Custodian Chronicles: Lone Red

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“How can we be sure you are who you say you are?” Kaleb stepped a little closer towards our new companion, speaking up for the first time.

“I presume it’s rare for someone to identify the only surviving heiress of the Knightley Order. She was nine the last time I saw her.” He challenged.

“You have a point. But almost all Custodian know who she is…”

“Not what she looks like now.” He interjected.

“How do you know what I look like? If I’ve met you before, I could have sworn I would remember your face.” I finally spoke up, stepping around Tony.

“This might come as a surprise to you, but I’m no ordinary Custodian, my lady. I’m one of Eliza Morgan’s advisors.”

“It is a surprise. I didn’t know you would easily betray your Lady to be a Lycan informant.”

“Who said I’m a Lycan’s informant?” He arched his eyebrow in challenge. “If Lowell had misused the term of our relationship, I want to reassure you. I’m only doing business with the Lycan with the sole intent of returning some information back to my people.” He stated defiantly.

There was a brief silence before Tony spoke. “It would seem this man isn’t drowning us with lies, Roe.”

I watched Kent’s unwavering expression unhinged. “I think so too,” I muttered in agreement.

On cue, we all turned as Cole and his group joined us. Seeing the new addition to our group, he came to a standstill and another set of introductions and interrogation commenced. However, like us, he easily got everyone to believe he was who he said he was. After getting a short call from Henry from Kent’s phone, we all finally put our guard down.

“This would have been easier if you had just called Henry before wasting our time with your senseless life story,” Cole muttered in annoyance as he stayed relatively close to me at all times.

“But where’s the fun in that?” Kent smirked.

“Where indeed,” Tony muttered in agreement though his words sounded dry.

“How about we get right to business? This might be a long night for all of us,” Kaleb suggested.

“Agreed.” Kent nodded. “So what do you need of me, Lord Hunter and Lady Knightley?” He inquired, ignoring the other people and seriously regarded both of us.

“I’ll say this simply, Mr. Kent,” I started.

“Just Kent would be fine, my Lady.”

I nodded and gestured towards the door which we’ll be staying for a while. “Let’s talk inside for privacy.”

“Of course,” Kent smiled and mirrored my actions.

I turned to Cole, who had the key on his hands. He opened the door and allowed me to enter first before the rest followed in.

Once everyone had settled comfortably around the compact motel room, which consisted of two single beds that looked dusty and clammy to sleep on. Yet how Tony and Ash sat down on its edge, it might not be the case. Though it squeaked as they both put some weight on it.

I ignored the poor choice of a meeting place and continued where we left off.

“Well, Kent,” I paused to clear my throat, “since you’ve already informed us you were there the night of my parent’s death, I’m here to substantiate an information we’ve uncovered. I don’t want to put this in the wrong way, but we’ve received an information that someone from the Morgan family conspired the attack on my family that night.”

“That’s some serious accusation, my Lady.” He pointed out. His expression remained unchanged.

“I know.”

“But, you aren’t taking it back,” he observed. “May I ask where you got this information from?”

Not sure if I should be the one doing all the talking, I looked at Cole and Kaleb beside me. It was Cole who answered. “I’m sorry for not introducing myself directly, I’m Cole Blackwell, son of Charles Blackwell of the Blackwell Clan in Montana. It was our Clan who received this information.”

Hearing Cole’s introduction and response finally cracked Kent’s unwavering look. “Blackwell? How in god’s name you’ve tangled yourself with a Clan as prominent and powerful as them, my lady?”

“Excuse me?” I looked at him a bit confused at his baffled expression.

“What? You don’t know. Didn’t he tell you who they are?” Kent asked while assessing the expression of all the Custodian in the room. “Well, it would seem they didn’t.” He concluded to himself. “But except you, Lord Hunter.”

“Kaleb? What’s happening?” I asked, unsure where the conversation was going.

Kaleb huffed in frustration and gave Kent a brief menacing look before addressing us. “The Blackwell’s are one of the five families in the world who are direct descendants of the Lycos Clan. They’re pureblood Lycans.”

