Acadian Chronicles: When Ancestors Look Down

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Sleeping Beauty – Evil Spirits

Alphonse Bertillon was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who applied the technique of anthropometry to law enforcement, before the advent of fingerprinting, creating an identification system based on the unique, measurable physical traits of each criminal. Anthropometry was the first scientific system ever used by police to identify criminals. But how do we measure the dimensions of a criminal mind? There’s an ongoing question – are criminals born or are they made?

Intelligent, witty, pretty and decisive – what more positive traits could Louise Payen, the Saqamaw’s mother, have wanted? Did her early childhood make her a criminal? What triggered her wicked behavior? As an orphan she believed the world owed her something, stopping at nothing to get what she wanted, and as a grown woman, she manifested sociopathic tendencies – ensnaring men to milk their assets, while engaging in risky financial cons. Her own children suffered, as she continuously mistreated and neglected them, completely unwilling to bond with anyone, only caring about her own needs. Worse yet, Louise has a compulsion to lie, reflecting a personality disorder that drives her to exploit, manipulate and violate the rights of others, incapable of responding to the distress of others. Her meticulous and vengeful planning is carried out with precision. Anyone in this wicked woman’s sights must learn to run fast, as far away as possible to escape her clutches.

When Louise joined her son at Payen Hall, Edgar knew he had to avoid seeing his mother at all costs, and that’s the reason for dividing the living quarters and never interacting with her. Out of respect for his birth mother, Edgar decided to share the castle with her, but he would not interact with her. Anne also refused to face Louise, though Anne prepares all her mother’s meals, and Anne is the one who processes all her mother’s written requests. In fact, it was Louise who had requested that Anne pick up Vicky and Violette at Union Station. Neither Edgar nor Anne know exactly Louise’s day-to-day plans, nor how she manages on her own at her advanced age, but their mother makes it abundantly clear that she has no desire to see them either. It is in every way a house divided, not only physically but also spiritually – one half of the castle full of benevolent souls, the other half occupied by tormented ghosts – forever causing havoc and mayhem.

Traditionally, the Mik’maq believe that everything, be it animate or inanimate, has a spirit, and that human beings have two types of souls – one connected with the mortal body and one that holds eternal life. At death, both human souls are affected, the body soul thus perishing, while the spirit soul is liberated to become a skate:kmuj, capable of leaving the human body to travel to the land of souls. At this moment, in her deep, restorative sleep, Vicky appears to her tiny guardians – more dead than alive. The Forest People must do something!

They rush to Vicky from all sides, throwing water on her face, loosening her collar, slapping gently her hands, rubbing her temples with rosemary spirits, but nothing awakens her. The young man so smitten by Vicky at the Snake Dance begins to weep, hands over his eyes, body shaking. In another dimension, Vicky frowns – her expression reassuring the little people standing by her side. Then in her vision, Vicky shivers:

Lying on an icy lake; Vicky’s tears freeze over her eyes, as she asks Aquim to remove the rings of ice with his beak, so that she might cry freely. Aquim initially agrees, but then changes his mind, telling Vicky:

“Let’s go back quickly. When we reach the shore, we’ll see the North Star.” Aquim and Vicky glide through a tunnel, sliding onto a snowy embankment. A cold wind blows against Vicky’s ear, whispering:

“Daughter of the Great North, be patient. You’re not the sum of your fears. You’re so much more. You’re an unfinished story, still unfolding.”

Louise’s half of the castle smothers all life. When sunlight strikes the outer walls, it’s repelled. On this sinister, dark side of the castle, windows remain blackened without any effect of light – no fresh air enters, no warm rays pierce the dusty rooms, the accumulated grime of decades making it hard to breathe, but there’s no need to inhale – only skate:kmuj abound, lost souls trapped on her side of the castle. Without any upkeep, paint peels off interior walls and wooden panels rot into gaping holes.

Aquim tells Vicky:

“Yesterday, at this lake, I met Glooscap. He isn’t here now. I wish he’d come back. There’re too many ghosts here!” To which Vicky replies:

“Maybe ghosts haunt only the mind, not the halls.” Vicky adds, “Inside my mind, I’m screaming, but nobody hears me, nobody pays any attention. If I had hope, I could be brave. If I had the courage, I’d run away. If I had a voice, I’d yell for help, but who can help me? The other Musketeers are far away, playing with dolls in the woods.”

