Fully expecting his parents to be asleep, Alec was eager to spend quality time with Catalina. Dinner with his sister was long overdue and he was grateful to Sabrina for suggesting it. As he hurried home, he carried a plastic bag of boxed food from the deli. The handles were looped over his right arm and he kept it balanced as he sprinted down Carrollton Avenue. The sooner he fulfilled that obligation to Cat, the sooner he could head to Sabrina’s home, hopefully to spend at least an hour with her. However, only half a block away, he was shocked to hear the wild commotion going on inside the solidly built manor. It was unusual for the sound of any voices to be heard outside.
Now, the shrillness of an argument trickled out onto the front stoop, growing louder the closer he got. Nosy neighbors, standing outside on their lawns, listened intently. It seemed every person’s eye was trained on the Saguache home. Some simply stared and muttered unintelligible comments while others looked up at Catalina’s bedroom window. He knew something was terribly wrong before he ever entered the two-story home.
“What the hell!” he gasped as he opened the front door. The shopping bag slipped off his arm, the Styrofoam containers burst, and the food spilled out onto the floor. Alec cursed again under his breath, but he paid no attention to the self-made mess. Instead, he quickly searched the room, taking in everything. No one was there to explain. All the noise came from upstairs, from his sister’s bedroom.
On this particular night, their father had come home drunk again. Rather than stumble to the master bedroom to watch television or collapse in a recliner until he passed out, Buck Winters had gone to Catalina’s room. Once inside, Alec could distinctly hear the unpleasant ruckus of Cat’s shrill crying and Buck’s slurred threats. The sound of his sister’s hysterical screams chilled his blood.
“What the hell is he doing to her!” he stormed again as he swiftly took in the scene downstairs.
Cassidy, who had passed out from prescription sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications, lay prostrate on the sofa. An empty wine bottle stood beside overturned pill bottles. She didn’t bother to stir when Alec opened the door. She didn’t react when Cat’s loud screams penetrated the room below. Alec suddenly realized that his mother might be too intoxicated to help, but that didn’t excuse him. He couldn’t bear the thought of his little sister’s suffering.
Although some small part of him wanted to turn around and run away, he couldn’t abandon Catalina. He dreaded the confrontation he knew would follow, but he felt compelled to intervene. He couldn’t ignore the situation any longer. He had to do something to save both his sister and his mother.
Assessing the state of affairs and coming to that conclusion occurred within milliseconds of his entrance into the home. However, making the decision to intervene caused an unspecified ‘thing’ to snap like a dry twig inside him. It was an unusual experience for the young man. He felt as if something had awakened from its sleep, something that had been there all along. Out of the crack left behind, a sprig of surreal and unknown origin sprang forth. It was a new growth, a bursting evolution, but Alec didn’t have the words to describe or name the transformation. He only knew that it happened.
It was one of those life-changing moments. A moment that would forevermore be defined by ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Imbued with extra fortitude, and maybe even a little bravado, Alec bounded up the stairs to Cat’s aid. Even with the determination to protect her, he was still shocked and unprepared when he opened the door.
The scene was bizarre and disturbing. Alec immediately wanted to close the door, to erase the horrific scene from his memory. The last thing he wanted to do was to put himself in the middle of whatever was happening, however, that wasn’t an option. He couldn’t ‘unsee’ the horrible images.
How long has this been going on? He wondered as a multitude of alarming and distressing thoughts quickly traveled through his mind. How long have I been blind to Cat’s pain and misery? Didn’t she try to tell me? Didn’t her tears and fears express this pain and confusion? Have I been so busy with my own inane routine, that I’ve been blind to her suffering? What the hell is the matter with me? What the hell is wrong with my father?
Alec felt sickened and nauseated. The reality of the scene washed over him. Oh, my God! I knew this all along, didn’t I? He silently raged. How could I be so callous, so blind? How could I have left Cat alone to suffer this appalling abuse? God forgive me for my neglect! He mentally ranted. Unprepared for the enormity of what he witnessed, he silently continued, what the hell am I supposed to do with this information? How am I supposed to handle this situation?
