A Cradle of Wolves

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Chapter Eleven: That Night.

The torrential rain that plagued the entire week hit the windowpanes in the most violent of ways with each patter of rain on the windows echoing through the silent household. The thunder that boomed outside was so strong that at times it slightly shook the Clearwater estate as if a tremor had passed underneath.

Cristina Clearwater sat in the living room of her house, looking through the drenched window at the darkened street that was Providence Road. She had recently come down from a dangerous fever that almost proved to be fatal in her weakened post-partum state. To top it off, she had just given birth to her second son, Felix Clearwater. His birth had almost been a deadly one; she almost lost her life and that of the baby’s as well if it wasn’t for an emergency C-section. Despite the risks that came with bringing her baby into the world she loved him immensely. As she thought about Felix, she instantly wondered how Dante Clearwater, her first son, who had only turned three years old, was doing up in his room.

Dante detested heavy storms such as the one that was raging outside. The thunder scared him and so did the lightning. He thought that the thunder was a hellish sound that was accompanied with demons and other creatures that were set loose in the world to battle angels. Each time a storm was passing Cristina had to sooth his petrified thoughts and explain to him that thunder and lightning were a natural phenomenon.

The caring mother and good wife made her way up the stairs, visiting each of her two children in their respective rooms. She quietly opened Dante’s bedroom door and peeked into the darkened room. She saw that Dante was wrapped up in his blanket, sleeping soundly; his healthy cheeks glowed with color while his dark hair appeared blue in the moonlight. Cristina smiled at such a sight and closed the door as silently just as she had opened it. Then she did the same with Felix and saw that her baby boy was sleeping in his crib like an angel; unlike Dante who had dark features like his mother, Felix was blond with fair skin like his father. With the knowledge that her sons were safe and sleeping well, Cristina decided to walk down the hall and down the stairs. Instead of going to the living room she went to her music room.

The music room housed her grand piano. She couldn’t play it at that moment because if she did, she would wake her children. Instead of playing the piano she opened a notebook and began to compose a song. She was so blissful over the fact that her life was perfect. Her husband was on a business trip and here she was in her estate with her two loving children. She exhaled peacefully, lost in a musing until the sound of her ringing cellphone brought her out of her reverie.

“Hey Constance!” Cristina greeted warmly when she accepted the incoming call.

“Well aren’t you sounding happy? I assume you’re feeling all better now?” Constance spoke on the other line with the same amount of joy that her best-friend had emitted at answering the call. Under her façade she hid a vile scheme against her Cristina.

“Yes, I am better. Is everything alright with you? I certainly wasn’t expecting a call from you at the moment.” Cristina loved her best-friend to death and always supported her. Recently she became a widow and she needed her full support from Cristina. The kind woman was caring and naïve enough to give Constance that unconditional support.

Constance sniffled as she held back her tears. “I’m having one of those nights again.” She broke into a sob.

Cristina didn’t doubt her best friend’s predicaments. “Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that. If you want, you can come spend the night here in one of the guest rooms.”

“I don’t want to inconvenience you though.” Constance was baiting for Cristina to urge her to come over. She hoped Cristina would fall for it. On the other line, Constance crossed her fingers while she looked at her smiling reflection in her bedroom mirror.

“You can bring Booker and little Jenny with you if you want. Dante will be ecstatic to see that Jennifer is here. They can play videogames and whatnot together in the morning when they wake up,” invited Cristina.

“Julian took the kids out to see a movie. I thought he was crazy in doing so under this weather, but he assured me that they were going to be safe. Plus, Booker insisted that he wanted to see the movie with his uncle,” replied Constance, “But if you insist then I’ll be there in a little bit.”

“I do insist because it’s about the well-being of my best-friend. Oh, and do drive carefully. See you soon!” Cristina said her farewells to Constance before she put her phone down. She was about to continue her song-writing when she heard a terrible loud crash that came from upstairs. Startled and fearing for the safety of her babies, she hurried out of the music room and sped upstairs.

