If You Go Out in the Woods Today… (MOPO)

Morses Pond didn’t start out as the sizeable body of water it is today. Back in 1738, a landowner dammed a brook to create a mill-pond. Subsequent owners liked this idea, each one outdoing the last in building up the dam until the small spit of water eventually grew into the Morses Pond we know today.***

I don’t like ponds. Never have. Even as a little kid, they skeeved me out. The muddy suction, pulling at my feet as I entered. The murky water, whispering of a million animal poops. The slightly rank smell, hinting at the decomposition of dead bodies waiting to be discovered just beneath the surface.

Don’t get me wrong, I spent a massive amount of time on ponds and small lakes as a child. I grew up in Central New York, and you can’t throw a snowball without hitting a body of water up there. I went tubing and boating and sunset cruising, though never water skiing. I went to a summer camp where we tipped canoes in a pond so choked by weeds, they slithered along our legs as we tread water. Our counselors told a story of the Frog Man, a World War II vet who somehow invoked Native American spirits and, well, turned into a Frog Man. Even at the time it didn’t make much sense, but it was scary nonetheless and we couldn’t help but wonder if those really were just weeds slithering along our legs.

It was all great summer fun, and in my youth I was much better at pushing past gross shit that made me uncomfortable so I could have fun doing the things that I enjoyed. As opposed to now, when I have to really dig deep to appear as though it’s no big deal when my kids are covered in mud, or shit, or boogers. I watched my oldest daughter lick the side of my car this winter. She licked the side of my car. Really. It was all I could do to not just wish her well and abandon her there in the parking lot.

Anyhow, back to ponds… Before we moved to town I read A Murder in Wellesley, by Tom Farmer and Marty Foley. It is a true crime tale about May Greineder, a Welleslian who, on Halloween morning in 1999, was savagely murdered by her husband on the walking trails around Morses Pond. It is a sad story, but a fascinating crime. It made me curious about these trails and the pond they encircle. So I did some exploring.

Walking along Morses Pond you can’t go too far without running into someone and their dog or circling back to where you started. The trails are sandy and surrounded by pine forest, and they remind me of a bike trail my family used to ride along on Cape Cod.

There was this one thing that I read about the pond that just bothered me. The average depth of the pond is eight feet. That’s it. Eight feet. There is something so, well, murky about eight feet. It gives me the shivers. It reminded me of the Frog Man, and my childhood memory of swimming among the weeds suddenly struck me as less “summer fun” and more “where the fuck were the adults?”

You don’t have to look far to find stories of people getting tangled in weeds and drowning. Morses Pond is on its way to becoming wetland. Experts call this kind of pond eutrophic. In other words, it doesn’t have enough life within it to process the amount of nutrients it contains. Think algae blooms and thriving weeds and stench.

I am a crazy person near the water as it is. You know Chief Brody from Jaws? Picture him running up and down the beach, screaming “Get out of the water! Get out of the water! Shark!” after he sees a school of fish and mistakes it for a vengeful sea monster.

That’s me.

Why this little discourse on Morses Pond? Well, I met three women who convinced me that, not only would my girls never step foot into that pond, they wouldn’t be walking its surrounding trails anytime soon either.

Hillary, Jill and Vanessa were classmates with Jenn (of the home invasion producing poltergeist). They were freshman when she was a senior in high school and ran in some of the same Wellesley power circles. They belonged to what I found to be the most fascinating social group in town.

See that tiny blond woman driving the silver Range Rover with two car seats in the back and a ACK sticker on the bumper? That bitch is gettin’ shit done. Don’t mistake her for some trophy wife. She’ll have her fourth baby soon enough (number of children is becoming a status symbol here), but in the meantime, she is managing a massive home renovation, shuttling three children to three different schools (two to private, one to public), crushing her third year in the Juniors (Wellesley’s own brand of the Junior League) and doing some home design consulting on the side. She’s balls-to-the-wall Paleo and takes the same spin class as Giselle and Tom.

Wellesley was chock full of these women and they cocktailed and wealthy-benefactored together. Jenn emailed me and said some friends of hers wanted to have me over for drinks. Her email subtly warned me that they were in the Range Rover crew.

It was late September, I’d had my baby back in July, she came early just like her sisters. I am not the best at being pregnant, can never seem to make it through to the home stretch, but she was a toughy and did just fine. I did have to give up my part-time job at the library, though. I just couldn’t muster up the ability to be reliable anymore; one of the girls was always sick or refusing to sleep through the night.

