Chapter Fourteen: Escalation.
Theo opened the wrought iron gates to his house. As he entered, he spotted on the left Helen and Benjamin seated on a stone bench in the middle of the jungle of foliage that was the front garden. The two of them rose from their place, gazing at Theo with curious eyes. They wondered what happened because judging by Theo’s expression he certainly had seen or heard something he wasn’t expecting.
“Ms. Rita is dead,” Theo said with a sigh that held no significance. If the deceased had been a woman who was righteous and kind, then he would have been devastated. She was a malicious woman. What was there to be sad about?
Helen gasped and held a hand over her agape mouth, utterly surprised. “What happened?”
“Before she was about to tell me who my parents are, she went and got ice in the hallway. It was there when someone pushed her out of a window,” Theo began to explain, “And surprise, surprise Cristina was at the tenement as well.”
Benjamin sat himself back on the stone bench as he realized a significant detail. If there was no one there but Cristina, then she could have easily been the one who had killed in cold blood. “Do you think Cristina has any involvement in this lady’s death?”
Theo creased his forehead. A thought that was nonexistent on his way home finally came into light thanks to Benjamin bringing it up. He shook his head. “No, I don’t think Cristina could have pushed Ms. Rita,” he paused and quickly pondered with his chin in his hands, “Whoever pushed Ms. Rita was hiding in one of the empty rooms in that hallway. I’m sure of it.”
“I’m glad that you didn’t bother in looking for the killer because you could have died too,” continued Benjamin with a sigh of relief.
“May she rest in peace, but I can’t say that I feel sorry for her.” Helen sat back down and pulled out a joint and a lighter. She lit the joint and blew an aromatic cloud of smoke in front of her before she passed the joint to Benjamin.
“The only people who really could have done such a thing are Julian and Constance. Ms. Rita knew all their secrets. Her death benefits them! I would have preferred the old hag to be alive but oh well. The question now is how did the siblings know I was going to be there.” Theo accepted the joint from Benjamin before he sat between the handsome blond young man and the beautiful fairy-like girl.
“Maybe they didn’t know. You being there was probably something they didn’t expect so they waited for the right time to eliminate Ms. Rita,” concluded Helen with certainty that her assumption was correct.
Theo nodded as he blew smoke from his nose. “There’s more too. Before Ms. Rita died, she confessed to me that she was the Edmunds siblings’ nanny.”
“What!” exclaimed Helen and Benjamin in surprise. They were ready for all the details that were going to come with Theo’s recollection of his meeting with Ms. Rita.
Theo began telling them everything: how Ms. Rita had an affair with Mr. Edmunds, their bastard son, and her eventual firing and banishment from the Edmunds estate. As Theo told them everything he thought about Cristina and wondered how she handled the situation at the tenement. Did she call an ambulance? Or did she leave?
In reality, Cristina didn’t bother in calling for an ambulance, but she did leave the premises as quickly as she had gotten there. From the tenement, she ventured all the way to the Clearwater estate, ready to confront the culprits of Ms. Rita’s death. She knew going to the Clearwater estate was rash, but she was acting on anger. Like Theo, Cristina had let her emotions get to her—a grave mistake, indeed. She knocked at the door incessantly until the butler came to it.
Orlando scowled at Cristina when he opened the door. He wrinkled his nose despicably at her. “You are not allowed to come to this estate.” He was about to shut the door in her face, but Cristina caught it with a firm grasp.
“A simple plebian telling me what to do? Ha! Maybe in another lifetime.” She pushed the door open and stepped into the estate. From the entrance she saw Constance sitting out in the backyard by the pool with a cocktail in hand.
Cristina hastily made her way across the foyer with Orlando at her heels, imploring her to turn back and leave the estate. She pushed the two French doors that led to the backyard with intense ferocity. If she would have added anymore force to her handling of the doors, they would have come off their hinges.
The commotion caused Constance to turn in her seat to face the angry and relentless intruder. She took off her glasses and adjusted her sunhat. “What is the meaning of this, Orlando?”
Orlando bowed his head, apologizing quickly. “She forced herself into the estate. I couldn’t stop her,” he further clarified.
“If it wasn’t for all those years of experience you have with my family, I would have fired you a long time ago. Now be gone—I’ll deal with this savage.” Constance flashed her arch-nemesis a teasingly wicked smile.
Cristina nodded and chuckled sarcastically. “Ha! I’m the savage? Haven’t you seen yourself lately?” She looked about at the yard and the pool. “I see you’ve been enjoying the pool,” she shook her and sighed factitiously, “But, honey, you belong in a pool of mud like the pig you are.”
Constance glared at Cristina as she held her cocktail. “I’m sorry but I haven’t gotten the point of your visit.”
“You killed one of my leads that I had that would help me find my children!”
“You’re starting to sound like a broken record. I told you what happened to your children. Or what? Do you need to become institutionalized in a mental hospital for denying your reality? You killed your eldest and as for your second child…” Constance paused to ponder in a state of fake concern, “I forgot what became of your second child.”
“I’m tired of your games for god’s sake! You sent Julian to kill Ms. Rita so she wouldn’t talk!”
Constance took a sip of her drink. “As any American I have the right to remain silent.”
Cristina’s ears became muffled by the loud rushing of blood that resulted from her heart quickly beating within her. Her view became hazy red with fury. Constance was just mocking her—she would never say anything regarding the truth. The cruel woman took pleasure in seeing Cristina suffer. Cristina didn’t know how to take it anymore. In that split-second Cristina snapped. She forgot about the etiquettes and manners she was brought up with. Constance’s savagery brought out Cristina’s own form of brutishness.
