Hermes Beckons: A Seeker Must Be Humble and a Realist
Chapter 5
© 2006 John Caris

The trail, actually a dirt road, began at Elk Street and eventually became two foot paths following the creek bed, one through heavy underbrush along the edge of the creek and the other ascending higher against the sides of the rock outcroppings. A solitary hiker walked by the Glen Park Recreation Center, the tennis courts, and children’s playground abutting the recreation building. He continued on the dirt road until he reached the location where Islais Creek flowed from its sources in Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights into an underground culvert that channeled it into the bay. Most of Islais Creek lay underground, beneath tons of concrete, flowing in a man-made container so that it would not harm the fruits of modern labor: freeways, housing tracts, and industrial work sites.

He decided to leave the dirt road and travel along the lower creek path through Glen Canyon Park until it curved over the creek and back to the upper trail. The first part of the dirt road trail, before it changed into the upper foot path, was used frequently by joggers, cyclists, and walkers with their dogs. Pausing in a small copse of eucalyptus and pine trees, Ralph took his binoculars and searched the tree branches until he found the nest of the red-tailed hawk family. Not seeing any hawks, he proceeded on his journey.

After Shasta had left for Ocean Beach to join Nancy for a morning adventure of beach-walking, he had puttered around in his studio for awhile, feeling a bout of melancholy approaching. Her comment about nature’s healing power emerged into his mind and had transformed the direction of his thoughts. Remembering the yerba buena cuttings that were growing roots, he went outside to the small hothouse he had constructed on the south side of the house. There he kept cuttings from garden plants that were growing roots and seedlings. His elation was boundless when he discovered that seven yerba buena cuttings had sufficient roots for transplanting. Gathering his gear and the cuttings, he set off for Glen Canyon Park where he would plant the yerba buena along the creek so that this indigenous flora would again propagate in the canyon. During the past year he had searched carefully along the trails for specimens but could not find any.

Yerba buena is a low growing, creeping ground cover that is native to San Francisco, the bay, the coast, and coastal ranges. When the Spanish invaded the lands of the Yelamu people around 1776, using the First Californians as slave labor to build and maintain the Presidio and Mission Dolores, yerba buena covered much of the land. Later, the village that would become San Francisco began to grow on Yerba Buena Cove, the city’s original site. The village also was given the name Yerba Buena. The name the Spanish gave to the plant means good herb. It was and still is. Native Americans used it for an invigorating drink and as a medicine. The European immigrants also found its use beneficial. This fragrant perennial, living along the coast from Los Angeles to British Columbia, also has a latinate botanical name: Satureja douglasii. The oval shaped leaves exude a strong minty scent, signaling their membership in Lamiaceae, the mint family. Small flowers, white or lavender, appear from April to September.

Repopulating the canyon with indigenous plants filled him with joy. The story of Johnny Appleseed flashed through his mind. When he had heard the story read by his third grade teacher, he had been intensely impressed. The image of this young man, traveling the countryside planting apple seeds, had been etched into his mind, and recently the idea of turning San Francisco back into a native, indigenous garden was dominating his thoughts. He would assist nature’s magic.

A large boulder abutted the creek where the lower path crossed over on its way to join the upper one. Ralph paused at the boulder, listening to the sounds—bird songs and rustling of leaves. The whistling weet of a western tanager caught his attention and then the high warble of a bunting. He examined the earth around the creek. Five of the yerba buena cuttings had been planted along the way. The sixth would reside here at the boulder. After digging a small hole a few inches from a flowering lupine, putting the plant into it, gently tamping the soil around the cutting, and watering it from a small bottle of water he carried, he replaced the gear into his jacket pocket and stepped over the creek on the rocks set there as a small bridge. Several feet further he noticed the perfect site for the last yerba buena.

