A T.J. Jackson Mystery #4
Curse of the Fairfield Witch
T.J. Jackson just wants to be a normal high school kid. Unfortunately, his paranormal ability — and the responsibility that goes with it — won’t let him. He and fellow ghost hunters Bortnicker and LouAnne have made a name for themselves as reality TV stars, but now the stakes are higher. A witch from the 1600s has returned to avenge her death, and the Junior Gonzo Ghost Chasers must stop her. It sounds like great TV, but this time adventure and fame aren’t what’s important. This time, the fate of T.J.’s home town hangs in the balance...and the clock is ticking.
BUY THE BOOK
|Middle Grade / Teens|
“I tell you, it is the mark of the devil!” declared the shrieking woman, strings of iron-gray hair protruding from her close-fitting white linen cap. “Goody Nichols and I have seen it for ourselves!”
The somber group of men gathered in the first room of Reverend Jonathan Melrose’s residence either nodded slowly or looked away in embarrassment. The physical description of any woman’s privates was cause enough for discomfort, especially in the presence of a man of God. Melrose, a tall, gaunt figure with a shock of gray hair tied back, wiped a bead of perspiration from his brow, his black waistcoat heavy with sweat and high clerical collar chafing his skin in the summer humidity. “If you would be so kind, Mrs. Ogden,” he said steadily, “please describe it as best you can—”
“It is red!” blurted Harriet Nichols, a stout woman with a florid face. “Just below the hip on her left side. Larger than a seagull’s egg and heart shaped. This is not natural! Even a blind man can understand she is the daughter of Satan. You can see it in her eyes!” From the corner of the room could be heard the pathetic sobbing of the accused’s mother.
“And you are sure this mark is not natural?” asked Melrose, glaring toward the distraught woman in the corner.
“As sure as I stand here before you and God,” declared Goody Ogden.
Melrose breathed deeply and shut his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened them again they were sad and tired. “Very well, then. I thank you fine ladies for carrying out this most distasteful task.” The women gathered their ankle-length brown skirts and bustled out, no doubt in breathless anticipation of announcing their findings to the kind townsfolk of Fairfield, Connecticut. After the crying woman excused herself to the other room in which the accused girl lay, Melrose sighed and faced the men. “As the Town Council of Fairfield, you are aware that we are authorized to begin an investigation of satanic possession, if any, if the grounds for such are evident. We have, to begin, ‘notorious defamation by the common report of one or more persons’. Is this so?”
The men nodded as one.
“Has the accused ‘quarreled or threatened mischief to other parties’?”
“She has,” said a tall man with a hard face dark and cracked from years of toiling in the sun, “on numerous occasions.”
“And, as we learn today, the mark of Satan is evident upon her. We have no choice, then, but to proceed with further measures which may lead to a hearing for the purpose of determining whether she is a witch among us.”
“And God help us all,” wheezed an elderly man with a black eye patch.
“I will let you know where and how we will proceed,” said Melrose in the stifling room. The lowing of nearby cattle could be heard through the rough-hewn walls of the wooden four-room house. “I ask you in the meantime not to speak of this to anyone outside of the Council. No need to create hysteria amongst the congregation. You are all good men and I trust your better judgment. Go with God.”
The handful of town elders filed out and Melrose sat down heavily in a crude wooden chair with a leather seat back and bottom at his oaken dinner table. Wearily, he regarded his surroundings. As the pastor of the First Community Church, he possessed a few amenities that others did not, among them a cupboard brought over from England, the country of his birth, and pewter utensils and plates. But the advantages of his station in the community were at the moment far outweighed by the responsibility that rested squarely on his angular shoulders. He stared into the blackness of the walk-in fireplace where cookware suspended from swing-out cranes awaited the commencement of the preparation of the evening meal. The fire, which was never allowed to go out, even in summer, had been reduced to a pile of glowing embers due to the length of the meeting.
Finally, the woman emerged from the other room, her eyes rimmed with red. She had been pretty once, with blonde hair and pale blue eyes. But life in the Connecticut colony had been hard on her, and she was worn out far beyond her years. After tending the fire, she lit the solitary candle that sat atop the table, brushing her hand across his shoulder in a moment of tenderness before seating herself across from him. The candle’s guttering flame sent pulsing shadows across their faces. “So there will be a trial,” she whispered resignedly.
“If there has to be,” was his curt response.
“But Jonathan, she is your daughter,” the woman quietly pleaded.
“No, she is your daughter, a child begotten of the union of yourself and that infernal ruffian of a husband who drowned himself in drink. Dear God, Mother, whatever possessed you—”
“That is of no matter, Jonathan,” she said softly. “I cannot change the past. What is important is that you and I found each other. And has it not been good?”
“Aye,” he said, “there’s no quarrel with that. But she is another matter. From the moment the two of you came under my roof that girl has done nothing but defy me, the spiritual leader of the entire town of Fairfield!” He struggled to keep his anger under control, but his voice was starting to rise as it did during Sunday sermons when his fervent invocations literally shook the rafters of First Community Church.
At that moment, the heavy door to the other room swung open and the girl stood defiantly in its frame, backlit from the orange sunset streaming through a window. Her feet were planted shoulder width apart with her arms crossed over her bodice, which was still in a state of disarray. Her dark red hair, having come undone during the struggle to examine her, fell in cascades to her shoulders. She fixed her catlike green eyes upon the minister and sneered, “So beating and starving me is not enough, I gather. You’ll not be satisfied ‘till I dance at the end of a damned rope.”
“Hush!” cried her mother. “Do not blaspheme, child!”
“You’ve brought this on yourself,” snapped the minister, returning her glare. “Ultimately, it will be up to a court of your peers to determine your innocence or guilt.”
She laughed sardonically. “My peers, indeed. Those forthright souls who have been conspiring to do me in for as long as I can remember. Well, we’ll have our trial, then, but remember this, Father—if I am condemned to the fires of hell, I’ll make sure to save a place for you.”