A Cradle of Wolves

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Chapter Eighteen: He’s Dead.

All of Old Willow’s society started talking soon after Marie Edmund’s unexpected death with rumors of all sorts coming to light, but the most popular rumor was one that wasn’t far off from the truth: her kin took part in her death. However, such a rumor was far-fetched to many since no one saw any sign of either Julian or Constance at the scene of the accident.

After the accident there were plans for a funeral, which never transpired. In matter of fact, Constance did the exact opposite of what Marie Edmunds had wished for when the moment of her burial would come. Instead of being buried in the family mausoleum, Constance had ordered to have her mother be cremated. One day Marie Edmunds’ body was at the morgue and then the next she was reduced to a pile of ash in an urn—it was as if the woman never mattered to her children, which was definitely the case.

Then, the fateful day arrived when the will Marie Edmunds had left was to be read and taken into effect in court. The Edmunds and Cristina Clearwater, Theo, and Tobias presented themselves before a judge. Theo brought Helen along with him while Cristina brought her ex-husband-soon-to-be-husband-again; Benjamin even tagged along. The Edmunds sat on one side of the court-room while Cristina and her allies sat on the opposite side. At the back of the courtroom on the Edmunds’ side sat Booker, Jennifer, and Richard—still mourning the death of their grandmother. Next to Constance and Julian sat Ana and her mother, Lisa.

From his side Theo threw Constance and Julian occasional glares, which they returned with hypocritical smiles.

“They killed her, they had to!” muttered Theo scornfully.

Cristina hushed him kindly. “It’s obvious that they did but there’s no evidence to prove that,” she whispered back.

Theo noticed how confident Julian and Constance both seemed, which was an odd thing to see from them in their current predicament. Marie Edmunds had made Theo the sole inheritor which meant that Julian and Constance will have nothing going for them the second they leave the courthouse. Quickly he averted his eyes in aversion when he caught Ana’s stare as he glanced at the opposing side. He didn’t precisely hate the young woman, he just hated how capricious and confusing she was.

The judge sat in his seat the second he walked in. He put on his reading glasses and quickly glanced at the feuding families with an amused pout. He wanted to get this reading of the will done and over with as soon as possible. After opening the envelope, which held the will, the judge began to read: “I, Marie Edmunds, hereby declare…”

Theo leaned forward in anticipation at the forthcoming decision. He would be the savior of Mr. Clearwater’s dynasty, and presumably his dynasty as well if he was truly Mr. Clearwater’s and Cristina’s son.

On the other side of the court, Constance widened her eyes in excitement as the judge began to read the will.

“Hereby declare Constance Edmunds to be my sole inheritor. She shall inherit…” the judge listed all the properties that the Edmunds had for rent along with their many assets and stocks, “and also the whole of Clearwater Diamonds since the late Sir Clearwater has left me his legacy under my care.”

Constance let out a cheer when the judge had finished. She threw herself back on one of the seats with an audible, obnoxious sigh of relief. What Theo thought would be another strike towards her was actually a blow towards him. He let himself fall on the seat behind him, feeling somewhat—If not entirely—defeated. Helen patted his back coaxingly, calming him down from his inner turmoil.

“How? Clearwater Diamonds is MY company!” exclaimed Mr. Clearwater, utterly enraged.

Constance went up the judge’s postern to retrieve her mother’s will. “It was your company until you let everything go and couldn’t manage it any longer because you were too busy moping over the arrest of your murderous wife.” She smiled curtly at him before she resumed her casual conversation with the judge as if nothing tremendous was occurring.

Mr. Clearwater slammed one fist onto the table, and then stormed out of the court-room. Cristina shook her head and sighed.

When the judge left, Constance was free to do what she pleased with the will that her mother had granted. She turned to face Cristina, smiling wickedly at her rival. “You and my husband are living together, I see?”

Cristina shot her a glare. “So? What’s it to you?”

“He’s my husband, which makes you the mistress. Whereas I’m his wife and soon he will come back to me. Just watch.”

“He won’t be your husband for long seeing that he’s in the process of getting his marriage with you annulled,” retorted Cristina before she followed Mr. Clearwater’s path in leaving the room.

Theo and Helen rose from their seats at the same time. “I suggest you enjoy your brief time with all that fortune because I’m going to find a way how to take it from your hands and return it to its rightful owner. Mark my words!” said Theo with a tone of vehemence.

“That’s right. Walk away!” Constance rejoined. She held the will close to her chest and flared her nostrils, agitated. Theo had proved to be quite a force to be reckoned with, so him taking all of her fortune away would surely be the end of her. Constance vowed to never let that happen—not while she still breathed, anyway.

Theo and Helen were stopped by Tobias in the hall as they walked out of the courtroom. He carried with him a briefcase in one hand and a document in the other.

Theo turned to look at the man who was the genius of the operation. “Yes?”

“What if I tell you that we can recuperate the inheritance that was just lost to you in there?”

Theo furrowed his brow. “How can that be possible?”

Tobias handed Theo the document which he was holding. “Marie Edmunds had intended to make you the sole inheritor and she did exactly that. Constance and Julian paid a lot of money to the judge and whoever else to create a fraudulent will. I got a copy of the will which was just read in the courtroom,” he nodded towards the document of interest in Theo’s hand. “If we, or shall I say, I, prove that the will Constance and Julian made for themselves is fraudulent then we can all sing victory.”

