Born and raised in the heart of the Pentecostal church, William Berkely did not believe in creatures of the night. Any such dark creatures, be they witches, warlocks, vampires, or fairies, were merely apparitions of the Devil’s angels. Certainly nothing one would call “wifey” material.
The whole ordeal started when Berkely, then 73, had signed up for a cantwait2date.com account under the encouragement of his three kids. His late wife, Debbie, had died several years earlier during a tragic snowstorm that pulled her car off the road. Debbie had been ideal: she led out in two Bible studies, actively volunteered at the local food pantry, spent her free evenings knitting blankets for kids in need, and could make a killer casserole. People had often referred to Will and Debbie as the local church’s mom and dad. They had gladly lived up to the title.
Single life did not fit Berkely well, so he caved and began using cantwait2date. He filled his profile out with all the needless details. Favorite food? Toaster Strudels. (Debbie hated these, but she wasn’t here to stop him from indulging anymore!) Favorite musical group? The Gaither Vocal Band. Favorite day of the week? Sunday, of course. After days of entering his information, William Berkely sent off his profile and waited.
Three days later after returning from a prayer retreat up north, Berkely had three matches. Not bad, he thought. The first match, Shelly, was a short blond woman with a bust much too perky to be natural. Nope. Berkely preferred the natural type. The way God made them to be. The second woman, Sharon, was another blond with large eyes that piqued his interest, and he clicked on her profile to see that she had already sent him a message.
“Hey William, I am stuck Mexico City and need help. You seem very nice, can you transfer $2,000 to my Western Union account to help me? I am greatly thankful for this help that you have give me.”
She seemed nice, but something about the message smelled fishy, so Berkely gave his youngest son a quick call. The short conversation ended with Berkely blocking the big-eyed woman from viewing his profile. Golly, women certainly have changed since I last tried to do this!
His mind flashed back to meeting Debbie in a small church near the college he had been attending. He had been in the theology program there, with dreams of starting his own youth ministry. Debbie was studying to be a teacher, and the two hit it off immediately. “A match made in heaven!” his mother had said.
With a sigh, Berkely shifted back to reality and clicked on his third and final match. His attention was immediately pulled to her profile picture. Bright blue eyes peered deep into the camera, almost jumping out of the screen. Jet-black hair split at her shoulders and ran almost all the way to her thin waist. She was not his normal type, but something about her gaze told him that he needed to give it a try. He clicked a second link that opened her more detailed profile.
Lorraine Blackfield was 71, but only by number. Her skin was tight and free of blemish, a haunting shade of white. Her hair remained blackest of black and her eyes held on to an eerie youthfulness. Under hobbies she had listed things such as moonlit walks and bird watching. As if under a spell, Berkely moved his mouse over the Send Message button and clicked without so much as a second thought.
Hi Lorraine, you look beautiful. I’m recently single and looking to get back into the dating world. I noticed you like bird watching. Would you like to meet at the park for a bird watching walk next week? Let me know if this works and what time is best for you.
If any of his children had been watching, they would have said that this was not normal behavior for Berkely, and indeed, it wasn’t. By now, a dark magic had taken hold of William and his normal timidity was overwhelmed by a strong desire to meet this woman of mysterious charm. He did not believe in chance, and this was far from it.
Within two hours, Lorraine had replied: Yes, I’d love that. Does Tuesday work for you? Widow’s Pond?
Berkely’s computer ping’d with the new message, and after checking the weather forecast he replied: Tuesday works, but is predicted to be overcast. Perhaps we could try Wednesday instead?
Her reply took less than five minutes. Tuesday will be perfect.
Tuesday arrived gray and wet, but this did not dampen Berkely’s spirit. Ever since setting up the meeting with Lorraine he had been busily cleaning up the house, sweeping corners previously ignored, organizing shelves of food and trinkets, and even rearranging some furniture. His whole body was aglow with a new energy – not warmth, but a cool dark surge that can only be felt when one is under the influence of the most powerful witchcraft.
Just before leaving the house, Berkely grabbed Jude, Debbie’s cat, and put him in the car. Debbie had always taken Jude on walks but Berkely had found it hard to keep the cat active after her passing. The walk was a much-needed chance of exercise for both of them.
He arrived at Widow’s Pond twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Lorraine had texted him earlier to tell him to meet her at the green bench to the left of the main entrance. Entranced. That was the perfect word to describe how Berkely had felt over the last several days. He was not foreign to the experience of the supernatural, having attended his fair share of revival meetings complete with spiritual outpourings galore. Yet now he was in a completely different league. It had come in unannounced but was not entirely unwelcome.
Before long, Lorraine arrived at the park and joined Berkely at the bench. She seemed undeterred by meeting a complete stranger for the first time, and quickly introduced herself with a soft but firm voice that projected complete confidence.
“Hi, I’m Lorraine. Shall we begin walking?” She didn’t even bother asking his name. He stood up and followed behind her, absentmindedly pulling the cat behind him on its leash.
Ask her a question, dimwit! he thought to himself. What did she like… bird watching! Yes, ask about that.
“Buh… buh… bird watching.” was all that came out. She didn’t miss a beat.
“Yes, I like it quite a bit. I usually spend my time watching crows and ravens. I find their movements intriguing. What about you?” Her eyes fastened on him as his newly disabled tongue struggled to form sounds that held any meaning.
“Me? Oh, yes. Birds, yes. I uh, I like uh, blue jays? Yes, blue jays. I like their, uh, their blue, uh… feathers.”
She didn’t seem to notice his lack of charm but instead acted as if each word was exactly what she wanted to hear.
“Fascinating. We have a large collection of birds at my house. The women of my family have always had a fascination with taxidermy. I believe we even have a couple blue jays. Perhaps you’d like to see them?” Taxidermy had never interested Berkely more. He mumbled a reply before being invited to ride with her to see the bird collection, and the two turned around and headed back towards the parking lot.
The bird collection proved to be just as excited as bird collections are. Somewhere along the journey the cat went missing, but this did not alarm Berkely. He was head over heels for Lorraine. The two had close to nothing in common, yet now he felt himself professing a new belief: “Opposites attract.” Maybe there was some wisdom to this, after all? He and Debbie had been happily married for over forty years, but now he realized that there was more to life than casserole and prayer retreats.
That evening, Lorraine revealed she’d prepared a dinner that neither had previously discussed. They started with small hors d’oeuvres of clams that Berkely had never tried before but found surprisingly tasty. Lorraine poured him a large glass of what she called the “house wine,” that smelled to Berkely of everything he ever wished for in life. After a couple sips, the whole evening seemed to melt together in a magical bliss.
Lily, Gina, and Tom Berkely never saw their father again. Gina was the last to hear from him on a gray and damp Tuesday in early March. When the local police detective unit searched William Berkely’s house, the results were inconclusive. Much of Berkely’s wardrobe was missing and many of the valuables were also unaccounted for. His bank account had been transferred to an offshore account that could not be traced. The only clue was his laptop which had been left open on the kitchen table. The computer’s browser had been left open to the profile of a woman named Lorraine on the cantwait2date website. Despite a search warrant and complete access to the website’s database, the police were never able to ascertain the real identity of Lorraine.