For obvious reasons I’d taken time off from collecting ghost stories. I was exhausted and vacillating between, “what the fuck were we thinking having another baby?” and “it’s got to get easier at some point.” This third baby was not a status symbol baby, more a “happy oops/I missed my IUD appointment” baby.

So when I read Jenn’s email I jumped on it immediately. I was desperate to be around adults. And drink wine. I told her to send me their contact information and I’d reach out.

About an hour later I received an email from Paperless Post titled Ghostly Get Together. I clicked on the envelope, which virtually opened to a tasteful navy blue trellised note card.

It read, “Join us for a haunted tale. Thursday, September 27th, 7:00pm. Cocktails and a Scare.” I clicked to RSVP and saw that besides the host, Hillary Stone, there would be only two other guests in attendance, Jill Fairchild and Vanessa Cheney [note: all names have been changed to protect individuals’ identities].

What the hell was I going to wear?

I made my own little power move and Ubered to Hillary’s house. C was home with the kids. He assured me that he would stay a little later the next morning to get the two older girls to school.

“Take a break, have fun,” he said. Though, I know he meant, “It seems like you might be about to lose it for good this time. Please don’t leave me.”

I was determined to enjoy myself, drink an extra glass of wine, and sleep in the next morning. My friend Heidi helped me to pick out an outfit. I was feeling puffy and holding on to the pregnancy weight, but I did feel kind of cool in my jeans, navy blue blazer, light blue gingham shirt (popped collar over popped collar) and chunky coral necklace. My friend Kristine let me borrow her Chloe bag, the necklace was from Leigh, and Lyssa came over to beach wave my hair. Laura and Carrie still had small babies at home so they texted encouragement and asked for pictures. It takes a village.

The Uber pulled up in front of a sprawling colonial-style home.

“Wish me luck,” I said to the driver.

“You’re killin’ it,” he replied. “Don’t let ‘em see you sweat.”

I climbed the stone steps in my flats and realized that I was probably going to have to take my shoes off once inside. I hadn’t had a pedicure in months. Didn’t know when I had last trimmed my toenails.

I shot off a quick, panicked message to my friends in a text chain title “Squad.”


Own it. Heidi texted back immediately.

You’re cooler than they are. Lyssa texted shortly after.

I texted them the devil face emoji, then continued up the stone steps. The house was white with black shutters and a black door. Landscaped to the hilt, I wondered if anyone had ever walked on the grass, or if Hillary’s hands had planted those mums.

As I lifted my hand to ring the doorbell the door swung open and a trinity of Wellesley power mommies looked out at me expectantly.

“Liz?” The one with flowing auburn hair demanded.

“Yes,” I said, “Hillary?”

“Hi! Come in!” She replied.

The three women stepped aside and Hillary introduced me to Jill Fairchild (flowing blond hair) and Vanessa Cheney (flowing brunette hair). I was given the head-to-toe once over and I’m not sure if I passed, but Vanessa said, “Love your necklace.”

I reached up to touch it and said, “Thanks,” stopping myself from telling them that I’d borrowed it from a friend.

“Great bag,” Jill said, smiling. I was beginning to feel like a fraud.

“Come on,” Hillary said, “No, no, leave your shoes on. They look cute.”

I followed the trio down the hall and through french doors into a dining room. At it’s center sat a circular white lacquered dining table beneath a massive crystal chandelier. Upon the table was a coral colored tray with cheese, crackers and grapes. Windows filled an entire wall and provided a view of darkening woods. Where there weren’t windows, there was wallpaper. Life sized navy blue palm leaves created a preppy floor to ceiling forest. Hillary walked to a golden bar cart bar and asked over her shoulder if I liked Chardonnay.

“Love it,” I said.

“What’s your favorite?” she asked.

“Oh, whatever is open is fine,” I replied.

“No, really, what is your favorite?” She asked again.

“Well, I guess it’s Rombauer,” I said, feeling uncomfortable.

“You’re in luck,” she said, reaching for a bottle. “I’ve got some 2014.”

Jill and Vanessa sat down and snacked on cheese and crackers. Hillary motioned for me to sit and brought over a very full glass of my very favorite wine.

As I sipped and chatted about kids, elementary schools and a recent adultery scandal between a couple of their neighbors, I studied the three of them. They wore slightly different versions of the same outfit. Tight skinny jeans, black flowy tops, diamond studs, and big watches. Gold for Hillary, silver for Vanessa, and a combination of the two for Jill. Hillary was the obvious queen, and it was immediately apparent that Jill and Vanessa were ever-vying for the number two position.

