Jeanne was completely naked, sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor surrounded by a circle of lit candles. The apartment was completely dark except for the light from the candles. The beautiful blue dress Jeanne had worn to the disastrous dinner with Karen was hung neatly in the closet. It looked like she had drawn on the wooden floor with chalk. It was too dark to see what exactly what she had drawn.
“What are you doing?” asked Spencer gently.
“Praying. I am praying for my murdered little boy, ” answered Jeanne without looking up, She continued to rock gently back and forth and she seemed to be either chanting or praying softly.
“Let me help you though this Jeanne. I am a doctor. We study extreme grief in medical school.”
“Yea. Well studying grief is not exactly the same thing as having grief, is it doctor? You can tell your sister she won. She found my weakest point and she stuck the knife right into it. You can tell her the crazy Canadian chick will be leaving tomorrow.”
Spencer stepped over the candles and sat down on the floor next to Jeanne. He put his arms around her and said. “That’s not what I want. I love you and I want you here with me. I told my sister that if she can’t accept that then I don’t want her in my life until she does.”
Jeanne smiled slightly and looked into Spencer’s eyes. “She told you all of the shit they say about me on the internet didn’t she?”
“Karen said a lot of strange nonsense. I told her I was not going to believe it and walked out of the restaurant. By the way, I stuck her with the whole dinner bill.”
Jeanne stood up and stretched. Then she walked over the the bed and lay down. She patted the mattress and said. “Come next to me Spencer. Lay back and let me tell you everything there is to know about Jeanne Sedola. Just lay back, close your eyes and listen without interrupting”
Spencer lay down and Jeanne started her story. She talked in a gently soothing voice, as if she were telling a bedtime story to a child.
“I was never smart. Not like you and your sister. You probably got straight As to be able to get into a good college and then medical school. I was lucky if I could get a C. But even though I was struggling, the other girls in the school were jealous of me. You see, I was pretty, very pretty and that made them hate me. Of course, the boys all were nice since they wanted to fuck me. They were nice until they found out I wouldn’t do anything with them. Then they hated me too.
It was very rural where I grew up. Vancouver Island is as different from Manhattan as you can imagine. I used to go hiking in the woods alone alot. I had no friends, my mother was not married, and she was basically an alcoholic. So I went into the woods alone whenever I could. I loved seeing the animals. Once I even saw a wolf. I wasn’t scared of him. I just thought he was beautiful.
I even went into the woods at night. I would bring a lantern and a book to read. I just wanted to get out of our little house where my mother would drink and watch T.V. until she passed out.
Then the rumors started at school. Kids had seen me going into the woods at night and they started a rumor that I was a witch.”
Spencer could not help interrupting. “A witch? Come on Jeanne, this isn’t 1600. No one believes crap like that.”
“That’s what I thought, ” said Jeanne. “But you can’t believe how cruel kids in a small rural town can be. No one actually believed I was a witch. What they did believe was that I was a crazy chick who thought she was a witch. People started taping pictures of witches to my locker. The Assistant Principal even called me in to ask if I would like to see a psychologist. You see, even the adults believed the rumor that I was crazy and thought myself to be a witch. Then it all stopped.”
“How?” asked Spencer. “How did it all stop?
“I met Billy. He was a commercial fisherman. He was older than me, and I met him down on the dock one day. He was real nice to me. He was big, real big and incredibly strong.”
Jeanne saw a frown on Spencer’s face, so Jeanne said. “Don’t get jealous Spencer. You are very strong for a doctor. But Billy hauls nets and traps and ropes in the freezing cold all day every day year after year. It’s like his body is made out of steel. Even the other fishermen are a little afraid of him.
So anyway, Billy and I started dating and people stopped saying bad things about me. I think he went around town and warned people to shut up, but I can’t be sure. All I know is that as soon as I became his girl, I was suddenly safe. I was with him as often as I could be. He would put his huge arm around me as we walked, and my head barely made it up to his shoulders. I wasn’t the crazy Witch Girl anymore. I was Billy’s girl and everyone treated me with respect.”
Jeanne lay back in the bed, and closed her eyes. Spencer though she was asleep, and put a blanket on her. Then, still with her eyes closed she continued her story.
“I graduated from high school- just barely. I got a job at the fish factory and continued to see Billy, whenever he was not out on his boat. I bet for a heart surgeon like you that sounds like a pretty boring life, eh?”
“No,” replied Spencer gently. “It sounds like a nice life. What happened to it?”
“Well, I got careless, an so I got pregnant. I was just 18. Billy insisted we get married, so we did and I became Jeanne Sedola.”
For the fist time it occurred to Spencer that he did not know Jeanne’s maiden name.
“What were you before you were Mrs. Sedola?”
“Eastman, Jeanne Eastman. I should have kept that name. I like it better. I guess I should change it back, but there’s a lot of paperwork. Anyway, Billy and I got married and 9 months later Baby Jason was born.”
Jeanne’s eyes started to fill up with tears at the mention of the baby. She lay quietly for a long time and then she continued.
