Kristy’s joy after adopting a six-month-old baby turns to shock when she finds two identical children with him in his nursery the next day, along with an ominous note. These children are in grave danger, but Kristy will do whatever it takes to protect them.
Kristy hummed as she walked toward the nursery. She’d just warmed a bottle for her six-month-old son, Caleb, who she’d recently adopted. After years of wanting to be a mother, her dream had finally come true. Moving to a new town had brought her the fresh start she needed in her life.
She couldn’t wait to hold her son in her arms and feed him breakfast.
“Okay, sweetie, Mama’s here…” Kristy trailed off as she stared at Caleb’s crib. Where there was supposed to be one child, there were now three!
Kristy rubbed her eyes and then she noticed the note stuck to the side of the crib.
‘The children are in danger. Please take care of them. Be on your guard for people who have tattoos of three crossed dots.’
One of the babies let out a loud bawl. Kristy instinctively reached into the crib and lifted the child into her arms.
“There, there, Caleb,” she muttered. “We have some unexpected guests, is all…wait.” She leaned back and looked closely at the baby and the onesie he wore. “You’re not Caleb.”
Kirsty examined the babies. She recognized the onesie she bought for Caleb, but otherwise, all three children looked identical. There was no way these kids could look so much alike unless they were identical triplets.
The baby in her arms bawled again and started waving his fists about. Kirsty gave him Caleb’s bottle, and he eagerly started drinking. But now Caleb and the baby still with him in the crib were starting to fuss.
So Kristy returned to the kitchen to make more bottles. Her mind was racing from this startling discovery and the note stating Caleb and his brothers were in danger, but one thing was clear: these babies needed her help.
Once all three babies were fed and changed, Kristy called the cops. An officer soon arrived at her house, and she showed the policewoman the note she’d found in the crib.
“There’s a local religious sect that uses this symbol,” the cop replied. “But they stick to themselves. Don’t cause trouble for anybody and all we really know about them is that their membership is restricted to a couple of different families.”
She handed the note back to Kristy. “Did the agency mention your son having siblings when you adopted him?”
Kristy shook her head. “He was surrendered using a baby box; that’s all I know.”
The cop nodded thoughtfully. “Well, there haven’t been any reports of missing children…all we can do is contact Child Services. Can you care for them in the meanwhile?”
“Of course,” Kristy replied. “But what about the person who left them here?”
The cop shrugged. “The mother surrendered one baby…maybe this was her way of surrendering the others too.”
The cop departed soon afterward, leaving Kristy with more questions than answers. She phoned the local hospitals, but none reported delivering triplets in the past six months.
She went to bed that night with a heavy heart as the mystery of Caleb and his brothers weighed heavily on her. She wasn’t asleep for long before she was woken by a loud crash followed by one of the babies crying.
Kristy ran to the nursery just in time to see a broad-shouldered figure dressed in dark clothes climbing out the window with the babies in his arms.
“Give them back!” Kristy roared as she charged across the room.
The man dropped to the ground outside just as Kristy reached to grab him. Her fingers slid across the fabric of his clothes and came up empty. Her heart was in her throat as she climbed out the window after the man. He was running toward the street.
Kristy hurtled after the man. She was determined to catch him and would tear him to pieces with her bare hands to get those babies back. As she charged round the corner of the house, she spotted him leaping into a panel van.
An animal-like bellow tore from Kristy’s throat as the van sped away. She ran after it down the street, but all she could do was watch it disappear into the night with Caleb and his brothers.
“You have to get them back!” Kristy demanded tearfully as the cops examined the nursery.
It was almost midnight, but the police had arrived within minutes of her calling 911 to report the kidnapping.
“We’re going to do everything we can to track down the people who took these kids, ma’am.” The taller of the two policemen reassured her.
It felt like empty promises to Kristy. She looked away from him as the second cop crouched down to look beneath the crib. His shirt pulled up, and Kristy spotted something on his lower back that sent chills down her spine.
The man had a tattoo of three dots arranged in a triangle. A cross intersected each dot. This must be the tattoo the note warned her about, the symbol used by that sect. Oh God…at least one of these police officers was affiliated with the people she suspected had taken the babies.