“What? You knew about this yet you didn’t even tell us!” I glared at him. “And you, Cole! Why didn’t you even tell me?”

“I thought you already knew…” Cole abruptly replied but trailed off when he met my glare.

“This isn’t common information given to our people. Only high ranking Custodians knew about it.” Kaleb justified himself.

“And why haven’t I been told about any of this?” I inquired a bit too harshly. I knew Kaleb wasn’t at fault. But it made me angry nonetheless.

“You haven’t turned eighteen and ascended yet. You’d know everything by then.” Kaleb reassured dryly.

“Are there more I should know about?”

“A lot.”

“Okay. I think I’m digging out secrets here that shouldn’t be shared too freely. How about let’s get to the point? What do you need from me, Lady Knightley?” Kent interjected, pulling everyone back to the topic at hand.

I huffed in frustration and pushed back the emotions for later. I should focus on our task at hand. “We need your help finding out who the mole is from the Morgan family.”

“I see. Well, I’m glad to help. I’m not fond of traitors, especially someone who’s within our ranks.” Kent declared and smiled grimly at the thought.

By the time we’ve returned to Lowell’s condo, it was already past dawn. It took a bit of time to settle things on how we were going to infiltrate and gather the right evidence. We all knew it would be a stretch to catch the culprit. Besides, the person was able to hide it for the past nine years. Our enemy wasn’t a careless idiot.

The long night took a toll on us the next morning. We all had matching dark shadows under our eyes. However, it didn’t matter if we all looked like walking zombies. Unexpectedly, like last night, there weren’t that many people in the condo. This tidbit of information, which had been pushed at the back of my mind due to other important matter, was finally brought to my attention.

“Henry is currently busy right now. That’s all I’ve been informed.” Cole replied after I brought up the question once we had gathered in my room for a morning briefing about the plans for tonight.

“Really? You’re going with that excuse?” I sounded a bit harsh than I expected. I still couldn’t stomach that fact Cole was also hiding his family background from me as well. I know I’m being a hypocrite since I didn’t tell him soon enough I was a Knightley. Yet it still hurt he kept it from me.

“I can only tell you what I know, Roe. And I really got nothing.”

“You could at least coerce it out of him,” I muttered dryly. “Even though you trust this guy and he’s your family, based from what I’ve learned and seen this past week, your family tree is…” I trailed off dramatically, not sure if he’ll like to hear it spelled out to him.

“I’m not insulted by your point since it’s true. But Henry isn’t related by my father’s side, but my mother’s. And you already know who my mother is,” he pointed out confidently.

“Point taken.” I nodded and let it go. “So how are we going to do this?” I inquired, turning towards the sleepyheads lounging around my room.

Tony took it upon himself and laid down on my bed while Kaleb kicked his leg, telling him to get up. Axel found a spot by my bedside table with Dan. Ash was, however, lingered closely by the door, while Cole and I stood in the middle of the room, taking control of the entire of conversation.

“By Kent’s words, there should only be two people who could disguise themselves and sneak in the compound,” I stated the agenda. “I’ve already voted myself as one of the two,” I added firmly, staring at Kaleb.

“And my opinion still stays the same,” Kaleb abruptly interjected without bothering to look my way.

“My lady, it’s too risky. What if Eliza Morgan recognizes you…” Axel pressed, jumping in.

“As per Kent’s words, she’s rarely in the mansion and never personally greet lower ranking staff. It’s Kent’s job, which makes this easy.” I explained, taking Kent’s word last night in context to my argument.

“As much as you see it’s okay, Roe, there’s still a possibility of someone identifying you,” Tony said. He finally sat up and joined in as well.

“Which is why I must be there. If this bastard is still there, seeing me in such a place might surprise him, making him do something impulsive.” I argued again.

“Or maybe he won’t? This person hid for nine years, undetected. Do you think he’ll just suddenly make a mistake?” Tony challenged.

“It’s a possibility.”

