Custodian Chronicles: Lone Red

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“Axel. Tony, can you hear me?” I asked over the mic receiver while Kaleb tried to figure out the monitor.

“Yes, we can hear you.” Tony was the first to reply before Axel chimed in. “Yes, my lady.”

“Have you already figured out how to get the camera running?” Tony inquired bleakly.

“Not yet…” I informed as I watched Kaleb with worry. “Are you sure you know how this works?” I asked him redoing the same interface twice.

“Yes. I’m just fine. Tony left me a memo on how to do it.” Kaleb muttered in annoyance as he continued typing.

“Roe, I think you should take over. I’m sure Kaleb doesn’t know what he’s doing right about now,” Tony stated at the same time Kaleb grumbled in frustration.

“Kaleb, let me take over.” I huffed in defeat and tapped his shoulder. “Come on. Just let it go. Let me do it.”

It took a moment for Kaleb to look up. Once he saw my expression, I watched his shoulder slumped in defeat before he stood up and gestured towards his seat. “Here you go.” He said dryly.

After taking over, I studied the memo that Kaleb placed beside the laptop before calling over to Tony for confirmation. Before long, we finally got a visual of their current location. They had just gotten out of an Uber service and arrived at a Villa where we caught a glimpse of the name of the small estate by the gated entrance. Casa Morgan. It sounded too cheesy for the main house of the head of the Curatrix. As they entered the main gate, the three were escorted towards a small cottage beside the main house. Not a word could be heard in our end while we watched. We were silently praying they won’t get caught.

“Just standard procedure, we’re meeting the head of security to let you guys check-in,” Kent informed. His voice was clearly heard over Tony’s mic.

“Got it,” the two replied in unison. “Would there be another check-up as well?” Tony added.

“No. Just this one. It’s just for formalities.” Kent expounded.

The three were greeted by a middle-aged man upon entering the cottage. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, they were given a visitor’s badge for the duration of their stay. Finally, they all headed towards the main house by the back door. They’ve entered what looked like a small storage room. Kent, Axel, and Tony exchanged a brief word. On our end, we continued to mutter our prayers.

The main house looked nothing alike on the outside. The hallway was stylishly carpeted and the walls were cleanly painted in beige. The wooden furniture and stairs leading to the second and third floor gave the interior design a vintage edge. However, the grand chandelier hanging by the main entrée way canceled out the vibe. Kent led them up towards the second floor and towards the end of the hallway. Once they were there, there was a brief pause as they knocked on the door. From the low frequency of the mic, we couldn’t hear someone telling them to enter. Across the threshold, they were greeted by a new face. The man sitting behind the expensive looking desk and leather chair looked to be in his late forties. He looked overdressed in his three-piece navy suit.

“Kent, how can I help you today?” the man greeted before glancing towards Axel and Tony. “I can see you have guests with you.”

“Royce, I apologize for disturbing your night. I want to introduce two of the new candidates for security and IT.” Kent replied in such a calm manner it felt like I was hearing it from a different person.

“I see,” Royce nodded and turned to Axel and Tony. “Hello, gentlemen. I’m Royce, head of staff for this estate.”

Tony was first to take the lead and headed towards the desk, reaching out his hand to shake Royce’s. “I’m Tony Reed. Nice to meet you, sir.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Reed.” Royce briefly shook his hand before turning towards Axel. “And you are?”

“Axel Rogan, sir.” Axel walked up behind Tony.

“So which one of your taking which job?”

“I’ll be taking the position for IT,” Tony answered first.

“I’ll be taking the security position.” Axel second.

“Good.” Royce nodded as he pulled out something from the top drawer of his desk.

Royce gave Tony and Axel a brown envelope explaining their training. Though it was only a facade until tomorrow, both pretended they were seriously going to follow through the three-month probation. After they had finished, Kent escorted them out and headed up to the top floor. As they passed the hallway, door after door, Kent briefly explained the in-house staff that totaled fifteen people, including Eliza Morgan whenever she was here. However, Kent didn’t mention whether Eliza was staying on the same floor as them. I didn’t expect him to give out everything. If we were in his position, we would have done the same thing.