Kristy feared what might happen if the cop realized she knew he was part of the group that probably took the triplets. However, she couldn’t let this opportunity to find answers slip through her fingers. When the tattooed cop finished searching for evidence and left, Kristy followed him.
Instead of returning to the police station, the cop drove to a modest suburban house and parked his squad car in the garage. That seemed strange to Kristy, but she didn’t dwell on it. She parked at the curb and crept up to the cop’s house.
The cop was around the same height and build as the man who kidnapped the triplets, and Kristy hoped she might find them here. She kept low to the ground as she approached the closest window. As she rose to peep inside, the curtains flew open.
Kristy ducked down and pressed herself against the wall. Light from the window above her spilled out onto the lawn. She barely dared to breathe as she watched the cop’s faint shadow shift across the grass. He seemed to be looking for something.
A moment later, the curtains shut, and she faintly heard his footsteps retreating from the window. Relief washed over Kristy. She rose to a crouch and peeped inside. There was no sign of a crib or the sound of babies coming from that room, so she moved to the next window.
Kristy circled the house and found nothing. She returned to her car and slumped into the driver’s seat. She’d been so sure the cop would lead her to the triplets or even a clue about where to find them, but now…she fisted her hands in her hair. She had no idea what she should do next.
Movement from the cop’s house caught Kristy’s eye. She looked up and watched him pull out of the garage in a different car. She’d assumed he had returned home for the night.
Where are you headed at his hour? Kristy wondered. He couldn’t be responding to a call since he’d taken his personal vehicle.
Kristy started her car and followed the cop down the road. The streets were quiet at this hour, and they only got more peaceful as the cop headed out of the city. She worried he might be leaving town until he turned onto a road that led into the farms and small holdings surrounding the city.
There were no street lights out here, but enough bright light emanated from some properties for Kristy to keep her economical little hatchback out of the worst potholes as she pursued the shady cop. Soon, they approached a compound surrounded by a high brick wall.
The shady cop stopped at a gatehouse and, minutes later, was admitted into the compound. Kristy drove past the steel and mesh gates slowly, taking in the lights atop the walls. As far as she could see, there were no guards beside the man in the gatehouse and no cameras watching the walls.
Kristy pulled up beside a copse of trees and killed the engine. She stepped out into a chilly night filled with the chirping of insects.
She needed to check this place out in case the children were here, but that meant she needed to get closer. One of the trees grew close to the fence. Kristy sized it up and then started climbing.
After a few minutes, Kristy dropped into the thick bushes against the wall inside the property. She dusted herself off and headed toward the house lights she spotted through the trees.
All the trees were planted in rows with a clear path between them. It seemed she was in an orchard, but she didn’t have much time to wonder about this as her thoughts were interrupted by a dog barking.
Kristy froze. The barks were getting louder, closer, and she spotted the beam from a flashlight flickering between the trees. She was thinking about climbing the closest tree when a man’s voice rang out:
“Go, Rex. Search!”
Kristy ran. The dog’s footsteps pounded the earth behind her. Its heavy breathing and excited whines echoed through the trees. It barked loudly right behind her. Kristy turned just as the dog tackled her.
The air left her lungs in a loud whoosh as she hit the ground. She flopped onto her back and heard the dog’s teeth snap shut right before her face.
It was too dark to see more than the vague shape of the dog’s bulk hovering over her, but its hot breath fanned her face. It smelled rancid and meaty. She lifted her hand to cover her mouth but stopped when the dog growled at her.
“So there was something out here or rather someone,” a man said. “Good boy, Rex. Sit.”
A flashlight shone in her eyes as the dog retreated, momentarily blinding Kristy. She squinted and blinked rapidly in the direction of the approaching footsteps.
“What are you doing trespassing on this land?” The man barked.
“I…got lost,” Kristy said. “This is all a big mistake.”
“Liar! Our leader will decide what to do with you.”
The guard took Kristy by the arm and marched her up to the house she’d seen through the trees. It turned out to be a huge mansion. The marking with the crossed dots was stitched onto banners mounted on either side of the large front doors.