“Yeah, a possibility we could choose to ignore based on the weight of its importance, which by the way, everyone here agrees is bull.” Tony snorted and laid back down, showing signs of exhaustion.

“If it’s just gathering information, Axel and I would be a better choice,” Kaleb spoke again, this time he didn’t look away from my gaze.

“No. You’re definitely not part of that choice, Kaleb. Eliza knows your face, and a few people as well. Your family is a prominent figure in our society. Do you really think no one would know you’re Viktor Hunter’s son?” Tony quickly shut down Kaleb’s choice.

“And who do you propose should go?” Kaleb annoyingly asked.

“Who do you think?” Tony pronounced with displeasure.

“Axel and you?”

“I already wrote a goodbye love note to my family and friends,” Tony quipped.

“Okay, fine. But you both are going in wired. I want to have eyes and ears during this operation. We’re taking all precautions.” I huffed in defeat but quickly regained my composure.

“Of course, that’s a given.” Axel agreed.

“At least my last days would be recorded,” Tony jested.

Before the meeting that night, the Lycans had another matter to attend. As I was about to ask the details of their sudden and mysterious gathering, Cole cut me off and reassured me.

“It’s only formalities for our people. I’m only meeting their high ranking officials in the Clan. Plus, Dan would be with me at all times.”

“What about Ash? It’s rare you’re not taking him with you,” I inquired, peering at him lounging carefree on the chair across my bedroom.

“He’s here to look after you…” Cole muttered softly, but I was close enough to hear what he said.

“I don’t need another extra hand. The boys already…” I argued but trailed off when Cole grabbed my hand and placed it on top of his chest.

“It’s not to reassure me, but it’s for my well-being.” He admitted.

I felt my face heat up at his sudden show of affection. However, I didn’t tug my hand away from his grip, which would likely happen before.

“I’ll be fine, Cole. No need to worry. You once said you’ll be able to feel if something was wrong with me, right?”

“Feeling and seeing are two different things,” he muttered again. “Besides, Ash doesn’t really like idle meetings such as these. Dan is always the one to accompany me.”

“Okay. Whatever makes you feel better.” I stated.

“Thank you.” He slowly pushed away my hand yet there wasn’t any sign of him letting go. “I’ll be back later in the evening. I’ll make sure I’m there with you tonight.”

I nodded and lightly squeezed his hand. He squeezed back and smiled. Before letting go, he held up my hand and planted a light kiss on my fingers. Again, in a span of seconds, he made me feel flushed. Embarrassed at the scene with bystanders in the room with me, I shyly pushed him out of the door with a breathless goodbye.

Once he was gone, I heard a muffled chuckle in the direction of Ash and Tony, who shifted to a different spot in my room by the coffee table. The two somehow brought a playing card with them.

“You look pretty red there, Roe. Do you need some fresh air?” Tony teased.

“I can’t believe that guy had suddenly become a lady-killer, making those smooth moves with a girl…” Ash added, perking my interest.

“What? I thought he was the playboy-type,” I blurted out, remembering the first time I saw him. I could still hear the high-pitch squeals of women fawning over him.

“It only seems that way. He’s a chick magnet. But that boy doesn’t even know how to speak to a girl properly,” Ash informed, chuckling to himself.

“How so?”

“That guy could only concentrate on one thing at a time. Before it was his obligation to the Clan, now he has you… well, you’ve seen it yourself.”

“Thank you for the tidbit of information, Ash.” I beamed.

“And don’t believe that bullshit he told you about me not liking going to those meetings. He only wants me here because my mind is an easy pick than Dan’s,” Ash stated.

“What do you mean?” My eyebrow furrowed trying to figure out what he meant.

“It means he could easily get into my head and see what I see. Dan’s mental fortitude is pretty solid unless he’s in wolf form.”

“Then that means…”

“He’s eavesdropping on us right now. I might not get back alive after this,” Ash declared dryly but he didn’t look threatened by this fact. It goes to show how close Cole and he were.