“I moved into Billy’s place which was a tiny little house by the woods, way out of town. He never had a big place since he spent so much time on his boat. I quit my job at the factory. I wasn’t earning much and it would have cost me more to pay someone to watch the baby than I could make at work.
Billy was out on the boat fishing more than ever. He wanted to make as much money as possible now that he was a father. It was a solid boat and he could stay out at sea for a long time if he had to. So I was alone with Jason most of the time. Totally alone. ”
“That must have been rough on you,” said Spencer.
“No. I liked it. It was even more fun when Jason became a toddler. I would take him for trips into the woods and he loved it. He would watch the birds, and pick up little sticks. He was a real outdoors-man. He was strong and healthy too-like his father Billy.
Then one cold day in February, Jason had I were both indoors. It was too cold to go for a walk. Billy was down at the docks working on his boat’s engine. I played little games with Jason in the house, then put him down for a nap. He fell asleep quickly, so I took a nap too.
I woke up about an hour later because I was shivering with the cold. The door to the house was wide open and Jason was not in his bed. I thought that somehow he must have woken up, gotten the door open and wandered outside.
I panicked. It was so cold, and the ground was covered in deep snow. There were footprints in the snow, but they were from adults not a child’s.”
“Adults? Like more than one?” asked Spencer.
“The police said it was four or possibly five people. I called the police, I called Billy, I even called my Mom. They had search parties going before it even got dark. The RCMP even brought in dogs and a helicopter.”
“The RCMP?” asked Spencer.
“Royal Canadian M outed Police. They never gave up never.” Jeanne suddenly sat up in bed and had a frightened look in her eyes, like she was back there on that day. Then she looked down and realized that her breasts were still exposed. Suddenly embarrassed, she got up and pulled on a T-Shirt. She paced the apartment room for almost five minutes, working up the courage to say what came next.
“They found his body deep in the woods. He was laid out on a tree stump. The RCMP said there were symbols and markings all around. Little Jason had been killed in some sort of Satanic ritual. I never went to see the place. I never even looked at the pictures.” Then Jeanne just stood in the middle of the room sobbing.
Spencer walked over and enveloped her in a hug. “That’s the most horrible thing I ever heard.” He knew as a doctor that he should be able to say something more comforting, but he just could not think of what it could be. What could he possibly say or do to help sooth that sort of anguish? So Spencer just stood there for a long time holding Jeanne in his arms. Finally he lead her over the to bed. Jeanne was exhausted from telling the story and she fell into a deep sleep.
The next day at the hospital, Jason’s sister Karen insisted on having lunch with Jason as always, even though he was still furious with her. Jason told the who story of the little boy’s murder. “So big sister. I hope you are really proud of yourself for making Jeanne re-live the worst period of her life.”
Karen was afraid she may lose her brother forever, but she knew she had to ask, “Did Jeanne tell you the rest of it?”
“The rest?” asked Spencer. “Jeanne did tell me at breakfast this morning, that they never found the murders. It is still an open case That must make it even worse for her.”
Karen looked Spencer in the eyes and gently rested her hand on his. “Did she tell you that she is still the main suspect for the murder?”
“What? That’s absurd! There were multiple people. Multiple footprints. The body was miles away.”
“Spencer. Listen to me. The were multiple footprints but they were all the same boots. Like someone had walked back and forth many times to make it look like there was more than one person. The police also said there was something odd about the footprints. Like a small light person wearing boots too big. The police think maybe Jeanne was wearing her husband’s boots to confuse the police.”
“It sounds to me like the police were just too damn lazy to do their job,” said Spencer angrily. “And what about all the Satanic stuff?”
“Did she tell you she is a witch? asked Karen”
“She’s not a witch God Damn it!” said Spencer so loudly that some of the other people in the hospital cafeteria looked over. Then he lowered his voice. “Kids made up that rumor when she was in high school, and it stuck.”
“It’s not a rumor Spence. The police said her house was crammed full of books on witchcraft. She had books on spells and potions and ritual sacrifices. Even her husband finally admitted that Jeanne practiced witchcraft daily and took the child into the woods to teach the boy spells. Her husband said she used to gather plants from the woods and cook up some sort of potion. She would rub it all over the baby’s body each night. She said it would make him invincible to pain of sickness. It would even keep him warm in a freezing Canadian forest.”
“Where are you getting this shit!”, yelled Spencer. “From anonymous posts on the internet?”
“From the Canadian police Spence. I called and spoke to the Inspector on the case. He was real interested to find out that Jeanne had left the country. We spoke for a long time.”
“That’s it!” said Spencer. “I and leaving.” He stormed out of the cafeteria, and down the halls of the hospital. He was so upset at his sister he could not think straight.
Spencer paced the halls and kept going over and over in his mind the horrible things Karen had said. But what upset Spencer even more was what he remembered from the night before. He remembered coming into his apartment and finding Jeanne naked in a circle of candles chanting. The burned down candles and the symbols on the floor were still there the next morning. Spencer had taken a a picture of it all and had then looked up on the internet what it meant. Jeanne had said she was praying, but that was only a sort of half truth. The chants, symbol writing and candles were something else.
Something only a witch would do.