The man led her round the side of the house to a storm cellar entrance. Another guard stood nearby. He stared at Kristy as they drew nearer.
“Who’s that?” The guard outside the storm cellar asked.
“Some outsider I found trespassing in the orchard.”
The cellar guard pulled a face and hurried to unlock the heavy chain wound around the handles on the storm cellar doors.
“Get her in there fast. The less contact we have with her, the better.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kristy snapped.
The guards ignored her question. The second man yanked the cellar door open, and the first shoved her into the basement. Kristy stumbled down the stairs and tripped. She fell and cried out as she scraped her hands on the rough floor.
“Hello?” Someone called softly from the darkness. “Who’s there?”
A dim overhead light flickered on, lighting the face of a woman around Kristy’s age in a warm, orange glow. Kristy crept closer to her as she introduced herself.
“I’m Alice.” The woman studied Kristy. “You’re an outsider…wait. You’re that Kristy, aren’t you? The woman who’s been looking after my baby.”
“Your baby?” Kristy’s knees gave way, and she sat down hard beside Alice. “You’re Caleb’s birth mother? But how do you know who I am?”
Alice hung her head. “The nanny, Maria. She’s the one who saved my babies after…it’s such a long story, and I don’t know how much an outsider like you will understand.”
“Try me,” Kristy replied. “And start with why everyone keeps calling me an outsider.”
“It’s because you’re not one of us, the chosen people. If you were you’d understand why my triplets are in danger.” Alice sobbed. “They are the trinity of evil our prophet warned us about many generations ago; three brothers who will doom us all.”
Kristy pressed her lips together. This story sounded a little wild so far, but the real shocker was still to come.
“That’s why we have the symbol of the three crossed-out dots,” Alice continued. “To remind us to be alert for the prophesied children and…to symbolize our salvation by killing them.”
“What!” Kristy rounded on Alice. “Those are your babies you’re talking about.”
“I know!” Alice wailed. “And trust me, I’d never do anything to hurt them. Even my father didn’t want to hurt them and he’s our leader! He’s the one who gave my third son to Maria and told her to take him away. I didn’t even know I’d given birth to triplets until she told me everything. The labor was so difficult that I fainted.”
Kristy shook her head. “But if that’s all true then why did this Maria bring the other two boys to me, and why did your ‘chosen people’ kidnap them?”
“The fire.” Alice hung her head.
“Three months after I gave birth, a terrible fire swept through our fields and spread to the barns and warehouse. All our crops were destroyed and our livestock killed. Dad thought it was a sign, that the prophesied destruction was starting because he spared my sons.”
“Oh, what a load of…they’re just babies! Precious, innocent babies.”
“I know. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching since I was locked up down here.” Alice looked Kristy in the eye. “I know in my heart that my babies aren’t evil. And if they aren’t evil, then I don’t know what that means for everything else I was raised to believe. I’m so confused, but I know one thing: I have to stop my father from killing my babies.”
“Well, I’m with you on that, but how do we get out of here?”
The two women walked around the basement together. Alice showed Kristy the door leading inside the house, where the meals were delivered, but otherwise, there wasn’t much down there. Kristy rubbed at her forehead as she tried to think of a plan.
“Watch your step.” Alice pointed to a broken piece of glass. “There’s all sorts of junk lying down here.”
Kristy lifted the glass shard in her fingers. “Alice, I think I just had an idea, but it’s not a very good one. One of us will have to get hurt for it to work.”
“Then let it be me.” Alice put a hand on her arm. “I think you’re stronger than me, Kristy, and if anything goes wrong…well, you have a better chance of making it out of here with my boys.”
“We’re both getting out of here.” Kristy stared at Alice. “I won’t leave you or any of the babies behind, got it? Now, do you know when next they’ll bring food?”
Alice frowned. “Not really…I’ve been down here a while and I’ve pretty much lost track of time. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, Alice. It’s not very important anyway. Let’s sit back down and I’ll tell you what I was thinking.”