I sent up a quick prayer, thanking God for my kind, funny, wonderful friends.

After discussing the looming elementary school redistricting – and by discussing, I mean nodding my head and making non-committal semi-affirming noises to their outraged statements – Hillary stood and opened a new bottle. Jill and Vanessa quieted down, as if on cue, as our hostess refilled our wine glasses.

“So, Liz, we have a ghost story for you,” Hillary said, topping off my Chardonnay.

“Fantastic,” I replied. “Do you guys mind me recording our conversation?”

“Not at all, but we’ll need you to agree to change our names for your piece, and swear that you will not divulge our identities to anyone,” Vanessa said, in resting bitch face.

“Sure,” I replied, switching on my digital recorder and placing it on the table’s gleaming surface.

“Great, then we can get started,” Hillary said brightly.

Jill stared at the recorder and Vanessa sat back in her chair to sip her wine.

“We’ve been friends for a really long time. We were neighbors as kids, on the other side of town in Wellesley Hills. We were together all the time,” Hillary began.

“Inseparable,” Jill chimed in.

Hillary nodded her head and continued, “And we just grew closer as we grew older. We had another friend -”

“Claire,” said Vanessa, leaning forward in her seat. I stopped myself from asking what color hair she had.

Hillary went on, “It was always the four of us, we nicknamed ourselves the Tetrad.”

“It means ‘four,’” Jill explained. I smiled at her.

“Anyway,” Hillary said, her voice hinting annoyance at the interruptions, “All throughout elementary and middle school everyone knew that we just, like, came as a group. Then in high school, we started dating these guys who were also really close. We hung out with them constantly, all together. My husband, Philip, lived on MOPO -”

“Wait, two questions,” I said, holding up my hand. “What is ‘MOPO’ and you married your high school sweetheart?”

Morses Pond and yes, we all did,” Hillary replied.

“You guys all married your high school sweethearts?” I asked, with a nervous laugh. The three exchanged a look then said “yes” in unison.

I patted my blazer pocket, almost absently, making sure that my phone was in reach. The vibe had just shifted from bitchy women talking about their glory days, to Stepford Wives ready to indoctrinate me.

The women were looking at me expectantly, so I said, “That is just about the sweetest thing.”

They exchanged another look and Vanessa began to explain, “We all went through a lot together, and -”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Hillary interrupted her. Vanessa sat back in her seat and continued drinking. Jill’s eyes darted between them. Hillary continued, “As I was saying, my husband lived on MOPO. His home had this gorgeous lawn that lead down to the water and a boathouse with a dock. The summer after our sophomore year we spent everyday, sun up to sundown, on the water, tooling around in one of the boats or laying out at the beach across the pond.”

“Or making out in the trails in the woods,” Jill said with a smile.

“Frank and I still do that sometimes,” Vanessa said with a grin.

The other women laughed and I joined in half-heartedly. Hillary went on, “Yeah, it was an amazing summer, the best of my life, really. But then,” she paused.

“Claire,” Jill said, sadly.

“Claire,” Hillary agreed. “It was a Thursday and we’d spent the afternoon at the beach. Frank, Vanessa’s husband, had snuck some beers out of his parent’s basement and the plan was to hang on the beach for a while and then hike back into the woods to drink.

“Around five o’clock the eight of us walked back through the trails up to the pine forest and drank. We each probably had, I don’t know, maybe three, four beers and the time got away from us. I think Jill realized what time it was and we were due home in, like, half an hour. It was a little before eight o’clock and the sun was going down. So we rushed through the trails back to the boat. We had tied it to this little rinky-dink dock at the beach.

“We were panicked about getting home on time and we all hopped in. I know we all got into the boat, we all saw each other for sure. John and Jill, Vanessa and Frank, Claire and Chris, and me and Philip.

“We were drunk,” Jill says, quietly.

“No that drunk,” Vanessa sort of snaps.

“There was no doubt that it was,” Hillary pauses, choosing her words carefully, “irresponsible to get into that boat and let Philip drive. But we were young and stupid. He floored it, a little too hard, and drove us back to the house. We were off the boat and all the way back to the car before we realized that Claire wasn’t with us.”

No,” I said, almost in a whisper. I hadn’t even meant to speak.

“She must have fallen out when Philip gunned the boat away from the dock,” Hillary replied.

“They said she probably hit her head on the dock and drowned,” Vanessa said.