As Theo pored over the copy of the supposed fraudulent will, Helen spoke. “How will you prove that the will is a fraud?”

Tobias smirked at her question. “I’m a lawyer, I went to school to deal with rare situations like these. Plus, I’ve never really tackled a fraudulent inheritance before so this will be interesting.”

“What should I do in the meantime? Just wait around?” asked Theo.

Tobias nodded. “Unfortunately. At most it’ll take at least a month to prove that this will is fraudulent.”

After anxiously pacing about, Mr. Clearwater walked to where Theo, Helen, and Tobias were standing. Mr. Clearwater excused himself before he took Theo away, pulling him outside of the courthouse where a limousine was waiting at the curb. “Theo, I want you to be my witness.”

Theo gazed at the man, dazed. “Your witness?”

Together they walked down the court steps and into the limo where the chauffeur was waiting. “To the cemetery please,” demanded Mr. Clearwater with urgency.

The cemetery? Theo sat in silence, wondering what was going through the desperate man’s mind.

The drive to the cemetery was a quiet one. Both Theo and Mr. Clearwater were still reeling from the reading of the will. Outside, stormy clouds were beginning to culminate around the sun, and in each second the clouds began to cover the blue sky more and more until everything turned dark and gloomy outside. All color was eclipsed by this impenetrable grayness. The light green grass that surrounded each gravestone had turned into a dark gray under the gloom, so the gray gravestones and the grass became one. The only way that anyone could distinguish the two of them apart was by noticing the slight rustle of the blades of grass that was caused by the wind. After all, graves never move just like those buried six under them where the grass, like life itself, keeps on moving eternally.

Theo saw from a distance four men with shovels by two gravestones that sat on a hill. These men were silhouetted by the dark shadow that blanketed the landscape. The limousine stopped and instantly the chauffeur got out and opened the door. Theo and Mr. Clearwater stepped out at once.

Theo shivered at how cold it had gotten and shoved his arms in his pockets with his shoulders pressed close. He kept his eyes on the four gravediggers at the top of the hill with the two gravestones. It was exactly there that Mr. Clearwater began walking to with Theo following his trail.

“Good, good you’re almost finished,” Mr. Clearwater began to say when they arrived at the top of the hill. He waved his hand for the grave-diggers to continue their well-done hasty work.

Theo almost gasped at seeing two graves almost unearthed, disturbing and dishonoring whomever they were home to. After he read the names on the gravestones, a sense of foreboding slowly overwhelmed him as he realized what he was facing. Theo was in front of the graves of Dante and Felix Clearwater. All this time he thought that he could have been Dante Clearwater…but what if there was actually a skeleton of a boy in the coffin? That would only make him come to the obvious conclusion that he wasn’t Dante. Such a revelation would feel like a weight off his shoulders but at the same he would feel somewhat disappointed. He didn’t know why being Dante sounded so appealing. Perhaps it was the thought of being in an honored family of millionaires that was universally appealing? Perhaps it was the thought that if him being Dante were true then there would be more reason in making the Edmunds suffer? His eyes shone with satisfaction at the image in his mind of seeing Constance and Julian crawling through the streets, dirtied and pleading for alms.

Mr. Clearwater gave another order when the two coffins were unearthed. “Open!”

“No!” shouted a voice that was drowned by the sound of the howling wind and the rustling leaves of the tree next to the graves.

The grave-diggers stopped.

Mr. Clearwater and Theo turned to see who was coming up the hill. Theo raised one eyebrow when he perceived that it was in fact Cristina. Her hair was blowing in the wind while her fresh tears had dried up on her cheeks. She gazed, horrified, at the exhumed coffins of her two sons.

“What has gotten into you? These are the graves of our children!” she exclaimed while more tears continued to flow down her cheeks. “He’s dead…”

Theo folded his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes, waiting to hear what she had to say. Who was dead? Was it Dante or Felix? Or both?

Cristina sighed and lamentably met Theo’s eyes. “Please I have to speak alone with Mr. Clearwater.”

Did she not trust Theo enough? Why was she sending him away? Certainly, they were in this together…still? Was she disappointed of everything that had transpired since the death of Marie Edmunds?

“Go!” she yelled at Theo violently. Mr. Clearwater caught her in his hands when she nearly fainted from the immense sorrow that clenched her very soul with a merciless grip.

Her gaze pierced him most painfully. Theo’s heart winced at the manner she spoke and looked at him. She no longer looked at him with high regard as she had always done. Instead she gazed at him disappointingly and disillusioned. She was only taking out her anger against her enemies and life itself on Theo, surely.

Theo walked away just as she had wished, incensed at the manner and eyes she regarded him with. He was somewhat ready to give up on her there and then but decided that he couldn’t do that. He didn’t know why but he couldn’t see himself leaving Cristina. He felt inclined in helping her and he would do so until their mission was over. With Cristina, he had felt the first warmth of motherly love. She had saved him in the most wounding moment of his life, giving him new life—he was reborn through her. In a way, she was like his mother. Only it wasn’t so. Or perhaps it was. Theo didn’t know which of her sons was dead. Could it have been Dante that was in one of those coffins? Was it Felix? Or were they both in their coffins?

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