Kristy barely dared to breathe as she crouched in the darkness clutching a stone she and Alice had pried from the oldest section of the cellar walls. Eventually, she heard the sound she’d been waiting for: footsteps in the corridor beyond the interior door.
A bright light shone through the bars set into the door, illuminating Alice and the patches of bright blood soaked into the skirt of her white dress. She lay sprawled on the floor directly opposite the door.
A man swore on the other side of the door. Metal clanked, the key turned in the lock, and the man rushed inside. As he bent down over Alice, Kristy leaped from her hiding place and hit him over the head.
He dropped to the floor immediately. Alice, who’d been playing possum, sat up and checked his pulse while Kristy discarded the stone.
“He’s unconscious,” Alice declared. She tore a strip off the man’s shirt and used it to bandage the wound on her thigh.
“Grab his keys and lead the way.” Kristy held out her hand to help Alice up. “We need to get out of here fast.”
Alice and Kristy snuck up the stairs leading from the basement to the entrance hall. They quickly ducked into the shadows of the main staircase as voices carried down to them from above.
“…gather by the barn,” a gruff-voiced man said. “We will kill the evil triad there at dawn. By offering them to God in the place their curse destroyed, we’ll ensure the safety of the chosen people for many generations to come.”
Alice whimpered. Kristy put her arm around the other woman and pressed a finger to her lips.
“I will tell them,” a woman replied. “And leader, I hope you know that none of us think badly of you because the evil triad turned out to be your grandchildren. Our God tests us in ways we can’t always understand, but you’ve proven your faith by choosing to destroy this evil.”
“There is nothing else I could do,” the man replied.
The pair had reached the foot of the stairs now. Alice shook in Kristy’s arms as they listened to the pair cross the entrance hall and exit the house.
“How can he talk about his grandchildren like that?” Alice sobbed.
“Put that out of your head for now, Alice,” Kristy replied. “We only have until dawn to find the babies and get out of here. Do you know where they might be keeping them?”
Alice nodded and led Kristy upstairs. They tiptoed down a long hallway to a room right at the end. The triplets were fast asleep in three identical cribs. Alice and Kristy rushed over to them.
“My sweet little angels.” Tears ran down Alice’s cheeks as she looked down at her sons.
Kristy identified Caleb and lifted him into her arms. He gurgled softly as she cuddled him close. She then lifted his brother from the next crib.
“Let’s go,” Kristy urged as Alice lifted the last child into her arms.
Alice nodded, but it was clear as she limped toward the door that the wound on her leg and her weakened state from being imprisoned was causing her to tire quickly.
“What’s the fastest route to the garage?” Kristy asked.
“Back the way we came and then—”
The nursery door swung open. A silhouette filled the doorway as the two women were spotlighted in light from the hallway. Kristy clutched Caleb and his brother close as she backed away, her heart pounding. They were trapped!
“Maria, thank God it’s you!” Alice sighed.
Kristy stared at the woman in the doorway. This woman must be the nanny Alice had mentioned earlier.
Maria glanced from Alice to Kristy, then stepped aside. She didn’t say a word as she walked away down the hallway. Alice limped after her, so Kristy followed.
Maria walked quickly. She paused when she reached the main staircase, then gestured to Alice and Kristy that it was safe for them to go. They both thanked the nanny as they hurried past her to the stairs.
Alice led Kristy into the garage. Several cars were parked there, but Kristy beelined for a massive pickup truck parked on the far side of the garage. The vehicle was unlocked, and the keys were in the ignition. The engine started with a powerful purr.
Kristy slammed her foot down on the accelerator as soon as the garage door finished opening. Gravel sprayed out behind them as she sped down the driveway. Within a few minutes, the large gates at the entrance to the compound loomed ahead.
The gates burst open when the pickup smashed into them. The gate on one side soon sprang back; metal screamed against metal, and something heavy smashed against the windscreen. Bits of glass rained down on Kristy as she turned the pickup. Alice screamed, and the babies started crying.
“Are you okay?” Kristy called over her shoulder as she headed toward town.
“Shaken up, but okay,” Alice replied. “What do we do now? They’ll start chasing us soon.”
“We head to the nearest police station,” Kristy replied. “I’m not really familiar with this area. Do you know the way?”