“We didn’t know she wasn’t with us. We were so afraid of missing curfew, we just didn’t know,” Jill says.

“Did you go back out to look for her?” I asked, afraid of the answer.

“Chris and Philip did,” Hillary replied. “We decided to go into Philip’s house and use his phone to call our parents and let them know we would be late. We knew that if we didn’t all go home together we’d be in even more trouble than if we missed curfew.”

“My mom could tell something was wrong on the phone and she ended up driving over to Philip’s house,” said Jill.

“We waited at the edge of the lake, watching the boat head towards the beach, then motor along the coastline. Finally it returned, but still, no Claire,” Hillary explained.

“We were hoping that she had fallen out, gotten out of the water and walked along the trail back to Philip’s,” Vanessa said.

“We prayed that was what happened,” Jill said.

“Did you search the trail?” I asked.

“Yes, the boys grabbed flashlights from Philip’s house and walked the trails. We stayed behind hoping that Claire would appear from the woods. Philip’s parents weren’t home, but Jill’s mom showed up. When we explained what happened she immediately called the police and then all of our parents,” said Hillary.

“I think my mom got there next,” said Vanessa.

“Yes, and then mine,” confirms Hillary. “She arrived right along with the police. There was a massive search, through the woods and the pond, but there just wasn’t enough light.”

“They brought in divers the next morning. She was found in shallow water, not too far from the dock,” Vanessa reports.

The three women stare at me. I was the only one blinking back tears. Since having my own kids, stories of young people dying hit me hard. And this was such a cliché. Couldn’t this have been any of us in our teenage years? How the fuck did any of us make it to adulthood? How the fuck was I going to make sure my girls would be strong enough to choose not to get into the boat with the drunk boyfriend and instead deal with the consequences of missing curfew? I know that I hadn’t been strong enough for that at fifteen.

“We’ve upset you,” Hillary states. “I apologize, it truly was a nightmare. The questions by the police, the conspiracy theories at school in the fall, the shock of it all.”

“The death of one of your best friends,” I added.

“Of course,” she said, glancing between Jill and Vanessa who were expressionless.

“That must have been horrible for all of you,” I said, sensing that maybe it hadn’t been all that bad.

“Oh it was,” Jill said, leaning forward in her seat. “It was so sad, and then poor Chris.”

“He killed himself at the lake,” Vanessa explained. “The following winter. Drank some vodka, took a bunch of pills and then jumped in. They didn’t find his body until the pond thawed in the Spring.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” I said, almost crossing myself.

Vanessa stands and grabs the wine bottle, drains it into her glass and opens another one. As she tops off everyone else’s glass Hillary and Jill fill me in on how distraught Chris had been after Claire’s death.

“He just couldn’t get over it,” Hillary says shaking her head in bewilderment. “It was a terrible thing, but it was an accident. None of us had anything to do with it. It’s not like we were responsible.”

What a chillingly affirmative mantra, I thought.

This well-choreographed story was missing something, quite possibly the truth. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” flitted through my mind.

“I’ve never heard or read anything about this drowning,” I said.

“You wouldn’t have,” said Vanessa. “Claire’s parents are lawyers. They worked for the DA then, and it was a different time. It was 1990. The O.J. trial hadn’t happened yet, things could be kept respectfully quiet.”

I refrained from pointing out that O.J.’s had been a murder trial, this, the apparent drowning of a girl in a local pond. One would assume the community would rally around in support, and, if nothing else, use it as a cautionary tale for the town’s youth.

“Well,” I said, taking a breath. “I am just so sorry. I grew up around lakes and I know how fast drownings happen even under the seemingly safest of circumstances.”

“Yeah, it was a tragedy,” Hillary replied. “The three of us felt really guilty about it.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Jill said.

“We didn’t know how to process it,” said Vanessa.

“I went to New York City for a couple of weeks the following summer, to visit my cousins,” said Hillary. “We were shopping in Brooklyn this one afternoon and popped into a little occult store. My cousins were checking out the crystals and I came upon this book. It was titled, Summoning Lost Loved Ones. I paged through it and it was filled with spells for communicating with the dead, even one you could use to summon a spirit.

“I bought it and read it cover to cover on the train ride home,” Hillary said, grabbing a cracker off the platter in the center of the table.

“We read it too,” Jill said excitedly. “It was almost like it was written for us, like Hill was supposed to find it there.”

“Most of the spells required three people, there was one that laid out how to summon the spirit of a loved one,” Hillary added.

