Dr. Lasker took off his glasses and burst into laughter.
“Why are you laughing?” Shelly shouted, thinking this was the rudest man she’d ever
“Who put you up to this?” he asked. “I should be used to these pranks by now, but ...and I guess the smell wasn’t gas after all? A ghost? Good prank. I was really fooled.” He pushed his stool away.
“I’m not kidding,” Shelly said. “I’ve got a ghost!”
The doctor saw Shelly wasn’t laughing. In fact her face looked deadly serious. She was either a great actress or a complete nutcase. “Now listen, Miss, I’ve had others try this before on me and I have no patience ....”
Shelly tried to get up, but she still felt woozy from the gas. “I’m not kidding,” she repeated. “I can’t explain it any other way. I really think I’ve got a ghost who can talk only to me…and I don’t like it.” I don’t like you either, she thought.
Dr. Lasker had heard almost every kind of crazy story before, but there was something about this girl that made him wonder if maybe there was some truth to her story. Maybe she didn’t really have a ghost, but sincerely believed she did? “What makes you think you’re being haunted,” he asked, standing over her and peering into her eyes as if he could tell if she was
lying by just studying her pupils. “Make it snappy. I’m a very busy man.”
Shelly felt nervous, wondering how she could ever convince him, if she wanted to convince him -- he was horribly rude and inconsiderate after all she’d been through. “I didn’t believe it either,” she said, “but I have no other explanation for all that has happened to me since he saved my life at South Island Park yesterday from a mugger while I was jogging ....”
“Whoa! Slow down! Take a breath! You said he saved you from a bus accident before?
Which is it? Bus accident or mugger?”
“Both,” Shelly said. “He says he saved me from both.”
“How is that possible? Ghosts, if they exist at all -- and we’ll discuss this soon if I don’t have you arrested -- there’s never been any conclusive proof that ghosts can manipulate real objects, let alone perform the kinds of rescues you describe. I respectfully submit you’ve been under some kind of stress lately and this ghost of yours is conjured up by your own fertile
imagination…something like a childhood make-believe friend. No real harm unless you do something stupid like breaking into my office?”
She glared at him, but realized she had to restrain her response if she wanted any chance of getting help from him. “I thought I was imagining him too,” she began slowly, “I really did think he was a result of shock at first...but someone else saw me being miraculously pulled from in front of the bus. She said there was nobody there…nobody who could have saved me.”
Dr. Lasker sighed. “This so-called witness might want the notoriety, or have some other ulterior motive ...I’ve seen a lot of crazies—“
“I can’t think of any motive she would have. She has no reason to lie.” “Well, I only have your second-hand reporting of what she allegedly said.”
Shelly jumped up from the chair. Her temper erupting. “I’m not lying to you! I have no reason to make any of this up! I hate the whole damn thing! I don’t want a ghost, and I don’t want to talk to someone as rude and pig-headed as you!” She staggered toward the door. “You can send the cops to room 306 D Dorm to find me if you still want me arrested. You’ve given me one damn big headache. I’m sorry I ever found your name! The cops will want it though.”
Dr. Lasker looked stunned, and then he shouted at Shelly in an even louder voice, “Stop right now young lady! Nobody ever yells at me! I’m head of the department here! I’m God here!”
Shelly whirled around. “God listens when you ask for help. All you do is make me damn
Dr. Lasker was surprised by the fury in her voice and face. Would she look like this if it was a prank? He stood and blocked the door. “Okay. Fair enough. You can yell loud, and I can yell louder. Just stop. Let’s both calm down.” He forced a look of concern. “I’m not saying I believe you, but let me show you something.” He reached into a drawer in his desk and pulled out a manila envelope. “I found this on my desk a few minutes before I found you down here in my lab. Did you leave it there?”
Shelly was still fuming and just wanted to leave. “I’ve never been here before, and I don’t plan to come back.”
“Please look at it?” Dr. Lasker held it up. “Is this your note?”
Shelly felt like tearing it out of his hand, but instead stared in disbelief at the red ink. It was dripping off the page from the printed letters that said,
Dodd must have scrawled it, she thought, but why did he disappear? And why did this guy who said he was Dr. Lasker claim never to have heard of him? I’m totally confused, Shelly thought as she couldn’t take her eyes from the clumsily written note.
“That note may have saved your life,” Dr. Lasker said, holding his hand out to retrieve it. “You are certain you didn’t write this?”