She found Dante’s bedroom door wide open. Her heart began to race within her chest as she entered the room. With each step closer, she began to shake from fear but ultimately restrained any weakening negative thoughts. His window was broken and his chair that was next to his desk was on the floor with an alarm clock lying next to it. She peered over his bed and what she saw made her skin crawl in a mixture of emotions that ranged between anger and sorrow. His bed was a mess as if there had been a brief scuffle; all that was left were a few stains of blood—her son’s blood.

“Felix,” she breathed out as she whirled towards the hallway. As she turned to the hallway, she thought she had seen a black shadow hurry out of her newborn’s room. Her worst fear was confirmed when she suddenly heard the baby’s wail down in the foyer.

Before she went downstairs to chase the intruder, Cristina went and hastily grabbed one of the pistols in her husband’s study. She was going to retrieve her children one way or another. Afterwards and without wasting another second, Cristina sped across the estate but became even quicker as best as she could when she realized that whoever had gotten in was about to escape. The door was about to shut close in front of her when she caught it in her hands and crossed the threshold. The rain instantly drenched her when she stepped outside. After an ultimate loud boom of thunder, the night was illuminated by a continuous final show of lightning. Because of the flashes of light, she got a good glimpse at the intruder in front of her.

Her intruder was a man clad in black who wore a black rag over his face with holes over his eyes and mouth so he could breathe and see. The man held Felix close to his chest as he gazed at the furious mother. He had neither a pistol or a knife on him and he stood, looking around—seemingly dazed and surprised by Cristina’s bravery. He knew she had him cornered; he was clearly defenseless.

“Let my son go!” she shouted in utter vehemence with the pistol aimed at the man’s head.

In return, the man said nothing at all. There was something about him that seemed familiar to Cristina, but she couldn’t quite put a finger on what that familiarity was. The way he stood with a slight hunch and the size of his broad shoulders made her think of Mr. Mondragon. The man slowly stepped back with the wailing baby in his arms.

“Move one more step and I swear to…” she threatened before she was interrupted by a loud bang that did not come from the sky. The rain stopped pouring and as the last raindrop fell, the man fell in sync with it. A copious amount of blood pooled around his head where he received a shot from behind.

Cristina didn’t hesitate in picking her baby up from the damp cobbled ground. He was not only wet from the rain but with the blood of his would-be kidnapper as well. She held the baby tightly and close to her chest. She had retrieved one of her sons, but Dante could have been in a similar situation. It was there when the thought came to her. If the man who lay bleeding on the ground in front of her took Felix, then who attacked Dante? And who shot the man? Who could possibly be out in the middle of the night with a pistol in hand other than a protective mother who was rescuing her children?

She hadn’t even stepped forward into her warm mansion when suddenly an eruption of sirens and the whipping of a helicopter’s blades deafened her hearing. About five police cars pulled up on the driveway. The cops got out of their cars and surrounded Cristina with their pistols and rifles aimed at her while the spotlight of the patrol helicopter was set right on her. She covered her eyes with one arm from the brightness of the spotlight as she held her baby with her free arm. Felix cried and cried nonstop as she held him. Everything that was occurring felt like a nightmare without end. Had she fallen into a deep sleep waiting for Constance? As the seconds passed Cristina came to realize that she wasn’t in a nightmare—this was her life.

An inspector approached the dazed woman. He was unarmed and did not gaze at her spitefully like the cops did. “Mrs. Clearwater I’m going to ask you to hand me your son for now as we investigate the matter. We also ask you to cooperate with us in this moment.”

Cristina shook her head and furrowed her brow. “Why? I haven’t done anything wrong! That man came into my home and tried to harm my family! Please you must believe me! My other son, Dante, is gone as well!” She began to weep uncontrollably because she sensed that somehow things weren’t going to end well for her and her children. All of it was happening far too quickly. Her sorrow had opened her mind and it was there that as she wept, she deduced that she was set up. However, she couldn’t think who could have done such a thing to her.