“It was an invocation of spirit,” Vanessa corrected. “Directions on how to conjure a ghost.”

“Tell me you didn’t -” I began.

“It was all in fun. I mean, not fun. We missed our friend and we felt badly about the way she had died, about the accident, I mean, and this was a way for us to talk to her again, to make peace with her,” Jill jumped in.

I just shook my head and asked, “How’d that turn out for you?”

The three women leaned forward. I fought the urge to push my chair back.

“It took some time to gather everything we needed,” Vanessa began. “There was some memorizing to do, and some, um, supplies to gather. But we were a bit pressed for time. Claire had died on July nineteenth the previous summer. We had to have everything ready for the anniversary of her death.

“We chose a spot near the pond, we needed a place with earth, air, fire, and water. There’s this secluded place, off the trail that sort of dips down into a gully. The wind whips through it and it’s low enough so that water gathers there; not much, but enough. There was plenty of earth and we could build a fire.”

“We all told our parents that we were sleeping at eachother’s houses,” Jill said.

“Luckily none of them bothered to check up on us,” Vanessa said.

“We parked near Philip’s house and lugged our gear to the ground we’d chosen. It was so hot,” Hillary said.

“And buggy,” said Jill.

“But we got everything setup just right,” Hillary continued. “We each had our own part memorized and recited it around the fire. Nessa had this brush that all four of us had used when we would do each other’s hair, so we had pulled the hair out from its bristles and braided it together, it went into the fire along with a picture of Claire.”

“At first it didn’t feel like anything was going to happen,” Vanessa said.

“Then there was this, like, whoosh, like the wind was coming up from the ground all around us and the fire got really bright and then, we could feel her there,” continues Hillary.

“It smelled like her,” Jill said with wide eyes. “She used to wear vanilla extract as perfume, and the forest smelled like vanilla!”

“Uh uh,” I said, silently vowing to always, without exception, call to check in when my daughters said they were sleeping over at a friend’s house.

“Yes, and that wasn’t it,” Hillary said. “It was this feeling, like she was right there with us. It was incredible. And somehow we just knew that she forgave us.”

“For the accident?” I asked.

“Yes,” Jill said quickly. “We wanted her to know that we wished we had seen her fall and that we were sorry we weren’t able to help her.”

“Ok, then what?” I asked, having no idea where this was going.

“Well, then we had this idea that she could maybe help us, from the other side,” Hillary said.

“What gave you that idea?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“The book,” said Vanessa. “There was a spell that could harness a spirit’s power. We knew it was a long shot, but conjuring a ghost was a long shot, so if we were able to manage to do that we figured we would give this a try too. We recited the spell to harness phantasmal force.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said.

“It was worth a try,” said Hillary with a shrug. “It worked.”

“How?” I asked.

“Well, the vibe definitely changed. The wind stopped, the fire dimmed, and it got really quiet,” said Jill. “So we put forward our intentions.”

“The things we desired,” clarified Hillary.

“Like what?” I asked.

“We wanted to marry our boyfriends, and we each said how many kids we wanted to have,” said Vanessa.

“And we always wanted to live close to one another,” added Jill.

“And we wanted Claire near us, we wanted her to stay,” finished Hillary.

“And?” I asked.

“We live on the same street,” said Hillary. “We’ve married our high school sweethearts.”

“Number of kids?” I asked.

“I’ve had eight miscarriages trying for a second baby,” says Vanessa in an icy tone. “I never thought I would want more than one kid. So, I only asked for one that night.”

I did not know how to respond to that, so I just said, “I’m sorry.”

Vanessa waved this off with a motion of her hand, “The point is, the spell worked.”

“For better or worse,” I said.

“Yes,” they said in unison.

“And Claire?” I asked needing a sip of wine but not want them to see my hands shaking.

“She’s been with us since that night,” said Hillary. “That night we asked her to give us each a sign of her presence. Nothing happened in the woods, but we each had experiences, later on,” then she stood up. More wine. If I drank anymore I would risk blacking out, so I declined when she offered to fill my glass again and watched as the three other glasses at the table were filled to the brim.

“She came to me first,” said Jill. “A few nights later I was up late reading on our couch. I was the last to bed so I was flipping off all of the lights downstairs. We had this big window that looked out over our front yard. I turned the foyer light out and glanced out that window, our lamp post was on and I thought I saw someone walk past it.