“I already told you--”
“Then who wrote it?” Dr. Lasker asked, examining the note for any clue. “Why is the L missing? Surely they can spell Help?”
“I wish I knew,” Shelly said, wondering if maybe Allen had written it, leaving out the L to conserve his energy. Holy crap! Had he somehow managed to save her yet again? Impossible, she thought, but what other explanation could there be?
Dr. Lasker sat down on the stool again. He replaced the note in the envelope and put it back in the top drawer of his desk. He locked the drawer with a key. “Please sit down. No more
shouting or threats.” He gave the girl a weak smile and felt grateful when she sat down on the chair again. He took a deep breath and spoke softly to her, “There are things in your story that make no sense to me,” Dr. Lasker said, his voice more reassuring. “But I see you need some help…I think you are a fairly honest young lady ....”
“Fairly honest?” Shelly was turning stormy again. Who the hell does this guy think he is?
“Okay, I mean completely honest. Yes, you do strike me as being honest. Maybe deluded a little? Maybe suffering some sort of severe trauma? You mentioned a bus accident and a
mugging…also a murder?” He found it hard to accept that all those things could have happened to her in such a short period of time, but she seemed to believe it, and was acting as if they had all happened. “Each of these alone could cause such problems, but all? Yes, they very likely are the possible causes of your problem with what we shall call an ‘unspecified manifestation’.” He saw her tense and quickly added, “But then again you may actually have seen a ghost? Do you really believe you have? Such sightings, while frequently reported, are rarely if ever
substantiated. You do understand that? Don’t you?” He had interviewed countless students who had claimed to have the special sensitivity that was required to become Ectoplasmic Researchers, Ectos, as the students called themselves for short, and only a rare few had met even the minimal standards of the testing procedures. A true Ecto, he mused, is very rare, and looking at this blond with her cute nose, darling freckles and slightly disheveled hair, he doubted if she could possess even one iota of that magic quality. “We are a department of Ectoplasmic Researchers, Ectos,” he explained, “But to be frank, I have never yet been able to substantiate the existence of ghosts, despite numerous attempts. We may want to believe such spirits exist, to bolster our religious beliefs and to offer the end of eternal condemnation for failure to uphold our moral, political and religious precepts.” He saw she looked confused. “In other words, if we believe in ghosts, we
believe in the after-life, and therefore it behooves us to live as righteously as we can. It is a very convenient antidote to our innate criminal instincts if we believe we are facing grim punishment as we are doomed to roam the Earth as ghosts.”
Shelly shook her head in frustration. “Dr. Lasker, I am telling you the truth as I know it. Will you help me? Yes or no? I don’t feel well and dammit, I’m sick of all this. Please tell me you’re going to help me or let me just go and—“ Shelly began to tremble.
Dr. Lasker sighed. The young woman in front of him seemed sincere enough, but he had been fooled before. He studied her eyes. She looked like she was going to cry. “Yes,” he said slowly. “Yes, I will help you as much as I can. If you are genuine? If not, it will be a short
“You’ll help me get rid of this crazy thing?”
Dr. Lasker nodded his head, not sure if Shelly herself wasn’t the ‘crazy thing’. But aren’t all Ectos crazy? He had a clear image of a young man’s eyes, wide-open, staring without motion as he was forced into a strait jacket by a team from the university hospital.
“Got him,” one of the heavier associates shouted. “Man, I never thought someone so thin could put up such a fight.”
You have no idea, Lasker thought, as he watched them guide the now docile assistant onto the ambulance. “His name is, Dodd, Thomas. Please take good care of him. It is not entirely his fault.”
Lasker shut off the images. He did not want to see Dodd’s tortured expression. He did not want to see the eyes that made him feel so guilty. “Your breakdown wasn’t my fault,” he said as
the van left. But he knew that wasn’t quite true. He also knew Dodd wasn’t crazy, not in the commonly understood definition of the word.
Hadn’t others called Lasker himself crazy? Wasn’t that what he looked for in his assistants? It seemed to come hand-in-hand with the sensitivity. Dodd was prone to insanity because of the very gifts that made him such a powerful Ecto. And all true Ectos wanted, demanded, that he help them hone and develop their ability. Dodd had wanted that more than any of the others. He had pushed and pushed….
But enough of the past. In the back of Lasker’s brain the wheels were turning. Here, in front of me, dressed in a lab coat that makes her look damn sexy, is a young woman who seems to sincerely believe she is being haunted. Maybe this girl is crazy? I wouldn’t doubt it… but just imagine the possibilities if her ghost is for real!