At that moment, he had little choice in the matter. He had to face the harsh reality and do something about it. Buck Winters was a disturbed and evil man, violating the innocence of his own young daughter. That knowledge stoked the fires of Alec’s indignation. His rage about the scene before him caused the new sprout to grow even faster. Like Jack’s beanstalk, it climbed upwards, stretching towards truth, climbing faster and faster as it took in a multitude of factors that had been there all along even though Alec had refused to see them. Those facts led to one conclusion and one alone.
My father is a pedophile!
Alec’s assessment took only seconds, but everything in the bedroom seemed to move in slow motion. His sister, small and helpless, fought Buck with all her strength, struggling to get free from his grasp. Buck didn’t even notice her resistance. Although he was too drunk to accomplish the attempted rape, especially with Catalina’s struggles, Buck kept trying. “Come on, baby, you know you want what papa has. Don’t fight it. Give it to me,” Buck slurred out, deluded as well as drunk.
“Let me go!” Cat squealed. “I hate you! Let me go! No daughter wants such filthy wickedness from her father! Let me go!”
It was more reality that the youth didn’t want to face. Too caught up in the struggle, neither Cat nor Buck seemed to notice Alec’s presence. He studied his father more closely, trying to ascertain the root of such transgressions and evil. He couldn’t imagine the depths of Buck’s moral corruption. However, there was an obvious sign right before him and Alec couldn’t ignore the ugly, reddish-orange cloud that surrounded the drunkard. It permeated and darkened the room. The strange haze was alarming. Alec batted at the mass of particles, but his gesture had no effect. Although he’d never before seen such a thing, the image stayed with him. His new eyes opened a little wider and the fire growing inside him began to understand everything he saw, heard, and felt.
Unsure whether he’d imagined the color around his father, Alec glanced at Cat. He saw that a yellow-golden cloud surrounded her. It was delicate and beautiful. Then, Alec noticed that each time Buck grabbed for Catalina, his orange-red cloud grew bigger and more intense while Cat’s golden-haze grew more faint, smaller and weaker.
Alec wondered if the individual clouds of color indicated some kind of spiritual energy. He wondered if what he witnessed was spiritual warfare. Was this a battle between good and evil? Suddenly, he understood. Alec’s heightened instincts instantly made sense out of everything he saw.
He’s ripping the life force from her! He’s killing her!
Now, he had only one thought: stop the threat. With that in mind, Alec jumped onto his father’s back, grabbing him around the throat. Alec squeezed with all his might, hoping to cut off his father’s wind. He quickly rationalized the situation. If Buck passed out, Alec would drag him to the master bedroom and leave him to sleep off his drunken state. Then, he’d figure out how to keep Catalina safe from further attacks. He briefly considered that his sister could stay with an aunt that lived in Birmingham, but that’s as far as he got with the idea.
It was a good plan that might work, but Buck didn’t go down easily. He was a large man with a thick, bullish neck. He turned loose of Cat to fight off his attacker. At six feet two inches and weighing nearly three hundred pounds, there was little contest. Buck, unaware that it was his own son who tried to stop him, threw his attacker aside. He swatted at Alec as if he was merely a fly. Alec’s lip burst from the blow and began to bleed.
Undeterred, Alec leaped onto his father’s back again, this time securing his arms tightly around the beefy throat. Locking his wrists with renewed determination and vigor, Alec again tried his best to choke out the bastard. He wanted to stop his father from stealing his sister’s precious energy, from destroying her, but it was all he could do to hold on. Alec stubbornly and doggedly clung to his perch on Buck’s back as the struggle continued.
Buck, not to be outdone or bested, swung around in circles. It was an attempt to knock his attacker off again. He slammed against the walls and bedposts in an effort to peel off his assailant, but Alec refused to let go.