There wasn’t much to do but wait. By the time we needed to go, I suddenly felt fidgety while glancing at my watch as we waited for Cole and Dan to get back. Kaleb looked a bit annoyed we were being held back by the minute because I didn’t want to leave them. Ash kept reassuring us that they were on their way since Cole had told him through the link. Once they’ve finally arrived, they couldn’t even catch their breath as Kaleb hastily ordered us to leave.

“How was the meeting?” I asked Cole as we all sneakily rushed to the elevator.

“It was good. Sorry, it took a while for us to get back. Henry and I had a brief talk. I told him about tonight. He’s making sure no one in his Clan who’s attending to us speak of our disappearance. They’ll vouch for our whereabouts if something were to happen,” He explained but I was sure his words were directed towards everyone who was also listening.

“Can we trust him on his word?” Kaleb asked.

I looked a bit surprised. His was asking him so casually. He hadn’t talked directly to Cole without shouting or glaring daggers.

It took a moment for Cole to respond. When I took a glimpse at him, he was caught off guard as well. He quickly composed himself and answered, “Yes. He’s my family. His word is my own.”

Kaleb nodded and didn’t press further on the matter, which was a shock. However, there was no time left to ponder on this new attitude Kaleb had towards Cole. As we exited the condominium, we quickly headed towards the bus stop like ordinary tourists heading off for a night out.

When we arrived at the new meeting place, Kent was already there looking a bit suspicious with his lightly tinted sunglass and baseball cap even though he was wearing a fancy suit and trench coat.

“What’s with the getup?” Tony inquired as we approached him, sitting by himself in the nearly deserted diner on the outskirts of downtown.

“I just got off from a meeting and didn’t find a better way to hide my face from familiar faces,” Kent smirked coyly. “But you two looked totally different.” He pointed out as he glanced between Axel and Tony.

“It’s the wig right? Or the clothes? Maybe the vintage glasses,” Tony asked while rearranging his disguise.

“Why are you wearing a wig?” Kent arched his eyebrow. “You know you’re going as yourself.”

“But we’re infiltrating, won’t it be fun to have a disguise?” Tony argued playfully.

“No. Take that ridiculous blonde wig off.” Kent adamantly stated.

“Told you it was ridiculous,” I informed matter-of-factly.

“You all are grouches.” Tony huffed in defeat but otherwise followed. As he took off his wig, Kent faced the rest of the group who settled down on the empty seats across from him.

“Do you all have any more questions before I drag this two with me?” Kent asked.

“I think we’re good?” I answered but my words sounded more like a question.

“We’re good. Please take care of these two.” Kaleb jumped in, taking control of the conversation from me.

“Of course, Lord Hunter.” Kent smiled.

I watched Kaleb’s eye twitch at how Kent formally addressed his title so openly. But he didn’t call him out.

“Good. Then we’ll be leaving. You all should as well. Let’s meet again tomorrow evening and pray we’ll get what we’re here for.” Kent stated as he stood up.

“Kent, are you sure you’ll be able to find the person under such short notice?” I inquired again even though I knew I had already agreed to take this risk.

“I assure you, Lady Knightley, it’ll work. Besides, if we won’t get at least a hint of who it is, we have you as our trap card.” He winked.

“And let’s hope it won’t come to that, shall we?” Kaleb interjected and he stared deadly at Kent.

“Of course, my Lord.” Kent lightly reassured Kaleb.

“Good. Then don’t mess it up,” Kaleb said a bit too harshly.

“I pray things to go as plan, Kent. And good luck.” I added, turning the awkward environment around. “Please take care of Axel and Tony for me. They’re not just my colleagues, there are my friends, my family. If something were to happen to them, that would mean a challenge towards me.” My words sounded threatening than I had thought.

“I got the message you two,” Kent’s grin disappeared. “Don’t worry. I’ll make it work. You can count on me. I, too, want justice for what happened to your parents, my Lady. Your father was one of the few men I look up too. I won’t let the person who aided your family’s demise continue hiding underneath my own territory.”

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