Completing the transplanting project, he continued until he reached the upper path, which he followed toward the headwaters of Islais Creek. Breaking off a stalk of fennel, he chewed on the narrow leaves, savoring the licorice taste. Fennel was a food source for many creatures. Birds and humans enjoyed the seeds. Beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, relied on the pollen and nectar of plants such as fennel when they were not feeding on plant-damaging insects.

His original search many years ago for the six springs that fed Islais Creek had been frustrated because of the massive undergrowth that covered much of the canyon. If any of the springs originated on the upper slopes of Twin Peaks or Diamond Heights, finding their source would be hampered by Portola Drive as it sliced along the side of Twin Peaks or the housing development on Diamond Heights. Now he might walk until the path abruptly ended near Portola Drive or return sooner depending on his feelings. His inner beacon had become his guide.

During his teenage years he had explored all the city’s parks. Because his family resided in the Sunset District, only a few blocks from Golden Gate Park, he spent many pleasant hours hiking the trails of the city’s largest and most famous park. His second favorite was Glen Canyon, which always stimulated his imagination. His younger brother Kenneth frequently accompanied him on these outings. Only later did he realize that Ken had idolized him as the expert and guru of the city’s parks and history and, of course, magic.

The sun was warming the earth while the fog hung on the eastern slope of Twin Peaks, waiting for the cooling of the day when it would quickly flow downward into the canyon. He observed a rock ledge that was inviting. Climbing onto it, he leaned against the outcropping of chert, his legs spread out on the ledge.

Glen Canyon Park lies within the folds of the Twin Peaks Block, the strongest part of the Franciscan rock formation that San Francisco is built on. The Twin Peaks Block, made up of chert and basalt with some sandstone and shale mixed in, crosses the city diagonally from northwest to southeast—from Mt. Sutro to Candlestick Hill. Most of Golden Gate Park is part of the block.

The Garlands lived on the southwestern edge of the Twin Peaks Block in a section of rock formation called melange—a blend of chert, basalt, gabbro, and sandstone. Although melange does not have the strength of the Twin Peaks Block, it showed little movement during the 1989 earthquake, which caused havoc in the Marina and downtown areas where landfill prevailed.

He gazed across the valley toward the western edge where chert formations rose above him. O’Shaughnessy Boulevard ran along the canyon’s downward sloping fold. Here on the boulevard one could see the intricate folds of the thin-bedded ribbon red chert, which changed into thick-bedded yellowish-brown chert. In late morning the chert blazed with a fiery color, announcing the sun’s movement westward. The Franciscan rock formation upon which the city sat was ancient and originally a part of the ocean floor. He had found radiolarians in the ribbon chert, images from over 100 million years ago, a time capsule for the future. The feeling of past eras still permeated the canyon and fired his keen imagination whenever he was there.

The Yelamu people, whose language was a member of the family anthropologists called Ohlone, had a settlement in the canyon with its fresh running water, material for houses, plant food, and game. Other Yelamu sites were scattered throughout San Francisco. The Ohlones, who had resided in the region for over 5,000 years, had settlements located throughout the peninsula from the Golden Gate to Monterey. Several of their shell mounds still remained, but many had been destroyed by the unceasing wheels of development and progress. The shell mound at Candlestick Hill was under attack by those who wanted the city to subsidize the building of a large shopping mall and new coliseum.

The sun warmed him and his mind drifted. Gazing into the sky, he wondered how it would be to have lived here before the arrival of the Europeans. The Ohlones had been gardeners, not hunter-gathers nor farmers. They had managed their bioregion. They had annual burns that opened the oak woodlands by eliminating the build-up of brush and stimulated plant growth. These burns benefited not only the people but also herbivores that were hunted. Plants that had special uses, for example basketry, were pruned at certain times of the year. The Yelamu began harvesting their garden in the late summer when the blackberries were ripe. Then several weeks later acorns and coffeeberry nuts were ready. Acorns were not only an important food source but also used as a medicine as was the bark of the tree.

He could visualize the giant condors that circled overhead, as herds of elk, deer, and pronghorn antelope grazed the meadows and woods of coast live oak and pine and, further south, redwood. Grizzly bear and mountain lion lurked in the brush.