“I do, but we’ll never make it. Look.”
Alice pointed at the fuel gauge, where a warning light had come on. “We’re almost out of gas.”
Kristy swore. “What do we do? It’s too dangerous to go back for my car. We’ll be caught.”
“No, we won’t be caught,” Alice said. “Pull over. I know what we need to do.”
“You need to take my babies and get out of here,” Alice said. She had a jacket she’d found in the back of the truck and used it to fashion a baby sling so Kristy could safely carry all three children.
“But what about you?” Kristy asked as she held the babies close.
“I’m going to lead them away from you for as long as I have gas in this truck.” Alice gave her a determined look and pointed across the corn fields growing alongside the road. “You need to take off. Cross this field and you’ll find a windmill, turn right there and carry on until you see a big, green barn.”
“You’ll see a ruined old house on a hill; head toward it. You’ll reach the road in about an hour.”
“I’ll be back for you, Alice.” Kristy awkwardly leaned over to touch Alice with her elbow. “And I’ll be bringing a whole army of police with me.”
Alice smiled sadly and leaned over to kiss each of the triplets. “Just promise me you’ll take care of my boys, that’s all I ask.”
Before Kristy could reply, Alice hopped back into the truck and drove off. Kristy said a quiet prayer for the brave woman and set off across the fields.
Dawn was starting to turn the sky red and mauve when Kristy reached the road. Her thighs felt like lead, and the triplets had all cried since she passed the green barn. They needed to be changed, but there was nothing Kristy could do about that now.
She shuffled along the side of the road and almost started crying in relief when she saw a car. Kristy set one of the children down and frantically waved at the car. It slowed to a stop beside her.
“Please help me!” Kristy pleaded to the driver. “I have to get to a police station fast.”
“Okay, miss,” the man behind the wheel replied.
“You climb in the back and I’ll take you to the station over in the valley.”
“Thank you so much!” Kristy climbed into the back of the sedan and slumped into the seat.
We’re almost free of this hell! She thought as she settled the babies around her. She stared forward as the driver turned around and felt panic grip her heart in an icy fist.
Just behind his ear, the man had a tattoo of three crossed dots.
Kristy sat in the chosen people’s basement jail with her arms around her legs and her face pressed to her knees. She’d wanted to fight when she realized that man was one of the ‘chosen people,’ but there wasn’t much she could do while holding three babies she didn’t want to risk harming.
But her decision haunted her. It now seemed like it would’ve been better to risk a few bruises and scrapes while fighting for freedom than let the crazies who wanted to kill them rip the children from her arms.
“What have I done?” Kristy whispered. Alice had trusted her to protect the triplets; instead, she’d doomed them.
Kristy’s head jerked up as she heard a sound outside the door. She wouldn’t give up yet. She’d escaped this place before and could do so again.
The door flew open, and Kristy charged. She leaped at the figure standing in the doorway and only noticed at the last minute that it was a woman wearing a police uniform.
After a full day of interviews and statements at the police station, Kristy, Alice, and the triplets were reunited. Kristy insisted that Alice and the babies come home with her.
Once they’d settled the children in the nursery, Kristy led Alice to the sofa and urged her to share everything that had happened to her after they parted ways at the roadside.
“The police said you reported what happened,” Kristy said, “but they didn’t give me the details.”
Alice smiled shyly. “Well, I had three cars on my tail when that pickup ran out of gas. I climbed out and ran across a corn field to the barn I saw on the hill. The chosen people cornered me there.”
“And then I was saved. The farmer must’ve heard the ruckus because he and his sons came out with guns and chased the chosen away. They let me call the police from their home.”
Kristy leaned over and hugged Alice tightly. “You saved our lives. When I think of how badly this whole thing could’ve turned out…”
“Don’t.” Alice looked into her eyes. “We’re all safe now, and that’s the most important thing. I don’t know where I’ll go from here—”
“Nowhere.” Kristy moved her hands to Alice’s shoulders.
“I want you and the boys to live here with me. Please say you’ll stay, Alice.”
Alice smiled. “How could I refuse?”