Three cops entered the house while the inspector that spoke with Cristina gazed at the deceased man on the ground. “Hmm it seems like the bullet exited the wound and by the looks of it the shot came from behind him,” he noticed the pistol that Cristina had dropped when she became spooked by all the sirens, “Or in front of him. If it came from behind him then you must have an accomplice. But my main question is: if this man is truly innocent then why is he dressed like he’s some sort of criminal?”

“No!” exclaimed Cristina as she shook her head, “I swear to God that I’m not involved in anything! That man came and tried to rob my child. Yes, I confronted him and yes, I aimed my gun at him, but I did not pull the trigger. Examine my pistol and you’ll see that what I’m telling you is nothing but the truth!”

The inspector gave her a wary look. He put on some plastic gloves before he picked up the discarded pistol on the stone steps. After unloading it, he was surprised to see that the clip was full. Nonetheless, he still didn’t believe her. The cops that rushed inside finally came out with the bloodied bed cover that belonged to Dante.

“We were called here because your neighbor heard someone screaming bloody murder inside your home. She said it sounded like a child, a child whose blood could be on this blanket. Your neighbor also informed us that she worried for your children’s safety ever since you made a comment regarding the fact that you wished you never had kids and regretted having your eldest child. The blood on this cover indicates that something terrible must have happened to him,” the inspector spoke brusquely as he glared at Cristina, “Such comments can incriminate you and in situations like these those comments can make you a suspect.”

Cristina wept even more. She didn’t mean what she said literally. Her comment that she made during tea with her friends was only a result of a whim, and plus she was slightly delirious from the pain medication that day. “What about the man that tried to rob my child? Who called concerning the shouts from my son?” No one could have heard anything since the next estate was a mile down the road, and that estate belonged to the Mondragons who were on vacation—from what Constance told her the other day.

“The appearance and death from this man calls for further investigation but for right now you are the prime suspect in the disappearance of your eldest child. I’m afraid you are under arrest.” The inspector pulled out a pair of handcuffs from behind him, stepping forth towards Cristina. He gestured to one of the cops to come and take the baby from Cristina’s arms.

Cristina didn’t bother in arguing with the inspector. Her lawyer would sort it all out and soon she would be reunited with her baby and Dante would surely be found. Cristina lowered her head and let herself get handcuffed and taken away by the inspector. She had hope that all would be well soon.

In the distance, Constance saw all the commotion. She was in a car with all the lights off, but she wasn’t alone. Lisa Mondragon sat in the passenger seat while Julian sat in the back with an icepack over his head. Lisa wept not because she felt sorry for Cristina but because her husband had died.

“Can you shut the fuck up,” Constance spat scornfully at the grief-stricken widow.

Lisa tried ceasing her lamentations but couldn’t. “Why did you kill my husband? That was not part of the plan!”

Constance shrugged half-heartedly. The death of Mr. Mondragon meant nothing to her. “I thought it would help in further incriminating Cristina. By the looks of it that part of the plan didn’t help at all. You’re going to have to pay Cristina’s lawyer to not fight for her case and you’ll have to pay the inspector to keep his mouth shut.”

Lisa gazed at Constance with wide incredulous eyes. She couldn’t recognize the woman that sat next to her. Constance had become a savage, bloodthirsty fiend and there was no turning back from tonight’s actions. “With what money? Now with my husband dead there will be no income flowing into my home!”

Constance rolled her eyes. She wanted to reunite Lisa with her husband in the afterlife as soon as possible but couldn’t because Lisa was vital to her grand scheme. “You have money, don’t you? Well, use that. Plus, your daughter can marry my son so your family’s financial troubles can be mended in the near future.”

“You want me to cover up the death of my husband?”

“For fucks sake, yes!” shouted Julian from the back seat. “Now can we move onto something important like how my head hasn’t stopped bleeding!”