His mind cleared, and he thought of last night’s two part dream. Especially puzzling was the story about the pilgrim entering the palace of skulls. A few ideas had emerged from the many layers of meaning, and he contemplated them now. How should he understand the human body, its physicality? What is its nature? This question dominated his thinking. Water symbolizes the life-force, which can be influenced by meditation. The body is both transitory and container of the highest forces of enlightenment. A seeker must be humble and a realist, perceiving reality as it is. From this preparation comes an understanding of the body. Sun and moon are the two powers. A double drum symbolizes the universe’s rhythm and Dharma’s spiritual sound. A cup made from a human skull and filled with blood signifies knowledge gleaned from death. The pilgrim becomes one with the object of his quest; his devotion leads to atonement. The three initiations—on the lips, in the stomach, and at the root center—energizes the three chakras: throat, navel, and root. Blood signifies red solar energy. As we become conscious and self-aware, we can be trapped in our ego and die or perceive the illusion of self and become liberated.

A soft, rustling sound caught his attention, and he noticed a garter snake moving slowly along the ledge. Its green, red, and yellow markings glistened in the sun. The snake paused and stuck out its tongue, tasting the air. Then it glided into a crevice and disappeared. As he was watching, his eyes began to focus on the tip of his nose. Remembering reading about this technique, he concentrated on seeing his nose tip. He could perceive the right side, but the left side was more difficult. He moved his eyes back and forth and finally saw both sides of his nose simultaneously. How weird. The sides came together at the apex of a triangle formed by his nostrils. He glanced around his surroundings still focused on the nose tip. Strange visual sensations occurred. Images were overlapped and doubled. He did notice, though, that his mind was quiet and the inner voices were silent.

An image of Jake the garter snake appeared before his inner eye. Jake had lived with them for eight years until passing over to the other world. They had never been certain whether Jake was male or female. Jake was Jake. The snake enjoyed being out of its cage and interacting with them. While it was freely exploring the living room, the kitties had to be shut out for Jake’s protection. Its cage had been placed on a shelf, inaccessible to the kitties, in the living room, or they would have worried the snake to death.

He had been present when Jake had died, an unusual and poignant moment. He was reading, and for no apparent reason he looked up at the cage. Jake was leaning against the glass wall, its head at the top of the cage. Suddenly, the snake tensed and had a muscular spasm. At that moment he sensed a light, aura-like, around Jake’s body. Then the snake’s body went limp. He got up and walked over to the cage. Jake’s life had left. Strangely, he glanced upward to the ceiling and murmured some consoling thoughts about Jake and its time with them. They had buried Jake in Golden Gate Park at the Portals of the Past monument. The image vanished; as serenity swelled within, his eye lids grew heavy and he fell asleep.

Something was touching his shoulder. It was soft and glided down his side. He looked and discovered a long snake hanging down from a rock. He touched the smooth, dry skin and felt the urge to grasp it in his hand. Doing so, he was pulled upwards, landing on a ledge high above the ground where many snakes, whose colors and body designs were beautiful, were gathered. A safe and secure feeling filled him because, he realized, the snakes were protective and would prevent any harm to him here in this reality unseen and unknown by others.

Glancing down, Ralph spied people walking along the trails. He perceived that his vision seemed sharper than normal because he could see through the heavy underbrush and along the lower creek trail. A teenage couple was walking along the trail and had arrived at the boulder where the trail traversed the creek and circled over to the upper path. Stopping beside a hollyleaf cherry tree (Prunus ilicifolia), they picked and ate some of the reddish purple fruit. The hollyleaf was also called islay, which gave the creek its name.

The keeeer cry of a hawk resounded in the canyon. Awakened by the harsh, piercing sound, Ralph picked up the binoculars and hunted for the source. Sitting at the top of a eucalyptus tree was a young red-tailed hawk. A cool breeze was now blowing down from the fog bank. It was time to head home, but first he would stop at Glen Park Books, a new and used bookstore on Diamond Street, only a few blocks from the park.

