Philip arrived with his team, Geraldine and Jerome Meadows, around 3:30 on Friday. Ralph ushered them into the living room. Shasta was seated at a circular wood table. Philip, whom she knew, clasped her hand gently. “Thank you for inviting us, Shasta. It’s good seeing you again.” He turned to his team and introduced them.
Geraldine, shaking hands with Shasta, said, “I go by Geri.”
Jerome, following her, declared, “And I’m Jerry.”
Shasta stifled a giggle. She pointed toward the kitties who were on the couch observing the proceedings. “The orange tiger is Lucy and the torby is Karma.” The kitties sat up. Lucy smiled and Karma, after first yawning, smiled too.
Geri approached and greeted the kitties. “Hi Lucy and Karma,” she said to them. She turned toward Shasta and asked, “What is a torby?”
“It’s a tabby-tortoiseshell blend,” Shasta replied. “Please find a comfy place to sit.” She gestured at the couch and armchairs.
Geri and Jerry selected the couch and sat next to the kitties, who inspected them closely. Philip and Ralph took the upholstered armchairs.
“I’m curious. What’s the purpose of your experiment?” Shasta inquired.
“Shasta, as I told Ralph, it’s a new project, and I don’t have a name for it or much of a definite set of criteria,” Philip answered. “I will say it involves a type of transformation, using Ralph’s term, and has analogies to energy flows of different substances like air and water.”
“The experience did seem more on the level of movement through air, as vibrations are,” Shasta remarked.
“Vibrations occur in all material forms although the more common are in air and water,” Geri added.
“Don’t forget earthquakes,” Jerry noted.
“As you can tell, my team of specialists is ready for the project,” Philip observed with a wry grin.
“Perhaps if Shasta and I relate our experiences, you can better understand the strangeness,” Ralph proposed.
Philip nodded. “Fine. Please go first, Shasta, and tell us what happened.”
Shasta smiled. ”Yes, but the first thing actually is bringing out the refreshments that are now waiting in the kitchen.” As she stood, she glanced at Ralph, who jumped up and excused himself for the moment. Once the drinks, a choice of tea or coffee, were served and two plates of cookies passed around, everyone settled down for tales of strangeness.
Philip asked whether the session could be video recorded, and the Garlands agreed. Philip sprinkled several questions throughout the narratives. Geri and Jerry played with the kitties or at least sat with them, each holding one and petting it.
After Shasta and Ralph had finished their descriptions of what they had felt and sensed, Philip and his team remained silent for a few moments. Philip sipped his coffee and then started to speak, but before he could, Geri declared, “This event fits tightly into our project.”
“Actually,” Jerry interjected, “it provides clear evidence for the energy exchange process.”
Both Shasta and Ralph looked quizzical. “Can you explain the concept?” Ralph asked.
Geri and Jerry turned to Philip, who gestured at them to go ahead. “Simply,” Geri stated, “the exchange involves an energy field on the psychic level with two poles, positive and negative.”
“A clear analogy is air pressure,” Jerry offered. “Like high and low air pressures caused by difference in temperatures and a flow occurs between them. High pressure flows into low pressure.”
“And the exchange happens in the psychic zone,” Geri commented.
Now intrigued, Shasta asked, “Can the pressure and flow be measured?”
Philip rubbed his chin, one of his nervous habits, especially when he was uncertain. “We think so. Problem is, we don’t have sufficient evidence, which actually means experiments, to prove the energy is quantifiable.”
“We’re close though,” Jerry added.
“You’re too impatient,” Geri reprimanded. “A lot more data are required before we can publish.”
Philip was amused. Shaking his head, he said to Shasta and Ralph, “You have surmised that my team members are brother and sister.”
“Sister and brother. I’m the oldest,” Geri pronounced.
“We’re twins. Would you believe it. She’s only ten minutes older. That’s not enough to shout about.” Jerry acted disgusted.
Breaking the ensuing silence, Ralph remarked, “Waterfalls have a positive energy, a psychic force. I always feel good in their presence. Any negative energy I have dissipates.”
Philip’s eyebrows went up, but before he could reply, Geri commented, “Yes, many places in nature emit psi energy.”
“Did you notice psychic power recently or were you aware as a child?” Jerry inquired.
“Oh, my, for a long time. Actually, when I was a child, I believed guardian spirits hovered around natural things, like waterfalls.” He smiled, amusement graced his face. “Even now I speculate about sacred places and their spiritual presence. Sometimes I still search for the hiding spot of the water¬fall’s guardian spirit.”
“Do you ever find it?” Geri asked.
“Surprisingly, I often do, usually a rock that’s the spirit’s abode.”
Lucy and Karma decided the time was ripe for their performance. Jumping down from the couch, they began leaping into the air chasing a fly only they could see. All the two-leggeds started laughing.
Philip caught his breath and changed the focus. “We have recording devices we use to take readings. If we could go throughout your home with them.”
“What type of readings?” Shasta had become quite inquisitive.
“These devices sense and record positive and negative energy pressures, remnants of recent past and present pressures. The twins can make the tour if Ralph will accompany them.”