“I went to the window and saw her. Claire. She was there, in the clothes she had worn the day that,” pause. “That she died. She was looking in at me and I couldn’t look away. Part of me wanted to open the door and run to her and the other knew that I shouldn’t do that. I was completely stunned. I couldn’t move. I don’t know how long, maybe a minute or so we just stared at each other and then she turned and walked out of the lamp light. I couldn’t see her anymore.”

“Holy shit,” I said, again suppressing the inclination to cross myself.

Jill nodded her head and looked at Hillary who said, “I was next. I boarded my horse in Dover, and this one afternoon, about a week after we’d, reached out to Claire, I was riding the trails when something made me look into the woods to my left. I don’t know if I’d heard a noise or what, but I looked and Claire was there. Standing in the middle of the woods about, maybe, twenty or thirty feet back. I stopped the horse, and I raised my hand, like, to wave. It was just an instinct. She didn’t wave back, she just stared at me, then turned and started walking back into the woods.”

“Nope,” I said.

“My turn next,” said Vanessa, placing her wine glass on the table. “I was parked, over by the golf course, with Frank one night. We were in the back seat, just like, going at it and I opened my eyes and Claire was standing there, looking in the fucking car window.”

“No,” I said.

“I screamed and Frank turned to look and he couldn’t see her. I could see her – he couldn’t. She was just standing there. Staring. I freaked the fuck out. I scrambled into the front seat and drove out of there, half-naked,” she said with a small smile. “Frank thought that I had imagined it all. I tried to play it off, but she had been there.”

“Please tell me that’s it,” I said with chills running up and down my body. I wanted to leave, but was afraid to go outside.

“No,” Hillary said as the other two shake their heads.

“I mean, we had asked for her to stay with us, so at first we just tried to accept it as her way of, well, being there,” said Jill.

“We all caught glimpses of her, here and there, which resulted in differing levels of disturbing depending upon the circumstances,” said Hillary.

“Any circumstance under which I glimpsed my dead friend would disturb me,” I said.

“Yes, of course,” said Hillary. “But as long as she stayed outside, we accepted the good with the bad. We had asked for her help from the beyond. We knew we had to take some unwanted things with the things that we wanted.”

“Wait, stayed outside?’” I said.

“She began coming to us at night, in our bedrooms. I think Nessa had it the worst,” said Jill.

I looked at Vanessa. She was draining her glass. She said, “Claire liked to stand at the foot of my bed.”

My hand went to the medal around my neck. I asked, “What did you do?”

“At first we didn’t know what the hell to do. You know, it was only 1991, it wasn’t like we could Google this shit,” said Vanessa.

“I went to the library and found some stuff, but we ended up actually getting help at this occult bookstore in Cambridge. We found it in the yellow pages,” said Jill. “While we were looking around the owner asked us if we needed any help. We ended up telling her what we had done and she told us that we would need a binding spell. That we couldn’t undo what we did, but we could mitigate the damage.”

“We had to go back to the woods, to the same spot, and perform the incantation,” Hillary said.

“And?” I asked.

“And, things got better,” Hillary replied. “We saw her less, and when we did she stayed at a distance.”

“What about now?” I asked.

“It’s the same, really,” said Hillary.

“Uh uh,” I said.

“Again, we have to just take the good with the bad,” she replied. “We married the guys, we have kids, we are wealthy and we all live near one another. She played a role in that, and undoing her part in it might undo the rest of it.”

This was the first mention of “wealth” being a part of their requests. I wondered what else they had left off the list.

“When was the last time you saw her?” I asked.

The women look at one another and Vanessa said, “She was just past the tree line at my daughter’s soccer practice last night.”

“Why did you tell me this?” I demanded, genuinely perplexed.

“We thought you would be the only one who would believe us. When Jenn told us about you, we just felt like we could finally, unload it,” said Jill.

I didn’t want to hear another word. I wanted to call my husband to come get me. I didn’t want to ride in an Uber with a stranger. I didn’t want to know these women. I wanted to burn the fucking clothes that I was wearing and take a scalding hot shower to obliterate any particle of connection to them.

“I don’t know what to say,” I began. “I mean, you trapped your best friend here. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

“We just thought that something good should come from her death,” said Hillary.

“Was it worth it?” I asked.

None of them answered.

After climbing into the Uber I immediately texted my friends.

Our children are never stepping foot near Morses Pond. I wrote.

MOPO. Heidi responded immediately.

*** Historical information about Morses Pond was found on the Town of Wellesley website athttp://www.wellesleyma.gov/pages/wellesleyma_nrc/morsespond/Page5