The enchanted snake dream (wasn’t it a dream?) that seemed so real still bestowed a cheerful, positive mood. Knowing that dream reality could be entered whenever desired, he would thoroughly explore it. A power, a magical quality, had been present. He was reminded of shamans’ visions, but his vision, yes that’s how he would think of it, lacked any scary or terrifying aspect. The place had so exuded peace and serenity that his melancholy and worries had been transformed into calmness and joy. For a moment he had encountered a garden of bliss.

Francis Godwin, the bookseller, was busy with a customer when Ralph entered the store, so he browsed in the metaphysical section. He always started there, but seldom found anything worthwhile on alchemy because the recent books were primarily rehashes of older ones. He had noticed a similar phenomenon among magicians who too often were replicating standard effects without any insight or imagination, a mechanical approach to performance. He had been giving routine shows several years before his heart failure and had never realized the lack of vitality and magic in his performances. Walking the edge of life and death had enabled him to recognize basic inner truths. Ralph had chosen life and stepped away from the edge with a profound clarity about his motives and desires. Although so many of his garbled thoughts and attitudes had been discarded, he still was troubled by frequent bouts of melancholy which he had difficulty shaking off.

Hearing Francis calling, he went over to where the bookseller was standing by his desk. “The Fulcanelli book arrived,” Francis remarked as he held it out.

Ralph took the book and leafed through it, sensing a profound mystery.

“I’ve started reading it,” Francis mentioned. “This is the big one, the one that’ll open up the art for us out-of-touch moderns.”

Gazing at the title The Dwellings of the Philosophers, Ralph commented, “I heard that Fulcanelli uses the same approach as he did in The Mysteries of the Cathedrals.”

“Yes, he examines sculpture and stone reliefs found at the dwellings of important philosophers of the hermetic art. He also presents several astute and penetrating concepts that’ll upset many seekers, especially the puffers. But I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment. Silence until you read enough to discuss.”

Leaving the bookstore in a happy mood, Ralph walked briskly, impatient to get home and begin reading the new alchemical treasure that would illuminate dark passages in his mind. ***

Returning home refreshed from the morning outing with Nancy, Shasta was bubbling with enthusiasm to research the theme of magic for the work-in-progress. Her imagination had been fertilized by last night’s activities: seeing Magritte’s paintings and dining in the old haunts of Dashiell Hammett, whose cloak of mystery now enfolded her. Three piles of magic magazines were stacked next to her reading chair: issues of Genii, The Linking Ring, MAGIC, M-U-M, and the small magic-zines that covered areas of special interest. Having perused most of them, Shasta’s imagination was flowering with ideas. Proprietary rights, theft, plagiarism, lack of credits for source materials—all were regular themes mentioned in the magazines. In several issues she had found articles discussing the plight of professional magicians who had marketed their favorite and successful routines so that others would not steal them. Not that their proprietary rights were completely protected, but at least the magic profession would now give them public recognition.

From scanning many advertisements she observed that competition among manufacturers of magical apparatus was fierce, and no doubt a few companies might cheat. She understood the reason that most magazines had review columns that offered an appraisal of magical effects sold on the marketplace. Theft of property rights was a definite possibility for the storyline, and the potential of spying and sabotage could add complexity and suspense.

She did not discern any way to make the crime a magical one as she had wanted, certainly not in the sense of real or natural magic. The Oxford English Dictionary had assisted her thinking over the hurdle. The main definition for the word magic began: “The pretended art of influencing . . . .” Later the dictionary referred to natural magic, both good and bad, that relied on the supernatural. So she had a choice between bringing in the spirit world or focusing on the concept of “pretended art,” an art that feigned to apply supernatural or occult power to execute a natural event. The latter suited her tastes more, at least for this story.