All the while, Cat stood against the wall with both fists tightly clenched to her chin, looking on in horror. She’d never seen Alec angry and she’d never imagined what it would take to stop her father. She feared that Buck might kill her brother and the very thought of losing Alec terrified her. Cat wanted to help, but she wasn’t sure what to do.
Furniture overturned, glass lamp globes shattered, while books and art supplies flew off their shelves. Each time Buck smashed into a wall, pictures rattled and fell to the floor. Cat’s charcoals, pens, and drawing pencils were crushed underfoot…all while Alec rode his father’s back…all while Cassidy slept on…all while Buck cursed at the top of his lungs. His loud voice alerted the neighbors that the commotion was seriously out of hand. Someone called the police, and still, Cassidy never awakened from the medicated state of denial and escape where she unconsciously drifted.
Even drunk, Buck was too big, too strong to best, but Alec was obstinate and refused to give up. The last time his dad batted him away, Alec landed on his butt halfway across the room. Temporarily free, Buck tried once again to grab Catalina, but the terrified girl darted out of his reach.
Angered beyond reason now, Alec leapt to his feet. He ran head-on at Buck, roaring in rage as the new vine produced its initial bloom. The bloom burst forth into the first fiery flames of vengeance filling Alec with untold power and authority.
When Buck heard the loud, unnerving bellows that seemed to shake the home’s very foundation, he finally turned around to look at his attacker. With that one gaze, the drunken fool fell backwards onto Cat’s bed. Terrorized and quaking, he defensively put up his hands to ward off the attacker. Then, he covered his face in an attempt to hide from what he saw.
“Oh, dear God in heaven, heavenly Father, have mercy on me,” Buck shrieked in horror. Then, suddenly appearing sober, he continued to pray, “I’m a wretched sinner, an evil man. I didn’t know I fought with your mighty devil, Beelzebub. I’m sorry, Father. I didn’t know you’d sent your devil to stop me. I know it’s wrong to desire my own daughter, to force her. I won’t do it again. I won’t touch her again. Please, I’ll stop now. I’ll never touch her again. Please, please take your hellish red-eyed devil away, I beg you! Take this nightmare demon away from me! I swear on my very life, I’ll never touch her again, please, please, please. I beg you!” Buck, frightened beyond reason by what he saw, blathered on and cried for some time. Next, he tightly closed his eyes to avoid the horrifying sight of the eight-foot red monster towering over him.
When Alec heard Buck’s ramblings, he halted his planned attack with one foot still off the floor. His father appeared to be experiencing some kind of alcohol-induced hallucination. Buck wailed out pitifully, quaking in fear, but Alec couldn’t determine what caused that reaction. His father struggled to breathe and panted as if running for his life. As Alec listened to Buck’s continual prayers, he felt a small bit of mercy for the old bastard and tried to reach out to him.
“What’s wrong with you, Dad?” Alec asked. “Can you hear me?”
“Bless me father for I have sinned, forgive my erring ways…,” Buck muttered as he recited every prayer and catechism response he’d ever learned as a boy in Catholic school. Soon, the words Buck spoke became gibberish and unintelligible.
“What’s wrong with you, old man?” Alec asked again with true concern as he leaned over his father. Buck, keeping his eyes tightly shut, didn’t respond, so Alec shook his shoulder a little.
“Sssst,” Buck hissed when the demon’s fiery hand touched him. He sharply sucked in his breath as if scalded. Even that slight contact from the messenger of hell burned through his shirt and skin to the bone. He wanted to jerk away from the searing pain and heat, but now, he was too weak, too petrified to move even a fraction of an inch.
“Dad, can you hear me?”
Buck still didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He heard another message, a terrifying edict. The words Alec spoke were lost on the man as the intonation of the beast roared with the voice of a thousand mighty celestial beings, all filled with rage—all, disgusted by Buck’s perverted actions. Adding their voices to the chorus, the message was clear, “Tonight you will pay!”
