city was silent, traffic stopped, no one moved as the snow was bright with red blood. Down the block, horns began to blare, a far off siren sounded as people inched closer to help.
"They're dead" someone cried
"So much blood..."
"Don't move anyone, you might injure them worse."
"That little girl, did she move? Is she alive?"
People surrounded the bodies lying crumpled like broken toys not knowing what to do. Two off duty police officers out for the evening with their wives saw the commotion from their car and stopped to help. One of them towards the wrecked taxi; leaning through the shattered window trying to yank the door open before stopping himself.
The driver was killed in the wreck by a sheet of metal. Even in death the man reeked of alcohol. Shaking his head the officer made his way to the injured pedestrians.
"Driver's dead," he said crouching beside his friend who was attending to the girl.
"What about her?" he asked pulling Chloe's coat open to check for her heartbeat.
With the child as their first priority, the two officers had their backs to Brittany. She laid face down in the snow. Blood spread from her blonde hair with her arm twisted beneath her at an impossible angle.
A stranger bent down beside Brittany grabbing a hold of her earrings and necklace. Before he can grab Brittany's handbag a woman in the crowd noticed.
"Hey," the observer yelled. "What the hell are you doing?"
The stranger yanked the handbag harder causing all the contents to fall onto the snow. After watching a small green wallet fall out, the man snatched it and dashed through the streets disappearing into the dark park.
As one of the officers turned the child over, the other moved to the woman. After noticing blood pumping from her head he took his jacket off and pressed it towards the open wound. Police cars arrived along with an ambulance. Once the technicians turned Brittany over a chill shivered down their backs at the sight of blonde's shape from the accident.
The crowd stood back everyone talking at once
"Out of control..."
"Skidded on the ice…."
"Five people hit….."
"Mother tried to save the little girl…"
"Scumbag stole her wallet…"
"Someone stole her wallet?" the ambulance driver asked "Does anyone know their names? Who they are?" he asked
Unidentified victims were paperwork nightmares. Being unable to contact the proper family, imagining someone at home waiting for their love ones to come home with no way of getting in touch with them.
"Goddamn," one of the police officers said as the EMT loaded Brittany and Chloe into the ambulance.
The ambulance took off to the nearest hospital hoping to get their victims the care they needed before it was too late.