Relaxing, she pictured Peaches Peoples sitting at her desk writing checks for the many bills that were coming due. An unlit, but well-chewed Cuban cigar lay in the ashtray on the left side of the desk. The remaining furniture consisted of a filing cabinet and two chairs for clients. The filing cabinet was more for show because it contained only cases she had investigated before Aeneas and Virgil joined her. Purchased before used furniture had been renamed antique and the price increased tenfold, the worn furnishings suited her purposes. The image she wanted to project was not an up-scale, world class investigator who charged exorbitant fees, but a hard-working problem-solver who succeeded in fulfilling the client’s request.

The firm leased three rooms, one for each of them. Aeneas was in the front office and acted as receptionist and general lookout, monitoring all three rooms. The front office was sparsely furnished with two chairs for visitors, a small table with a few magazines, and Aeneas’ desk and chair. On the desk was a keyboard and LCD monitor, with two others hidden in the desk, and a telephone-intercom system. Virgil’s hideaway was entered from Peaches’ office. It was the smallest of the rooms and had its own dedicated electric circuits and heating-cooling system. Because only a door separated Virgil’s abode from her space, she had relinquished her habit of smoking in the office. The cigar fumes and smoke could cause an unwitting breakdown in Virgil, creating havoc with its electronic and mechanical systems.

Aeneas’ voice broke in from the intercom, announcing a new client. The door opened and two men entered her small, cramped space. One was in his fifties and the other in his thirties. The older of the two introduced himself as Ned Walden and the younger as his son Kirk. Ned was five foot eight and weighed about one hundred-fifty pounds. He was balding with a fringe of hair around the side of his head. His son Kirk, on the other hand, was Peaches’ height, but heavier than she. His brown hair was clipped close at ear level, and his moustache was neatly trimmed. Peaches rose from the chair, fully expanding her six foot one frame and, as usual, surprising both men. She extended her hand to each in turn, and they complied with a manly handshake. Peaches varied the tension and grip based on her perception of the opposite party. For most women and some men, she did a partial grip with slight tension. For a Kirk Walden, the grip was full and the squeeze was forceful. An electric spark jumped between them that they both immediately recognized. Peaches felt the sexual tingle, and, smiling, acknowledged Kirk’s awareness.

After cordial greetings, Peaches suggested that they be seated, directing the older man toward the least lumpy chair, and then inquired about their problem. Ned was deliberate and precise, and after giving pause to gather his thoughts, he proceeded to relate the troublesome affairs. One of their competitors in the business of producing magical effects, devices, and materials was ripping them off, stealing their secrets, and ruining their business. But they had no evidence that could be used in court. This loathsome man was Malus Dinwot, the owner of Dinwot’s Magical Empire. Ned recounted several occurrences when Dinwot’s firm sold effects that were the same or very similar to those that the Waldens had invented or developed an improved version of.

At a magic convention earlier in the year when Kirk was roaming the vendors’ room looking over the competition, he was surprised to find that Dinwot was selling two routines similar to ones that they had recently designed and produced. The price of the large illusion was several hundred dollars less than what the Waldens were selling theirs for. Ned remarked that Dinwot could easily charge less and still make a large profit because he had no cost for design and development, assuming he stole the plans. The Waldens had spent months working out the kinks in the operation of the effect, and several prototypes were constructed before they were satisfied enough to begin production. The second effect was inexpensive, but the coincidence only added to their suspicion that Dinwot was stealing from them. Then a couple months later at another magic convention Dinwot again had an apparatus comparable to one that they had recently put the finishing touches on. This last incident was just too much for them, and they wanted to hire Peoples Investigations.

Peaches was intrigued by the circumstances because she was not one who believed in coincidences and other likely stories. Everything linked together whether we humans were aware of the connections or not. This maxim had guided her for most of her life. After a contract was signed and Ned wrote a check for a deposit, she requested Aeneas’ presence. None of her clients ever realized that Virgil was constantly monitoring the office. Only when the clients departed, would the three hold their strategy meeting.