Buck finally opened his eyes to stare up at the demon as its fanged mouth opened wide and the eyes, those terrible crimson eyes, became even more blood red. He took the spoken words to heart certain that he had heard the pronouncement of God. God was angry with him and with good cause. Taking stock of his miserable life as it quickly flashed before his eyes, he knew his punishment was justified. Buck was certain that God would send him straight to hell. The monstrous red devil that towered over him would drag him there personally.
Buck was sure that neither death nor purgatory would be allowed…not for him. No, there was something special prepared for the likes of him…his human flesh would roast in the eternal flames forever. The heat coming off the fiery demon was merely a reminder of how hot and everlasting those fires were and would always remain.
The very thought of eternal hellfire caused hot tendrils of terror to encase Buck’s heart, squeezing mercilessly while icy fingers ran up his spine and down his left arm. The years of seeking pleasure through self-abuse, engorging, drinking, and whoring, had finally caught up with him. Buck choked and spluttered as he beheld the monster’s face. After one final gasping breath, the light in Buck’s eyes went out even though the twisted terror was frozen on his face.
That happened only moments before Catalina slammed the metal base of a lamp into his head. Alec, surprised by his sister’s actions, wasn’t positive but he thought his father died an instant before Catalina hit Buck with the lamp. He’d heard the family elders discuss death’s process on many occasions. He’d heard Buck make a rasping, guttural sound and could only assume it was a ‘death-rattle’ as they’d described.
“I hope you die, you old bastard!” Catalina screamed before she hit him again, leaving a wide gash across Buck’s brow. Seeing her father terrorized and beaten had renewed her own courage and fortitude. With that righteous indignation, she was no longer a helpless child; though small, she was now an angry young woman. She yelled the things she’d wanted to scream for many months. All the past hate and anxiety poured out in a torrid, sarcastic barrage.
“How in God’s name could you ever imagine that I wanted you? How could you believe that I asked for it? I hated it. I hated you. I hated this perverted life. I tried to fight you off each time, but you wouldn’t hear. Why didn’t you hear me, daddy? It was rape, you deluded, insane excuse for a man! I wanted to die every time you touched me. God forgive me for praying for this end, but your death is the answer to my prayers. I hope you burn in hell for what you’ve done!”
Everything in the room grew deathly quiet and still as the two siblings surveyed their father’s destruction. Neither of them breathed. Neither of them moved for several long seconds. Nothing could be said that would take any of it back. There was nothing either Alec or Catalina could do to restore their father or their sense of peace.
“He’s dead, Cat. He can’t hurt you anymore,” Alec softly advised. He took the lamp from her shaking hands and set it aside.
Cat never took her eyes off her father’s body. He became a fixed point as she asked, “Are you sure he’s dead, Alec?” Cautiously leaning in, she placed a hand near Buck’s nose and mouth to feel for breath and to confirm it on her own.
“I’m sure,” Alec gently reassured.
“Good!” she exclaimed. Triumphant at the news, Cat was glad her father was dead. Only a short moment later, she worried, “What will this mean for us, Alec? What will this mean for mother? Are we in bad trouble?”
“I can’t honestly say,” Alec whispered.
She turned toward her brother with worry furrowing her brow, but the look quickly changed to one of awe. Now, in stark contrast to his father’s reaction, his sister sobbed joyfully as she held out her arms and ran the short distance to her brother.
“Oh, my angel! My bright shining angel! You’ve come to rescue me. Thank you, Lord of All, for answering my prayers! You heard me! I’d almost given up all hope, but here, you’ve sent your beautiful angel to redeem me. You’ve saved me! Wrap me in your wonderful white wings, my angel, and take me from this place. Take me away from here.”
Alec, stunned by Catalina’s reaction, was speechless. She’d seen him as an angel, while his father saw him as the devil. However, he had little time to react because almost immediately the heavy ‘bang, bang, bang’ of police officers’ fists battered against the front door.