Reaching at the end of the hallway, Kent opened the last door of the room. As soon as they were finally alone, we could see Tony visibly sighing from Axel’s camera.

“So what now? How were we supposed to catch this a-hole again?” Tony inquired while taking a seat at one of the two single bed in the room.

Studying the limited field of vision from Axel and Tony’s hidden camera, they were in a cheap college dorm type room. There were only two beds, two tables each and nothing more.

“There will be a roll call of staff in the morning. Since you two are new, introductions are expected. It’s then I want you, Axel, to say you’ve once served under the Knightley’s.” Kent stated.

“So we’re going to make a reaction by mentioning Roe’s family name?” Tony said but his words sounded more like a question.

“That is step one. Then people will start asking, of course. It’s then that you try and lie through your teeth that you were there the night of the Lady Knightley’s family’s death. And Roe,” Kent stopped and glanced between Axel and Tony, knowing we were listening as well, “that’s when you feed information to Axel about what you’ve seen that night. Would you be able to do that?”

In our end, the room grew even quieter. While Axel and Tony waited for me to respond and relay my words, they also remained silent. For a moment, my heart started to pound from the tension. We’ve already talked about it and I’ve already agreed. This was a significant progress in catching someone involved on my parent’s death. I’m not backing out now even if I had to recall the most haunting memory I had. With a deep breath, I clicked on the mic, opening the channel of communication on our end.

“Yes. Got it, Kent.” I answered.

Tony relayed my messaged a moment later.

“Good. Then see you all tomorrow.”

As soon as Axel and Tony got settled and Kent left the room, we all also ended the video transmission but kept the audio open for an emergency. We hastily packed up from the shabby motel room we rented for a few hours and headed back. It was already past midnight when we arrived. The condo felt deserted and empty. However, as we entered the living room, I nearly jumped from surprise seeing Henry with a familiar looking man beside him, who looked pissed.

“Would you care to explain why you are all here?” John’s words echoed eerily.

It made me twitch and cower with slight fear, which was a first. I hardly got intimidated with anyone who I’ve already gotten acquainted with. Before I could say a word, Kaleb took the lead and stood in front of me, taking most of his icy gaze.

“Sir, this time she isn’t at fault. We all decided to take action even though you clearly said we shouldn’t.” Kaleb lied, which caught me by surprise. What is he doing?

“Good. You’ve remembered how I made a point of not doing anything. Now, care to explain why you’ve refused to follow my orders?” The anger in his voice was palpable.

“We left a message and told Alpha Blackwell to explain our whereabouts and why we’ve chosen to go, sir.”

Now, he threw another curveball. What the hell is he talking about?

“Good that you did. If I ever found you lurking suspiciously in the Morgan estate, I won’t be covering your asses…”

“Which is why your timing is impeccable as always, Sir Lockwood.” Kaleb lightly stated.

“Excuse me? You think I’m here to humor whatever you all meddling? I’ve already informed Eliza about what happened in Montana. If she knew you’re here, especially Lady Knightley, she’d… I’ll be…Damn it,” John fumbled at his words before letting out a startling cuss. “I knew I should have made sure you all wouldn’t do this kind of act… you already did it once. Of course, there might be a second time,” he added in annoyance.

“Sir… why are you so…?” Kaleb was about to ask but John stopped him.

“Do you know what sort of danger you’ve put her in?” John challenged and pointed at me. “She wasn’t supposed to ever set foot in Texas. Didn’t Lady Morgan already told you that before she agreed to allow you on this mission?”

“Yes. She did. But there wasn’t…” Kaleb argued but trailed off again when John started walking up towards us.

“The Roués aren’t the least of our concerns. They could easily be dealt with… Now think? Do you really expect those savages could have destroyed one of the strongest Order in the Custodian Community? Of course not! They would need help. Not from their side, but whose?” He stopped just a foot apart from Kaleb.

