“She performs naked Satanic rituals at night and believes herself to be a witch? She told you that directly?” asked Dr. Eli Epstein
“No Eli. Not directly. In fact, she states that people started rumors about her when she was a kid. She denies having anything to do with witchcraft. But what about the dead child and the evidence against her? It’s all very damning; wouldn’t you say?”, answered Spencer.
Dr. Eli Epstein and Dr. Spencer Casey were in deep conversation in Dr. Epstein’s office. It was exactly what you thought a psychiatrist’s office would look like. There were very comfortable chairs and sofas in soothing colors. There were paintings on the walls of vast open landscapes in the spring. In the background there was soft classical music playing at a volume so low that your ears barely even registered that it was there. The entire room was carefully designed to make nervous patients feel at ease.
Eli leaned back in his big chair and stroked his grey beard thoughtfully. “It is very interesting that you used the religious term ‘damning’. The witch, especially the female witch is a very powerful symbol in Western Religion. The mere accusation used to get women killed. Now, of course, the accusation that someone thinks she is witch is enough to label the woman as crazy. Remember that woman from Delaware who was running for Senate? She got labeled as crazy because in high school she once dated a guy who was interested in witchcraft. She even had to have a T.V. commercial that said, “I am not a witch.”
“Let’s stay focused on Jeanne here Eli. What about all the evidence against her in the death of her child?”
“What evidence Spencer? The toddler wandered out of the house on a very cold day while the mother-Jeanne- was asleep. He got lost in the woods and wandered further and further away until he died of exposure. That was the official cause of death after all. The mother is overwhelmed by grief and has never been the same since.”
“You’re forgetting about how the child was found. He has laying down on a tree stump surrounded by little sticks arranged in weird little symbols. What about that?”, said Spencer.
“I have been thinking a lot about that,” responded Eli. “Do you know that when people die of exposure the bodies always look very peaceful? They get more and more tired as their body loses heat, until finally they just lay down and fall asleep and never wake up. That is what the child did. He was curled up in a fetal position on a large flat tree stump. He was sucking his thumb.”
“Wow. You have really been looking into this Eli,” responded Spencer in a very surprised tone. “But what about the sticks?”
“OK Spencer. Let’s suppose that Jeanne really did practice witchcraft. By the way, witchcraft and Satan worship are two completely different things. She would have taught her son all sorts of ways to protect himself from danger, including arranging sticks in way to ward off the evil spirits. You told me that Jeanne said her child loved going into the woods and gathering sticks. You asked for my professional opinion and here it is. You can accept it or not. It’s just my opinion. I don’t think anyone killed little Jason. I think he wandered off outside on a February day to play in the woods and ended up getting lost and died.”
“But what about all the footprints in the snow?” answered Spencer. “If the boy just got lost and died why didn’t Jeanne just tell that to the police instead of a story about his being kidnapped by a Satanic cult?”
“Because she believes the story Jason. In her mind she believes it one hundred percent. As you know my practice specializes in grief. Grief and guilt do strange things to the human mind. Your girlfriend Jeanne made a tragic mistake that ended up killing her only child. She fell asleep without shutting the door completely. Her child woke up and got out of the house while she was still asleep. Jeanne’s mind can’t accept that mistake. As a protective mechanism her mind has made up the story of a kidnapping cult so that she does not have to face her own tragic error.”
“Where do you think the footprints in the snow came from?” asked Spencer.
“From Jeanne, of course. It probably did not snow until after the child wandered off. When Jeanne woke up she frantically realized the boy was gone. She went outside to look for him and saw the snow. In her panic she probably couldn’t find her own boots so she put on a pair of her husband’s. She ran around frantically for a long time searching. That’s why there were so many prints.”
“And she doesn’t even remember doing this?” asked Spencer.
” Their is no grief in the world more devastating than that which comes from having made a mistake that killed your own child. And it happens all the time, in an instant. Parents back the SUV out of the garage and don’t see the child playing behind it. People leave a window open and the baby crawls out of it. Toddlers stick a butter knife into an uncovered electrical outlet. It happens all the time Spencer.”
Spencer and Eli sat in silence for a long time. Finally Spencer stood up and they shook hands. “Thanks Eli. What can I do to help her?”
“Just be there Spencer. That’s all you can do. Her mind will tell her the truth eventually, but not until she has healed enough to be ready. Don’t try to force it on her.”
Spencer left the building and slowly walked back to his apartment. That morning Jeanne had packed her bag and said she was going back to Canada. His little apartment was somehow going to seem way too big with Jeanne gone.
He opened the door and there was Jeanne. He went over and sat next to her.
They sat there in the dark apartment not touching and not looking at each other for a full ten minutes without saying a word.
Finally, Jeanne said softly. “I’ve lied to you alot.”
“No. I mean I lie all the time about everything. Who I was, what I’ve done, even who I can be. It’s mostly lies with maybe some truth mixed in. Sometimes I don’t even remember what’s a lie and what isn’t. Sometimes I am not really sure what’s actually happened in my life and what hasn’t. ”
Spencer turned and looked at her and said, “I will help you find out Jeanne. I love you. The real you. You’re not crazy and you’re not a killer. The truth is that I’m your lover and you are mine. When you are ready to find the truth, I will be there with you.”
Jeanne turned her head and looked at Spencer like she was seeing him for the first time. “I trapped you. Do you know that? I knew you were a doctor and I wanted that and I set up the whole naked swim to trap you. I wanted to get away from my life and get a whole new one with a rich doctor. Do you still love me now?”
“Yes. I still love you. Don’t you think I wanted to be trapped?”, said Spencer as he stroked her hair.
“I want to talk about the rest. I want to talk about the cold and little Jason. I will. I will. But not now. Right now I am just so tired.” Jeanne put her head on Spencer’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Just then she said, “Remember when I told you about how strong my ex-husband Billy was?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“You’re stronger. In everything that matters, you’re so much stronger.” Then Jeanne fell into a deep sleep, as Spencer watched over her.