Constance cracked an amused laugh at Julian who was in utter distress. “I cannot believe that a three-year-old managed to hit you so hard with an alarm clock to the point that he almost cracked your skull open.”

Julian pressed the icepack on his forehead. “Ha. Very funny.”

“Whatever happened to you happened for a reason. Now your blood is on the boy’s sheets and they think he’s dead. This will help since the inspector thinks that Cristina killed Dante. Well he’s speculating at the moment, I’m sure. After the trial is over Cristina will be nothing more but a mother who killed her child due to her postpartum depression,” Constance calculated with great precision, almost like a chest master eager in getting a check-mate.

“They’re going to run a DNA test on that blood. I hope you know that,” Julian interjected, annoyed at how things were going to turn out. He doubted his sister more and more as the minutes went by.

“I don’t know if you just heard me a minute ago, but I clearly said that Lisa is going to cover everything up with her millions. DNA tests and such can easily be paid off,” she brushed the back of her hand on Lisa’s cheek, which was wet with fresh tears, “Right, darling?”

Lisa nodded obediently.

“Where are we going to dump that brat in the trunk?” Julian took the icepack away from his forehead when he noticed that the blood had finally ceasing pouring.

“The same place where we dropped that daughter you and my friend over here,” she gestured to Lisa, “spawned three years ago.”

“Ms. Rita,” Julian said with a slight laugh. He knew the old women very well and how miserable she had become. She would certainly take Dante in for a meager check.

Theo shut the diary and leaned back on the seat. The pool in front of him was calm, for fifteen minutes had passed since Benjamin came out from swimming. Everything became clear to him with the information he had from Cristina and now with Constance’s journal entry from that night. He felt like a fool for ever doubting Cristina. Her misery was genuine. All Theo wanted to do now was apologize to her for not truly believing in her. How could I have been so ungrateful…so foolish and stubborn when all this time the Countess has been telling me the truth, he thought with a heavy heart.

Just as some of his questions were answered by reading the entry, another question popped up; actually, two questions came up. What is Ms. Rita’s connection with the Edmunds siblings and who’s Julian and Lisa’s daughter?

He rose from the seat and stepped into the bare greenhouse that connected the pool room and the house. He contemplated as he held the diary in his hands. A strange feeling overcame him as he realized something vastly important. His heart had gotten so heavy with emotion that his strong legs couldn’t stand him up any longer. His breath was lost in this sudden consciousness. Not once did he consider the fact that maybe he was latching onto a sense of false hope. He supported himself on the threshold of the door as he became extremely pensive, mulling over the facts.

Theo was going to turn nineteen later in the year. He didn’t have a single memory from his parents; he only realized where he was and who was raising him when he turned four years old. This meant that Julian’s daughter was already there by the time Theo, or in this case since he’s remembering his past, Hunter, had arrived at the tenement. But Hunter wasn’t his real name and it definitely wasn’t Theo either. He always dreamt of a large mansion with the aroma of roses filling the air and loving parents showing nothing but warm affection towards him. That dream always felt like a lingering memory—the reminder of what was taken from him. The only mansion in his life that came close to that was the Clearwater estate. After all it was the only mansion he’d ever been in…

Benjamin saw Theo standing under the threshold in pensive recollection. “Theo, are you okay?” He glanced at the diary. What did he read? Benjamin wondered with worry. He had never seen Theo so preoccupied with his thoughts before—at least not like this. The young man before him stood so still, it almost seemed like he had gazed into Medusas’ deadly eyes and turned into a statue.

Theo shook his head and gazed at Benjamin with an austere firmness in his countenance. “I think I might be Cristina’s son.”

“So, all you have to do is tell her about what you read in the diary and what you concluded.” Benjamin was glad for Theo, but he couldn’t believe it either. “And then your plot against the Edmunds will be finished.”

“No,” Theo replied curtly, “This is only the prologue; not even the beginning. If I am Cristina’s son, then Constance and Julian will pay even further for what they did. They’re going to wish I was never born.”

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