“I’m going to count backward from ten to one. As I do, you will attain a deep peace, and with each number back you will go deeper and deeper into that place of peace and tranquility.” A look of calm contentment spread across his face and she could see he was completely relaxed. “I’d like you to visualize a peaceful place, a garden perhaps.”
“A secret garden.”
A knowing smile curved Ann’s bow-like mouth, although Ted didn’t see it. The Secret Garden had been one of Ann’s favorite books as a youngster, and when the film came out in the early ’90s, she and Ted fell in love with it together. “Does the garden have a wall?”
Even in his deep relaxed state he smiled. “Of course, it’s a secret garden.”
“And a hidden door?”
Ted chuckled. “It wouldn’t be much of a secret garden if it didn’t have a hidden door.” He got a quizzical look on his face. “There are three doors—a weathered gate, a red door, and a green door.” He breathed deeply.
Ann leaned back into the corner of the loveseat. Ted looked so peaceful. It reminded her of the times she would watch him sleep after he’d worked a long shift. He’d said that being with her banished the stresses of the day, and he was content to simply lie next to her. The reverie ended when Ted sat bolt upright forcing the recliner into a sitting position. In a booming but lightly British-accented voice that was definitely not Ted, he sternly said, “What evil spirit have you familiarity with?”
“What are you talking about, Ted?”
He almost screamed, “Ted! You dare speak to a magistrate of the court in such a way?”
“Do not play coy with me, madam. You know well that I am John Hathorne, magistrate of Salem Village. Now tell me what evil spirit guides you.”
Concerned that he might become erratic, she reached over and touched his hand. The accent, the timbre of his voice, but mostly the look in his eyes made Ann recognize the man who interrupted her session at the Red Cross several months before, and she quickly pulled her hand away.
“How far have you complied with Satan whereby he takes this advantage against you?”
Ann tried to calm him, but his reaction to her use of his given name was extremely volatile.
“You will not speak to me in such a way, wench.” Then his tone and manner softened considerably. “How can you say you know nothing, when you see those who are tormented?”
Ann got up and put her hands on his shoulders, forcefully he shrugged her off.
Afraid to use his first name again she tried, “Please, Mr. Hathorne, sit back and close your eyes.” He turned and looked at her with such hatred that her stomach tied in a tight knot, but something took hold of him and she saw Ted return. He fell back into the chair and closed his eyes. After a few minutes, his labored breathing became deep and even.
She blew out the breath she’d been holding and went back to the loveseat. She sat for a few minutes and took several deep breaths, but before she had a chance to gather herself or speak Ted opened his eyes.
Saying not a word, he casually put the chair upright again and stood. He smiled at her as he sat on the opposite end of the loveseat, leaning against the corner of it and stretching his legs full length until his feet were under the table almost touching hers. She moved as far away as she could get without leaving her seat. He lounged there, his left arm flung carelessly over the arm of the small sofa, his hand cupped as though it held a brandy snifter. With his right hand he pushed the hair off of his forehead. He raised a single eyebrow as he gazed at her.
The look she saw was one of evocative familiarity that was definitely not Ted. There was an intensity that suggested power and control, and it made her uncomfortable, but fascinated her at the same time. She asked, “Ted?” Receiving no response she ventured, “Mr. Hathorne?”
Rubbing the crease in his chin with his index finger then resting his jaw on his fist, he watched her. The look in his eyes made a light blush color her cheeks.
With a Scottish brogue Ann had heard before, he said, “Mr. Hathorne, Ted. I fear I know neither of these men.”
“Who are you?”
“Andrew Mcnaughton. Do you not remember me, Miss Hart? We met earlier today.”
Of course, this was the man she met in her office several months ago. He thought they were on a ship that sailed from Scotland on the way to Antiqua, just like Ted’s dream.
“Yes, of course, nice to see you again Mr. Mcnaughton.”
A roguish grin played on his lips. “So, Miss Hart, what takes you to Antigua?”
While Ann tried to determine the best way to answer his question she was startled by the sudden motion of him sitting upright and pulling his legs out from under the table. In the earlier British-accented voice he said, “How can you say you know nothing, when you see these tormented people who accuse you?”
Hathorne was back. Knowing that she had to respond in some way but not wanting to antagonize him, she said, “What would you have me do?”
“Confess if you be guilty.”
“I am not guilty.”
His menacing look changed suddenly to a softened, playful one. In the gentle Scottish voice he said, “Guilty of what, Miss Hart?”
Startling her, Hathorne returned saying furiously, “Why do you hurt these folks?”
Andrew slipped back in with his soft brogue and intoned, “Of what are you not guilty, Miss Hart?”
Becoming more and more agitated, Hathorne stood. Pointing at her, he angrily said, “We do not send for you to go to prayer. I demand you tell me why you hurt these people.”
Completely confused by this strange cacophony of back and forth voices, entities, past lives or whatever was happening made Ann jump up and shout, “Stop!”
Even in his agitated state her shout startled him, and he quickly sat down. She could see that Hathorne and Andrew were gone and Ted was back.
“Close your eyes and visualize the garden. Find a bench and sit down.” She waited a few minutes. “Now take a deep breath.”
The room was calm for the first time in several minutes, and Ann took the time to pull herself together, repositioning herself on the loveseat. Having finally regained her composure, she asked, “Ted?”
“I’m going to count backwards from five. When I reach one, open your eyes. You will feel calm and refreshed.”
Ted brought the chair to an upright position. “That has to be the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
“I’ll buy that. I’m not even sure what happened, but if you have no objection, I think we should talk to Jamie and Maura about it.”
“Wouldn’t Tom Alderman be the one to ask?”
“He didn’t seem to have any better grasp of this than I do.”
“But you think Jamie and Maura will?”
“A few years ago her mother and sister were diagnosed with lung cancer and died within a few weeks of each other. Maura was at the bedside of both for all the chemo-therapy, radiation, and surgery. While they were in hospice care, she started looking into what might be on the ‘other side’ by reading about near death experiences and reincarnation hoping to ease the transition for them. So, she actually knows a lot about it.”
“That explains why Jamie accepted Tom’s theory so readily. Did all her research help her mother and sister?”
“They both seemed fairly peaceful at the end, but who knows why. It might simply have been that they were ready. But it definitely helped Maura, so she continued her studying even after they were gone. I know what you’re thinking, that she isn’t an expert, but she may actually be more open to possibilities than ‘experts’ tend to be.”
“You mean experts like us?” He smiled.