Shasta smiled. “Fine. You can tell me more about your project. I could use some ideas for thematic material in the novel I’m writing.”
“Of course. And I’d enjoy hearing about the work in progress.” Philip smiled back.
Ralph guided the tour with the kitties leading the way. As they were taking readings, Geri began watching the kitties. Lucy in particular snooped around the room, poking into corners and under tables and chairs. Karma contented herself with staying in one place although she did move to other locations in a room. Geri commented to Jerry that the kitties might have a special sensitivity for pressure levels and zones. Acknowledging her perceptive skills, she then turned to Ralph, “I’m a cat whisperer and quite sensitive to their behavior.”
“And I’m a dog whisperer,” Jerry announced. “Dogs and I communicate very well indeed.”
After touring both the first and second floors, Ralph took them down to the basement. Karma became exceedingly curious and spent more time exploring than Lucy. Again Geri noticed the change in behavior.
“I think the kitties are definitely attuned to the energy pressure flow,” Geri remarked.
“They’re very special and perceptive people.” Ralph beamed, very proud of them.
When the readings were concluded and the five members of the inspection team returned to the living room, Shasta was telling Philip about her writing activities. “I’ve been spending a lot of time with my poetry. I’m thinking about publishing a small book of it.” She paused as the troupe entered.
Once they were all seated, Philip asked Shasta, “What will your new novel be about?”
“Ah, that’s the million dollar query. The main challenge is selecting one central idea from several floating around in my mind. So of course this experience of ours and your interest in it provide more options.”
“I really enjoyed the last novel where that San Francisco dealer of rare books and manuscripts is robbed of an alchemical work. Peaches is awesome, the way she got involved in esoteric culture,” Geri remarked.
“The Case of the Purloined Manuscript. Yeah, I liked it too. And the one before about the magicians who had a serious conflict–that was great.” Jerry added his approval.
“Shasta, what attracted you to alchemy?” Geri wondered.
“It was Ralph. I assisted with his recent magic show about alchemy,” Shasta replied.
“She’s my helpmeet and played the role of Queen in the performance,” Ralph revealed.
The twins gave each other a knowing glance.
Eyes twinkling, Philip stated, “We’re your fan club. I’ve read all your novels. Very fine.”
Shasta blushed. “Thank you for the compliments. Writers like an appreciative audience.”
In the momentary lull Ralph stood up and asked, “Who would like a refill?” They all agreed, and he took their cups into the kitchen. After he returned, the conversation moved back to Philip’s project.
“If you’ll give us approval, we’d like to place measuring devices around the house–four of them for the directions,” Philip inquired. “These devices are wireless and will transmit data to the lab. The devices will be out of sight and unobtrusive.”
“I’m quite fascinated with your research. It’s rather exciting, so of course you may,” Shasta affirmed.
“I’m in agreement, and if the kitties are okay with devices stationed here,” Ralph declared, and he looked directly at Lucy and Karma who, by cleaning their paws, indicated it was a groovy idea.
Philip was delighted as were the twins. “Ralph, I have the preliminary results of today’s readings. They’re intriguing. Based on them, would you become a participant in the project? I have several experiments you could assist with.”
“As one of your lab mice, Philip?” Ralph was amused.
“No. Instead of being a consultant, you would now be a partner although you would be a subject for tests, which will explore psychic energy fields and their potential application for practical purposes.”
“What do the preliminary results indicate Ralph could assist with?” Shasta inquired.
“It’s only a first analysis based on limited data, but Ralph seems to be linked with the changes in pressure levels. And,” Philip stared at Shasta, “the kitties have an important part too.”
“Well, am I left out then?”
“Of course not, Shasta, but your role is still to be identified. Remember, we haven’t delved very far yet.”
“Yeah, just on the surface,” Jerry chimed in.
“These early readings are fantastic. Deep exploration is required now.” Geri was quite enthusiastic.
“Shasta, if you would like to come to the Institute and join us in the tests, we’d be delighted. The kitties may participate too of course.” Philip’s invitation was alluring.
“No, the kitties and I will stay home and maintain a balance in the psychic pressure level,” she graciously affirmed.
“If the twins can place the devices now, we can leave soon,” Philip said.
“Please go ahead,” Shasta responded.
Turning to Ralph, Philip remarked, “I’d like a peek at your studio, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, yes, you should see his magic lair, Philip,” Shasta announced with a grin.
Ralph laughed. “Right this way and I’ll show you amazing feats.”
After the devices had been installed, they gathered in the vestibule.
“Ralph, I’ll phone in a few days, and we can set a date for your first test. Thank you, Shasta, for your refreshments and hospitality. And here’s my card–as a reminder and memento,” Philip remarked.
After the twins had thanked the Garlands, the psychic investigators left.
Shasta inspected Philip’s business card. “Philip M. Austen. What does the middle initial stand for?”
“Marlowe. His parents were great fans of Raymond Chandler and his detective stories.”
“Intriguing. Marlowe is the family name of a major Elizabethan playwright who led a mysterious and rather secret life.”
“Yes. Christopher. And his famous play Doctor Faustus.”
“Perhaps, it is a sign.”