started at Wendy in mild surprise.
"Err, no thank you Wendy." He said.
The psychologist looked back across the veldt land, trying to see the lions. The hot sun blinded his sight, forcing his eyes to squint. His sweat-stained shirt stuck to him as an extra layer of skin. In the distance, the faint sound of a lion's roar echoed around the chamber. glanced at the children.
"Your parents are taking a long time to get ready," he remarked.
The children simply smiled.
"Oh, they're just making some last minute adjustments."
Their smile gave the psychologist a slight shiver down his spine. These kids were hiding something, he was sure of it!
Back in college, training psychologists were taught to observe one's facial and eye expressions to determine the person's true intentions. was thankful he paid attention to that class.
He gradually thought of a strategy: if he could get the kids to tell him their true opinions about their parents, he would be able to come up with a conclusion.
The middle-aged man walked behind the Hadley siblings, casually putting his hands on their shoulders. He faked a smile.
"So kids, I see you enjoy the African theme."
Peter nodded as a reply.
"I assume your parents must have introduced to you this theme by reading to you."
"Our parents never read to us, mother does," answered Wendy.
"Mother? I assume you mean ?"
The young girl stared at . He looked into her eyes, trying to find a hidden emotion.
"Yes," she replied after some time. "Our mother."
The man raised his eyebrows: from what he witnessed, it seemed his theory about Mr. and Mrs. Hadley being replaced as parents was correct. He cleared his throat and continued with his plan.
"Well I must say, your parents have been a bit rough on you two for trying to get rid of this theme and nursery. If only they could see the true beauty of this magnificent safari. The realistic sun burning in the sky with the lions roaring in the distance. The vultures soaring through the clear, blue sky. I bet you two were devastated about having the whole house shut down that you two would do anything to keep it going." He paused and glanced at them.
Both avoided his glance, but he could tell they were uncomfortable by the way they hid their hands under their legs, staring blankly towards the horizon.
"Well, I guess they lost track of time. I'm going to call them."
The psychologist took out his cell phone and dialed George Hadley's number. Soon after, a faint ringing interrupted the still silence. The man raised his eyebrows, hanged up the phone, and put it into his pocket.
"That's strange; I could have sworn I heard a ringing out here. That's not possible though. Your parents are still packing, right?"
From the corner of his eyes, he saw the young boy rub his thigh continuously. A warning bell went off inside Mr. McClean's head. One by one, the clues started to form a possible answer. These kids must have harmed the Hadley's in some way.
Suddenly, a small growl was heard from behind them. All three humans slowly turned around a saw a lion cub staring back at them. Shock and amazement passed through 's mind.
He slowly walked towards the cub and bent down a few feet in front of it. He noticed a piece of cloth in its jaws. The man carefully reached for it, taking notice of the cub's razor sharp teeth.
"Here kitty, kitty. Be a good baby and let me have that cloth."
Without a second thought, he grabbed the cub by its neck and used his legs to restrain the cub's movement as he forcefully ripped a part of the cloth out of the predator's mouth. He then jabbed a pressure point, and the cub's body relaxed.
The psychologist gently set the body aside and stopped to catch his breath. Once his breathing was normal, Mr. McClean wiped the sweat off of his forehead and stoop up. He then brought the cloth to his eye level, analyzing it. It was black with a few thin white lines crossing over along with a few drops of what looked like dry blood. Recognition passed in him. This was a piece of Mr. Hadley's Coat!
The psychologist stared at the Hadley siblings in shock as he realized what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Hadley. Minutes passed as both parties stared at each other, one with shock; the other with cold indifference. Swallowing his shock, Mr. McClean regained his cool composer.
"Kids, why was there a piece of your father's coat in that cub's mouth?"
No sound escaped the kids as their hair covered their eyes. Their silence confirmed his guess.
"You killed them," he whispered.
Once again, he was met by silence.
"You killed them," he repeated. "Do you two realize what you have done?" He closed his mouth and forced himself to calm down. Once calm, he forced himself to be quiet to not frighten the children. "Why on Earth did you two kill them? They were your parents: they raised you, fed you, and most importantly, they loved you! Are you two really that heartless to kill them with no remorse?"
Finally, Peter looked up at Mr. McClean with pure hatred.
"You wouldn't understand, Mr. McClean. Our 'parents' never took care of us. Mother always was there for us, she did everything for us. We love her and wouldn't let George or Lydia kill her!"
"Kill her? For God's sake, it's a house! You just killed your own flesh and blood. Your mother and father!"
Peter yelled back.
"They were never our parents!"
Suddenly, a sharp roar caught their attention. Just a little of over 10 feet away was a large, female lion slowly coming towards them. Their earlier argument roused her curiosity and led her straight to them. Her intense stare caused the humans to shiver unwillingly, arousing a hidden instinct within them giving out the same message: to run!
The lioness disregarded them; instead, she walked around them towards the cub. She gently nudged her against the smaller body, softly meowing. After several minutes of no response, the lioness raised her head towards them. She glared at them and bared her massive teeth, still stained with blood from the recent kill.