Aquim starts to chant:

“Even roly polies dream of a second chance – curling up. Don’t drop the potato! Payen Hall will stand another ninety years. Within these walls, floors hold firm, doors stay shut; listen carefully to the silence of mahogany and brick. Their spirits will soothe you, Daughter of the Great North. An Evil One roams these halls, but she walks alone, and you are never alone.”

The Sleeping Beauty tosses – a cold dew covers her forehead, her teeth chatter, and her limbs convulse. Aquim lands on her pillow, his blood-red eyes fix on her tears. He begins to peck ever so gently to break loose icy rings under her eyes:

“I know all about you, lots of things.” Aquim says. “There, done!” He leans back, flapping his wings, “I take special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you – I know your parents are delayed in coming here, that Violette is in a time warp, somewhere in Acadia. Who knows how long they’ll all take to arrive? But I also know you’re protected by the Eternal Ones, so I’ll stay close. When a lamb is lost, it cries for help. Sometimes the ewe comes, sometimes the wolf.”

Asleep, Vicky looks like a glowing angel, so beautiful. Her troubles had not taken away her complexion – cheeks aflush, lips glistening like two dewy petals. Though her eyes be closed, we hear soft breathing – Vicky at peace, all her vital signs assuring the tiny people gathered round that Vicky is not dying.

In a flash, Glooscap returns undetected, aware of the mayhem about to be unleashed, deciding this to be the moment to shield the benevolent spirits, everyone except his faithful Aquim, whom Glooscap asks to watch over Vicky. With a mighty blow of Glooscap’s lungs, a gale swirls like a tornado throughout Edgar’s side of the castle. Instantly, all the Forest People collapse, to awaken later – who knows when, only after Vicky’s safe. Only then will the tiny people be able to relieve Aquim’s watch. Even the souls of roasting partridges and pheasants on spits fall asleep, as does the kitchen fire itself. All benevolent souls in the castle – whether they be animate or inanimate beings – even mahogany and brick, slump and droop in the blink of an eye – cluttering all rooms and hallways – nothing but piles of “corpses” to impede the Intruder.

Bertillon’s scientific filing system was eventually accepted around the world, but before it was accepted, he faced ridicule and resistance from the start, the preexisting classification system holding firm, though it was flawed. The preexisting system filed criminal records according to names, but, of course, felons would change names willy-nilly, some each time they were arrested. In the nineteenth century, photos were already being used, beginning in 1840, but cunning criminals would distort their facial features to avoid matches with pictures on file. Moreover, with an overflow of criminals in big cities, there was little chance of recognizing a repeat offender. Ironically, this preferred, preexisting system was created by a former criminal turned crime fighter – Eugène Vidocq.

To correct the flaws of Vidocq’s system, Bertillon had devised a scientific system, based on physical traits that no one could distort – using body measurements unique to each person. With tape measure in hand, Bertillon took head measurements, arm spans, lengths of feet and fingers – all catalogued to convince police inspectors that these traits could not be changed. In total, he amassed 11 unique body measurements. The validity of his method is still supported today with electronic surveillance systems that identify a specific face in a crowd and track it in real time. Unfortunately for Bertillon, his unusual approach made him, at first, a laughing stock, so his bosses rejected it.