Constance was stricken by a thunderous slap that came from Cristina’s own hand. The afflicted woman stumbled back and dropped her cocktail, the glass shattering when it hit the concrete. Even her sunhat was knocked from her head by the blow.
“You bitch!” exclaimed Constance as she swung back at Cristina.
Cristina caught Constance’s hand and pushed her into the pool. The woman screamed aloud but as she fell, she grasped the hem of Cristina’s Versace dress—pulling her into the pool too. The two women landed with a splash.
Once in the pool, Cristina delivered another slap to Constance’s face. Constance blocked the second slap, grasping Cristina’s arm and pushing her into the water. Once Cristina was under the surface, Constance grabbed a hold of her head and pushed it down.
As Cristina’s arms flailed, splashing water all over, her fingers managed to lock around Constance’s hair. Cristina gave Constance’s hair a hard yank, which allowed herself to escape from the murderous hold that was drowning her. She came up from the water, her hands closed into two tight fists, one of which she ran across Constance’s face.
“What is this!” bellowed Mr. Clearwater, who came out, standing over the two violently feuding women.
Cristina tore herself away from Constance’s grasp, looking up at her ex-husband with a beseeching gaze. “It’s all her fault! Everything bad that has ever happened is all her fault!”
“Why don’t you try explaining to him about my missing diary,” Constance shot back. “You thought I was never going to notice what you sent your little helper to come after for. Guess what? I’m smarter than you think!”
Mr. Clearwater helped Cristina out of the pool. “Enough, ok. Enough! The two of you are bickering like wild animals!” He took Cristina’s arm and fixed his eyes on her. “I need to have a word with you.” With that said, Cristina and Mr. Clearwater went back into the house. Meanwhile, Constance had to help herself out of the pool all alone.
Mr. Clearwater took Cristina to his study, closing the door behind them when they arrived. He shook his head at her, sighing in disappointment as he served himself a cup of cognac. “I cannot believe you have stooped that low. Now you’re starting to act like a woman with no manners whatsoever.”
“Don’t you dare tell me how a woman with manners should act!” Constance exclaimed, “The bitch of your wife brought out the worst in me and for that I’m sorry you had to see me in that condition.”
“Why do you insist on coming to this estate? You know Constance is here and…”
Cristina held an open palm in front of her, interrupting her ex-husband. “Constance is hiding many things from you and one day soon you will see her for who she really is. Plus, you only married her out of convenience so why protect her from the woman you really love?”
“I was going through a difficult time. With you imprisoned in that labor home for killing Dante and…Felix being dead…I didn’t know what to do with my life. Everything fell apart and Marie Edmunds came to my aid. My marriage with Constance is only for economical purposes. The Clearwater legacy needed to be saved and that was the only way,” he explained, “But after a while one starts to fall for whomever they are married to whether that marriage was out of convenience or not.”
Cristina clutched her chest and almost fell back from grief. She never knew that Felix was supposedly dead. No news of such a death ever came to her. Hearing the deplorable news so suddenly was almost too much to bear. “How do you know Dante and Felix are dead? Did Constance and Julian tell you?”
“The Mother Superior from the orphanage in Old Willow came to me with the news of Felix being dead. He stopped breathing overnight.”
“Was there for a funeral for Dante and Felix?” asked Cristina with sorrow choked up in her throat.
Mr. Clearwater nodded. “Yes.”
“Were the caskets closed or open?”
“They were closed.”
Cristina shook her head. She smiled, utterly and instantly elated with hope. “If the caskets were closed then Dante and Felix might still be alive!”
“I don’t think the court and the Mother Superior could have lied to us about the fate of our children. You were put away for ten years for the death of Dante. Plus, the Mother Superior could have never lied about such a grave thing like the death of a baby.”
“But there was no evidence in my trial. None whatsoever! Don’t you think that’s a bit odd? Oh, and for your information the orphanage received a donation of one hundred million dollars in the same month that I was imprisoned by an unknown donor. That donor could have been Constance! The Mother Superior sold herself to the devil incarnate! Of course, she’ll say anything that would benefit Constance!”
Mr. Clearwater sat himself on his leather chair behind the desk. He rested his head on his palm, deeply considering what Cristina had said; she did bring up some really good points. He never went to any of her trials because he resented her for destroying the family they had. However, one of his friends, who worked at the court at the time, would come to him and tell him bits and pieces about the trial. One of those pieces of information was that both the prosecutor and the defense attorney were very surreptitious about the proceedings and there was no evidence at all in the case.
Nonetheless, he still had a hard time in believing that the Mother Superior was lying about the fate of Felix. “If you bring me confirmation of what you just said, then I’ll believe you.”
“What are you going to do with Constance once you find out that she has been deceiving you all these years?” It was a question that Cristina hoped she would hear the right answer for. Cristina wanted to hear how her ex-husband would throw his treacherous wife and brother-in-law in jail and remarry her in the end.
“I don’t know what I’ll do,” was his reply.
Cristina simply nodded, keeping her disappointment to herself. “I’ll bring you all the evidence you’ll need to convince yourself that Constance and Julian have done nothing but make my life miserable.” She was about to leave the study when she suddenly turned to gaze at her ex one more time. “By any chance, are you going to Theo and Jennifer’s engagement party?”
“Jennifer is my step-daughter so of course I’ll be there.”
“Well, have fun.” She smiled, finally leaving the study and the estate behind her. Everything now fell on Theo’s shoulders. If his plan to expose Julian and Constance resulted in a success, then that would only mean Cristina and Theo would have the upper-hand in their battle against the murderous siblings.
Cristina hoped for the best.