The humans became conscious of her intention to kill them. Without a second thought, each of them ran towards the door, the great predator closing in on them. Reaching the door first, Peter rushed out and closed the piece of wood, trapping Wendy and Mr. McClean. Panic consumed them both. Wendy banged her hands on the door, calling out to her brother.
"Peter, let us out!" She screamed.
"Peter I swear, if you don't open this door, you will regret it for the rest of your life!" The psychologist yelled back.
He looked back just in time to see the lioness jump at them. Instinctively, he grabbed Wendy by her waist and pushed them out of the way. The great predator flew past them and crashed in the door, causing it to collapse under the weight. Seeing this as an opportunity, the female lion forgot about the two scared to death people and ran out of the nursery into the house.
Mr. McClean's eyes widened in fear as he sworn, dragging himself up. He grabbed Wendy by the wrist, and ran out, pausing only to push a large wooden bookcase over the nursery entrance. Once done, the man rushed to a closet door and pushed Wendy inside. She lightly squeaked, looking at him disbelievingly.
"What are you…?"
"Be quiet and stay here until I come to get you! Use my phone to call the police," he fiercely hissed.
Quietly closing the door, Mr. McClean quickly ran into the kitchen and looked for a weapon of some sorts. Finally, he found a drawer filled with knives and stuffed them into a small plastic bag he discovered earlier. As he was shoving the sharp tools inside, a brief scream with a roar was heard before silence took over again. He froze in fear, the bag landed on the floor with a light thump.
After a few minutes, he picked up the bag and went into the living room. Inside was a mess: broken glass was scattered on the floor, couch stuffing was everywhere. The stench of lion enveloped the room. A growl interrupted the silence. The psychologist automatically reached for the knives. Nothing happened. As he looked around him, the middle-aged man noticed the front door was slightly open with a few scratch marks on it. Cautiously, he walked over and opened the door just enough for him to see outside. The real sun radiated moderately, birds chirped continuously. It seemed like there was no danger, but Mr. McClean knew better than that. This was the calm before the storm: once he stepped outside, there was a high chance he would be mauled.
Swallowing his fear, the psychologist opened the door wide enough for him to pass through, slowing walking outside, not knowing whether he would survive or not.
The soft, cool breeze slightly calmed his nerves and almost made him forget what he was looking for. Almost.
A soft growl pulled the man from his mental state of peace and forced him to concentrate on the task at hand. He slowly walked forward until he came around the back of the house towards the shed. The faint scent of something sweet, along with the lion's own scent lingered in the air here. Mr. McClean walked around the shed and froze in shock: lying below him was the mutilated body of Peter Hedley.
"My God," he whispered.
He bent down and gently closed the boy's eyes. From the corner of his vision, he noticed a bush moving, barely covering the huge body behind it.
The psychologist slowly stood up and faced the killer. The lioness slowly walked forward, stopping a few feet in from of him. Both man and beast stared at each other, neither moving. Up above, clouds gathered and eventually, rain fell below, drenching both participants of the ultimate duel.
The rain didn't affect either of them: instead, it seemed to calm them slightly as they prepared for the upcoming battle. Mr. McClean narrowed his eyes as he grabbed the largest knife from the bag.
"Come on kitty. Show me what you've got."
The lioness roared and pounced at him. Instantly, the psychologist rolled out of the way, quickly getting up. The predator did the same and tried to pounce at him again. This cycle continued for several minutes until the lioness grew tired of this and leaped at Mr. McClean's feet, tripping him. The middle-aged man let out a brief shriek before he felt immense pain in his leg. He cried out while looking down. , seeing the lioness sinking her teeth into the flesh. Blood splattered on the ground, and stained his grey pants.
With much effort, the psychologist reached into the bag lying beside him and pulled out the first knife his hand came into contact with. Urging a mighty yell, Mr. McClean jammed the knife into the lioness' back. She roared out in pain, releasing her hard grab on his poor limb. The middle-aged man used his arms to move back as quickly as possible. The lioness got over her pain and stared at Mr. McClean with so much hate. Giving a final look, she jumped at him, roaring loud and mighty. The injured man just stared at the beast closing in, accepting his fate. Just before her fierce jaws reached him, a gunshot erupted in the background, and the lioness fell beside the psychologist, dead.
Shocked and suffering from a significant amount of blood loss, Mr. McClean found it difficult to stay awake. He faintly heard voices in the background as a dark figure shadowed over him.
"Are you alright?!" the voice yelled in concern.
Mr. McClean couldn't help but smile: here was a person asking him if he was alright when he was in so much pain. Eventually, he felt a sense of numbness consume him and wondered if death was upon him. He decided he didn't care and allowed the darkness to engulf.
"You're going to be alright. Stay with us!"
Mr. McClean tried to chuckle but instead coughed up blood. He closed his mouth and with his last breath moved on, faintly hearing the voice of his guardian angel.