Aeneas entered quietly and stood by the single window, partially blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow that ran across Peaches’ desk toward Kirk. Aeneas was casual in his observance, acting as if he were only intent upon the words spoken, not the feelings and attitudes that the Waldens conveyed. Kirk especially caught his attention but for a reason different than Peaches’ fascination. A mystery lurked about the well-built man, something hidden that grabbed Aeneas’ curiosity. He wondered if Virgil was also aware of the enigma? He would question Virgil later at home because he was worried about Peaches’ immediate reaction if he showed suspicion toward Kirk.

First, she asked about any assistants working for them who might steal secrets and sell them to Dinwot, or anyone else for that matter. They had one assistant, Henry Penny, who worked on a part-time basis when extra help was needed for a large production or fulfilling back orders. They both agreed that Henry, who had been employed for the past five years, was trustworthy, and this was a totally new situation. Peaches, however, requested permission to do a background check, including credit rating, on Henry. Even though Ned and Kirk agreed, they still believed in his honesty.

Aeneas changed from his quiet, listening posture and inquired about their computer setup. Kirk described the computer and fax system and the online capabilities of their web site. Realizing he would have to inspect the setup because Kirk seemed only slightly knowledgeable about their system, Aeneas made an appointment to visit the premises the next day to check out their security.

When Peaches assured them that a thorough investigation would begin the next morning and any security breaches would be identified as quickly as possible, the Waldens departed in a confident mood. Peaches feasted her eyes on Kirk as he left. What a handsome hunk that guy is, she thought.

She leaned back in her chair, stretching her arms above her head. “Well, What do you guys think about our new case? Any first impressions?”

“Yeh, Peaches, you sure got the hots for this Kirk, I’d say.” Aeneas grinned. He loved to tease her, especially her proclivity for classic muscular physiques, which he deemed muscle-bound and lacking in intelligence. Of course, Peaches, who was proud of her well-formed and well-toned body, was the perfect example proving his stereotypical image wrong; and for that blend of physical prowess and intelligence he held her in great esteem. “But seriously, if it’s only spying and stealing plans, we should be able to detect the culprit easily enough.” Aeneas chuckled knowingly.

“Definitely,” replied Virgil. “It’s probably a computer hacking scenario.”

“Aren’t you biased, Virgil,” Peaches retorted. “My bet is on a human working without a computer.”

“My money would be on Henry Penny. He could easily take the plans or basic information and sell it to Dinwot.” Aeneas knew his remark would irritate Virgil, yet he was seriously considering Kirk as the thief and could not even hint of his suspicion.

“Actually, I think we should suspect all the known characters in this little magical drama and not be surprised if several unknown ones appear later,” Peaches said. “In fact, we’ll do a background check on all of them—Penny, Dinwot, and the Waldens. Who knows what lurks below the surface? We’re dealing with men who are in the magic profession, an art based on sleight-of-hand, so let’s not be fooled. We need to be watchful and not misdirected.”

Aeneas nodded his agreement as Virgil voiced its approval. “The background reports on all four will be ready early tomorrow morning. You’ll have time to go over them before you leave for your appointment, Aeneas,” Virgil asserted.

Virgil was the best super computer that Aeneas could build with the money he had available. As the third partner in the firm, the computer’s cut of the profits went to maintain and update its system. Four high powered CPUs were running parallel, using a 64 bit address architecture, and the memory capacity was enormous with five hard drives, each two hundred gigabytes, and a large backup capability. Aeneas was in the process of constructing another unit of four parallel CPUs using the advanced dual core chips, which would tremendously increase Virgil’s mental powers. When the new case was solved, he would be able to purchase the fourth CPU and install the new unit. Although the computer was patience, he knew Virgil was looking forward to the update.

Aeneas arrived at the Waldens’ shop at nine in the morning. Parking the ten year old sedan in the small lot next to the building, he got out of the car and took a quick look around, especially observing the location of the power and phone lines and where they entered the building. Everything on the outside seemed acceptable and secure.