“Wait. Hold up.” Kaleb paused and he looked at him in shock. “You knew.”

“Lady Morgan had already known for years.”

There was a moment of silence as John’s word sink in.

“Wait, what?” I finally jumped in and stepped around behind Kaleb. “What do you mean by that? If you’ve known, why didn’t anyone do anything?”

John looked at me in defeat before turning around on his heels and headed back to where Henry silently stood. “I’m not supposed to be breathing a word of this… god, you kids are really making me do things I’m going to regret.” He softly spoke his mind out loud.

“What do you know, Sir Lockwood?”

“It’s better if you all sit down for this. You might not like it. But first, tell me how the hell you came all the way here.”

We followed his orders and gathered around the quiet living room. For a moment, I was worried someone might have overheard the conversation. But Henry briefly reassured us he’d cleared out the room. Then it suddenly clicked how Henry and John knew each other.

“I had already told you about that, my lady, it’s customary to greet the Alpha while we did a mission in their territory. Since the Lowell’s are within our area, they’re our allies. Though Lady Morgan didn’t share that tidbit of information. She’s trying not to wreck her image for being a tough brass Curatrix since she is the leader.”

“I never knew that.” I smiled slightly, seeing a new light on Eliza Morgan. “Is that why Kent is also doing business with Henry?” I finally inquired, stating the other contact we had of the Morgan Order.

“Kent?” John looked at me weirdly. “You’ve met with Kent Maiden?”

“He’s like an advisor for Lady Morgan, from what he told us.” I nodded.

“When did you meet with Kent?” He asked and turned to Henry. “I didn’t know you and Kent dealt with some business.”

“We exchange information here and there, especially about financial investments.” Henry vaguely informed.

“Ri-ght,” John stretched the word before turning back to me. “And why were you guys meeting with Kent?” He asked but then before we could reply, like a light bulb, he finally noticed the lack of members in our group. “Damn it! Don’t tell me you’ve already…? Where are Axel Rogan and Tony Reed?”

“They’ve just infiltrated the Morgan estate…”

“When?” John interjected and jolted up from his seat.

“Just a few hours ago…”

“Are you still in contact with them?”

“Yes, sir. We could call them through this frequency…” I rummaged through my duffle bag until I got the small audio receiver.

Without any questions, John got the device out of my hand and hastily called for Axel and Tony’s attention. Within seconds, the small speaker buzzed in response.

“Sir Lockwood? Is that you?” From the familiar tone of words, it must be Tony.

“Reed, is this you?” John inquired for confirmation.

“Yes, sir. It’s Tony.”

“Is Rogan with you?”

“Yes, he’s beside me right now,” there was a brief pause before Axel’s voice surfaced. “I’m here, sir.”

“How are you there with them, sir?” Tony asked, not a hint of fear at the situation we were in.

“I heard from Alpha Blackwell. Since the young Lord Hunter had the decency of leaving a message for you and knowing you four, I hastily tried to find you after I was dismissed from my task,” he paused briefly as his tone grew dark. “Now, mind telling how they hell you’ve got your asses in this situation?”

“Sir, as we’ve said, we caught a trail and followed it here. Alpha Lowell lends us a hand after telling him about what we found. He agreed to help us by catching the perpetrator.” Kaleb took over the conversation.

“And how did he propose to do that?” John pressed.

“Our inside help, Kent, wanted to make this person react upon hearing from Axel that he had survived and possibly knew some sort of information about what conspired that night.”

“Is that all?”

“From what we’ve planned, yes.”

“And when would this commotion happen?”

“He said on the assembly the next morning?” Kaleb’s word hovered over like a question as John’s face looked more and more worried. “Sir, is there something wrong?”

