He was now more confused than when he’d started. He should have stuck with his previous education from Disney villains.
From what he’d read, there appeared to be no rhyme or reason to witchcraft. He saw it in his mind as a giant tree. The trunk was the catch-all witchcraft label and the hundreds of branches were the possibilities for how to practice. There was no consistency. Black magic, white magic, evil and good. Solitary practitioners and covens that ranged from a few to hundreds. He’d decided to pick David Aguirre’s brain. The minister had lived in Eagle’s Nest all his life, and Truman hoped he had a bit of insight into the rumors that surrounded the Sabin women.
The faint sounds of a TV show came down the hallway, and Truman stopped outside David’s office door. It was ajar. He knocked and then pushed it open. David sat at an ancient wooden desk, tapping away at a keyboard. The back of a giant monitor faced Truman, the Apple logo prominently displayed. Behind the minister a small television was tuned to a cooking competition show that Truman often watched with Mercy.
David stood and held his hand out over the monitor. “Hey, Chief. What brings you to church on a weekday?” David had been close friends with Mercy’s oldest brother, Owen, all his life. She’d shared stories about when the two men were in their teens that had made even Truman—who’d thought he’d heard and seen everything—shake his head. Mercy still harbored a bit of dislike for the man who’d set aside his fast-track-to-hell ways and now stood behind a pulpit. Truman understood. Something about the minister had bothered him during his first few months in town, but Truman had put his dislike aside after David’s actions a few weeks earlier at the funeral of Joziah Bevins, a longtime Eagle’s Nest resident.
David’s words over Joziah’s casket had been heartfelt and sincere. Truman had watched as David took charge of Joziah’s grieving son, Mike, one of Truman’s closest friends. Truman’s respect for the minister had grown substantially that day. David cared about the people of his town, just as Truman did. They offered their support in different but similar ways.
“I assume you’ve heard about the murder of Olivia Sabin,” Truman began.
“Yes.” David nodded and gestured for Truman to take a seat in an old wood chair to the side of his desk. “It’s all I’ve heard about for the last twenty-four hours.”
“Gossip train full speed ahead.”
“Exactly.” David did up the buttons of his thick sweater, and Truman realized the office was quite cold. Glancing around, he realized the monitor was the only item in the office that was less than a decade or two old. No doubt David kept the heat low, saving money so he could afford to properly heat the building on Sundays.
“Did you know Olivia or Salome?” Truman asked.
David leaned back in his chair, a reluctant look on his face. “Why are you asking?”
“I was there yesterday morning,” Truman told him. “I saw the home and Mercy happened to be there for her death. I can’t get some of the things in the house out of my mind. And like you, I’ve been inundated with gossip since it happened. I’m trying to sort out what’s real from the bull.” He paused. “You know they haven’t been able to locate Salome, right?”
“I’d heard. I hope she hasn’t been hurt.” David sat forward and rested his arms on his desk, his gaze holding Truman’s. “You want to know if I think the two of them could be witches.”
Stated like that, it sounded ridiculous. “Something to that effect. I’ve been reading up on witchcraft, trying to get a sense of what could be going on in their home.”
David pressed his lips together and appeared to be weighing his words, debating what to share. “I met Olivia once,” he started. “This was years ago . . . way before Morrigan was born. She came to see me.”
“She did?” Shock shot through Truman. “I thought—”
“You thought she’d have nothing to do with a church, right? Well, she was seeking counsel, just like any other person in town might do. She had no one else to talk to. Her daughter, Salome, seemed to be the only person in her life, and Olivia was worried about her . . . like any mother who worries about her daughter.”
Truman was fascinated. “What did she say?”
David frowned. “I feel most of that conversation is private, but I can tell you she was concerned for Salome’s future. She didn’t want her daughter to be ostracized from society the way she had been.”
“Didn’t Olivia choose to live removed from others?”
“She did. But she knew what people in town said about her. Locals crossed the road to avoid meeting her on the sidewalk and never made eye contact in the grocery store.”
“That’s horrible,” admitted Truman.
“That day I saw a lonely woman who simply wanted her daughter to be accepted.”
“How old was Salome at that time?”
“Somewhere in her twenties.”
“Old enough to do as she wished.”
“That was part of Olivia’s heartache. Salome embraced the witchcraft rumors and may have even perpetuated some of them. Olivia said her daughter enjoyed the suspicion and fear.”
Dark, challenging eyes. Dangerous curves.
“I can see that.”
“I told Olivia she couldn’t change her daughter’s behavior. Salome was an adult. Olivia could only sit back and love her.”
“What about the witchcraft?” pressed Truman.
David shifted in his seat, discomfort crossing his face. “Olivia assured me she only practiced white magic.”
“You don’t seem pleased at that.”
“I can’t condone anything of that nature.”
“What I’ve read about white magic sounds like it’s based in nature. Almost a reverence for the elements.”
“Yes, we had a discussion about how she celebrated the world that my God had made. She didn’t see any harm in that.”
“But she lauded the results, not the maker.”
Relief crossed David’s face. “Exactly. Our discussion was polite and interesting, but I don’t think I convinced her of the error of her ways. She wasn’t a bad woman . . . just misguided.”
“Some ministers would have ordered her out of their office.”
“She was a human being with feelings and a family. Just like you and me. She came to me in desperation, and I helped her as I would have done for anyone. I’m not here to pass judgment. That’s not my job.”
Truman’s respect for David rose another notch. The minister might occasionally lapse into a piousness that annoyed him, but his heart was in the right place.
“Did you ever meet Salome?” asked Truman.
The minister took a deep breath. “I did.”
Truman waited ten seconds, but David didn’t speak. “I met her,” Truman stated. “She rattled me pretty good.”
“Yes.” A skeptical light shone in David’s eyes. “That was it exactly. I only met her in passing, but I swear she saw every fault in my soul. I didn’t like it.”
“I experienced the same.”
“Danger and thrills radiated from her,” David said. “It was disturbing, but it helped me understand why so many men fell prey to her looks. Her words and actions implied that she offered escape from the humdrum life.”
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