When he entered, however, he was stunned by the anxious and angry behavior of the Waldens. Ned was sitting at a desk with panic etched into his face, and Kirk was angrily voicing crude sentiments. Aeneas calmed them into a holding position and then inquired about the situation.

Kirk spoke first, his father too shocked to say much. They had arrived at the office as usual, and everything had seemed normal; but when the computer was booted, an animated wizard appeared on the screen waving a wand, and the words “vanish all” were displayed. Then the computer froze and the screen went blank. It had to be turned off by pushing the button manually, and now it would not boot. It was dead.

Aeneas asked if they had backup tapes, which they had, but the last backup was done three days ago. A new design they were working on was totally lost because they had not backed it up. Aeneas decided now was not the time to suggest that a backup should be performed every night before they left the office. Later, when this problem was resolved, he would make the recommendation. This was a prime opportunity to show what Virgil and he could do. He advised his clients to concentrate on work that did not require the computer.

After he attached a special device to the computer’s modem port, Aeneas slipped an emergency utility disk into the CD drive and pushed the button. The computer booted, and the monitor displayed the recovery menu and its command-line, which allowed him to start the dial-up software and put the computer online. Then he plugged his laptop in a phone jack and contacted Virgil. He gave Virgil the IP address that the computer used when it was online. Virgil located the computer and swiftly entered its system. Using a troubleshooting software that Aeneas had devised, Virgil tested all of the computer’s parts. The special device attached to the Waldens’ modem enacted a firewall which allowed only Virgil to communicate with it, a highly secure intranet workplace. Now in total control of the computer, Virgil checked the hard drive and found that the wizard virus had only erased, but not damaged it. Virgil then analyzed the erased sectors, noting the type of code used, and searched for any evidence of lingering virus or worm traces. Finding the vestige of a worm at the modem port, Virgil probed the trail back through several online servers, but the tracks finally disappeared.

Next Virgil scanned the hard drive and cleaned out any bits of alien code that it discovered. Since the computer had booted from the emergency disk after the erasing, very little had been written over the sectors, so Virgil was able to retrieve most of the erased data. To totally and completely scrub clean a hard drive, a utility was needed that wrote over each sector several times with a random 0-1 sequence. Fortunately, the wizard virus had only used the operating system’s deletion utility. Once the computer had been completely checked, Virgil set up a secured firewall that used a coded filtering program. Because the computer was online during business hours, its unprotected internet connection was the delight of a malicious hacker. Not only was the connection now shielded, but Virgil would be constantly monitoring any incoming or outgoing calls.

After Virgil had secured the computer, Aeneas re-installed the operating system and all the software that had been on it. Then the data that Virgil was able to retrieve was written in, and the computer was up and running.

The Waldens were already feeling happier. When Kirk remembered that he had made some notes and sketches of the latest design, which he located in his desk, the mood became brighter. With the data retrieved from the hard drive and Kirk’s notes, all information on the design was available.

Ned showed his appreciation by offering to buy lunch for Aeneas, who politely refused, mentioning that this was part of the contract and now that their computer had been attacked, a new light was shed on the situation. Besides the theft of plans and designs for their effects, harassment and sabotage were added to the equation. In Aeneas’ updated view the malefactor was definitely not Kirk, unless he had some reason to frighten and panic his father. Reading Virgil’s background report on each of the men before leaving home, he could discern no evidence that either stood to gain from the attack on their firm.

A meowing Lucy kitty brought Shasta out of the reality of Peoples Investigations. Lucy rubbed against her leg, purring. Karma, sitting behind Lucy, was giving the storyteller the eye. Dinner time, they were declaring, and time to stop for more important concerns. Nothing could be more demanding than hungry kitties, or even a hungry magician.

Shasta saved the file and left her study, heading for the kitchen with the kitties leading the way. She felt happy with the solid beginning of the new novel.

Hermes Beckons Chapters Where Is Your Woman Magic Is Alive