“Axel. Tony, barricade your doors for the night. Just to be sure. If you can, at least one of you should stay guard.” John firmly ordered, silencing everyone in the room. “Also, be sure to pretend both of you didn’t have this conversation with us. And don’t mention that I knew about it. In fact, don’t ever mention about our ties. Have you said anything to Kent about our involvement?”

“No, sir. We only told him what was necessary.” Kaleb answered.

“Good.” John sighed in relief.

“Sir, would you mind telling us what’s wrong?” Kaleb inquired again after John sat back down, looking exhausted like he had just run a marathon.

“When Eliza did an investigation about the incident nine years ago, a lot of the files and evidence had gone missing. Also, at the time, there was a sudden shift of internal control within the staff. Lady Eliza was still undergoing training for her transition as head of the Curatrix. Upon the commotion and that dreadful incident, she wasn’t able to keep watch of her people and territory. So, the Ministry appointed new staffs and advisors for her new position within the Order. It took her a while, but Eliza is smart.” He paused, smiling at his own compliment. “She understood a great deal of underlying agenda happening within the community. Of course, these are all hearsay and accusations, but Eliza knew in her gut something was really wrong from the start.”

“Should you be talking about this to everyone in the room?” Kaleb slyly asked without looking around the company with us. Based on Lycan to Custodian ratio, we were out-numbered. To openly discuss having a power struggle without one of the strongest races –who supposedly had a unified goal – his word could stir up trouble. And that trouble could lead to chaos.

“Eliza considers Henry Lowell an ally for reason that he caught a Vaurien a few years ago.”

“What? We didn’t know that,” I gasped in surprise and glanced back at Henry and at Cole. “Did you know, Cole?”

“No,” he briefly replied, speaking for the first time since we entered the condo. “Does your Clan know about this?”

“Nobody knows except Eliza and your father, Cole,” Henry replied.

“Dad knew? Is that why he allowed me to take the trip here?”

“Probably. I’m not so sure what he’s thinking most of the time.” He chuckled in admission.

“What else have you uncovered throughout the years? And why didn’t you inform the Ministry about this findings?” Kaleb shifted back the conversation.

“Didn’t you hear what I said? There’s someone with a high ranking position whose responsible for what happened. Why do you think no one did a thorough investigation of that case?”

“If you say that, then why were we allowed to have this mission…” Like a light bulb, Kaleb looked like he finally understood something. “Is the reason why Eliza allowed us to have this mission was because she wanted to force out the people involved?”

“Throughout the years, those people hadn’t once made any mistake. But then, what if, the only living surviving Knightley were to take action…” John stated but stopped as Kaleb’s hand slammed loudly at the coffee table in the middle of the room.

“Are you shitting me right now? You’re making Roe as your bait? Was it also your plan to have Roués looking for her?!” Kaleb’s rage darkened the atmosphere of the room. Upon hearing his words, Cole’s calm demeanor turned dark as well.

“No. Of course, not. We’re not putting the last remaining descendant of the Knightley name in danger. We’ve hit a wall too many times. I know she wants to fight back as well. What we are doing is help her achieve that,” John defended. He seemed unfazed by Kaleb’s outburst.

“No sh*t!”

I grabbed Kaleb’s wrist, surprising him from the contact. Upon seeing my firm glare, he slowly sat back down but the crease between his eyebrows didn’t go away. “Sir Lockwood, may I ask if Lady Eliza had already pinpointed anyone who might be involved?”

“Of course, my lady. She had a list of names that a few of her most trusted know by heart,” John nodded and paused to take a deep breath. “These people are good. They made sure they weren’t assigned closely with each other. The list of possible suspects are Armando Ravalli from the Guardia family in Brazil, then Ramer Menishkov from the Menishkov family in Russia,” John stopped when I reacted.

“Ramer? You mean Lord Avian’s younger brother?”

“Just as I’ve said, the involvement of this goes deep, my lady.”

I took a deep breath before gesturing him to continue.

“Another is Damian Allen from the Whitmore family in Australia. Then, lastly, from our intel, is Kent Maiden of the Morgan family.”

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