Bertillon was forced to use Vidocq’s system – flawed as it was. Why was Vidocq’s filing system preferred? Eugène-François Vidocq (1775-1857) was a glamorous gangster and criminal mastermind. So famous that he was able to launch in 1833 the first detective agency! Like some kind of 19th-century James Bond, Vidocq trained fellow ex-convicts to become his secret-service agents, using his own criminal mastermind to outwit others. Writers were inspired by Vidocq’s dashing persona and daring-do, resulting in the emergence of a new literary genre – the detective story. In fact, Vidocq’s larger-than-life persona is famously reflected in Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, and, at the same time, in Hugo’s inspector of the same novel, Javert. One man – two minds, two natures. Other novelists were equally inspired by the complexity of Vidocq – Alexandre Dumas, Honoré de Balzac, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Despite Vidocq’s dubious character and duplicity, his spell over people endured after his death. On account of his enormous fame, police inspectors refused to change Vidocq’s filing system. Not until 1884 did Bertillon’s system finally take hold – what he called anthropometry. Thereafter, quickly around the world, police departments adopted Bertillon’s measurement technique. At last, Bertillon was taken seriously, enjoying celebrity as a forensic expert. Then, with the publication of his Photography: With an Appendix on Anthropometrical Classification and Identification (1890), Bertillon became well-known as the inventor and prime authority on how to produce the best mug shots – using consistent sizing, lighting, angles. Though it was only after Bertillon’s death in 1914 that fingerprinting would replace anthropometry to identify criminals, Bertillon was the very first police officer in the world to photograph fingerprints at murder scenes.

The famous British detective novelist, Arthur Conan Doyle, honored Bertillon in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when Sherlock Holmes was snubbed as “the second-highest expert in Europe” on criminal matters. Who was the first? Doyle writes, “To the man of precisely scientific mind, the work of Monsieur Bertillon must always appeal strongly.”

Again, are these criminal masterminds born or are they made, and who is Eugénie Vidocq in Palm Springs? A female version of the original? Or is she related to Anne Vidocq, the good-hearted nutritionist? Yes, she’s Anne’s mother. But let’s not jump to any conclusions. Louise Payen adores the original Vidocq, and as a devoted admirer of all criminal geniuses, Louise first researched the name when her daughter, Anne, married – but Anne’s husband was no direct relation to the glamorous gangster. Louise had found her soul-mate in Eugène-François Vidocq. Who knows, was he a sociopath too…?

As for Louise’s three children – Edgar, Anne, Sylvain – she discarded them so callously, making all three feel unworthy and inadequate. In these cases, family members always suffer, usually blaming themselves for the rejection, with a clever sociopath micromanaging their lives, but even professionals are easily fooled. It’s true. Personality disorders are complex and multifaceted, to say the least. In fact, sociopathy covers a broad spectrum. Some are overtly egotistical and heartless, while others are covertly so, never detected. There’s also confusion about which clinical term applies – sociopath, psychopath or narcissist?

Even more troubling, psychologists, therapists, and researchers don’t agree how these clinical terms should be defined. Regardless, without having ever seen a psychologist, Louise Payen is undeniably toxic. How toxic? She manipulates all those over whom she holds power. Why does she love this power? It amuses her to mess with minds. She enjoys taking away something just to see others squirm. Louise is heartless and clever. Maybe too clever, but clueless too. What do I mean “clueless”?

Louise, or her masked double – Eugénie – never once apologized to Sylvain. She explained to Edgar that she never felt she had anything to apologize for. Yes, sociopaths see the consequences of their acts, but sociopaths don’t care – incapable of feeling real emotion. What? Yes, they can only wear masks and fake emotions. That makes sociopaths full-time 24/7 –deceivers to the core, usually believing truly their own lies! Without feelings, they’re freer than most to pursue glibly, and without any remorse, their goals – without giving a second thought. They also can’t love others, but, once again, they’re good at faking love to get what they want. In sum, everything sociopaths do is self-serving and for their own good and preservation. Plain and simple. Altruism is totally foreign territory to sociopaths, like the dark side of the moon to Earthlings. They’re always the only game in town, the only persons they understand, so they must win every battle, nothing else would make any sense, and this drive to be the winner is probably the one factor that dominates their life.

Louise’s all-time favorite movie is A Scandal in Paris (1946), an American movie starring George Sanders, depicting the life of her soul-mate – Eugène-François Vidocq, the French criminal mastermind who morphed into a famous Prefect of Police during the Napoleonic era. Like Louise, Vidocq lives to glorify himself, incapable of emotion, always victorious by hook or by crook. For Vidocq, as he claims in this film, committing a crime is like making love:

Only the heartless succeed in crime – as in love.” and “In crime, as in love, there are only those who do, and those who don’t care.”

Our central question remains unanswered – are these heartless criminals born or are they made?

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