Dr. Lasker was studying the results of Shelly’s test. His mind was racing. If this simple test was even a slight indication, then something strange was at work here. The girl called it a ghost, but that part remained to be seen. She had gotten every one of the last cards right. Even Dodd had not gotten more than sixty percent on any of the tests. No Ecto had ever scored this high.
“Are you convinced yet,” Shelly asked, seeing him studying her again with his eyeglasses raised above his nose.
He had to hide his excitement. “It is rather remarkable,” Dr. Lasker said, his mind still working on the possibilities this discovery might offer for his department. “We will of course have to do more tests.”
“Oh for heaven sakes,” Allen roared. “No more tests. Either he accepts I exist or let’s try something else. I’m losing patience with this clown.”
“Like what,” Shelly asked.
“I have a whole battery of tests,” Dr. Lasker replied, thinking she was talking to him. “We’ll have to run brain scans, body electrical evaluations, neuron tests and quite a few more.”
“I told you, Shelly, to this quack you’re just a specimen, a butterfly to add to his collection.”
“I’m not a butterfly,” Shelly roared.
“A what?” Dr. Lasker looked confused.
Shelly sat up taller. “I said I’m not a butterfly, a specimen for your probing needles.” “No. Of course not,” Dr. Lasker said, surprised at her strong response. “I never thought
you were. It’s just that before taking you into the department I must ascertain exactly what we are dealing with here. We just don’t train anyone for this kind of intensive research.”
“Probe, probe and more probing,” Allen roared. “Let’s just get the hell out of here and solve this thing on our own.”
“How? How do we do that,” Shelly asked. “You don’t even know who or what you are?
And frankly, I’m beginning to wonder what I am too.”
“You’re my partner,” Allen said. “We’re meant to be together. Can’t you see that? Why else was I sent to save you? Three times! Count them!”
“I’ve heard all this before,” Shelly said.
“You have,” Dr. Lasker asked, thoroughly confused. He thought of putting on his usual stern voice and authority face, but was afraid he’d lose her. She was showing surprising strength for a newbie. Most new students were terrified of him, but this one was refusing to show any
sign that she was cowed by his reputation or presence. Still it was worth a shot. “My dear
Shelly,” he began, deliberately making his tone sound condescending and authoritative, “I have
been a professor of parapsychology for twenty years, chairperson of this department for nine. My work is published all over the world. I am one of the leading authorities on supernatural phenomenon. I do not expect to be questioned by an untrained student in my own laboratory.
What I say goes. Is that clear?” He glowered at her with all of the authority he could muster.
“He needs you,” Allen said. “He’s scared stiff you’re going to walk out of here and take your ghost with you.”
“Are you sure,” Shelly asked.
Dr. Lasker couldn’t believe this petite girl was actually questioning him. “I am positive.
Absolutely positive,” he barked.
“He’s terrified,” Allen said. “Just walk out. Right now! Get up and walk out. Trust me.”
Shelly nodded and rose from her chair. “Thank you, Dr. Lasker,” she said and headed for the door.
“You’re leaving?” Dr. Lasker asked, fighting the urge to block the door with his body. “If you leave don’t bother coming back. We’re done here.”
Shelly’s hand was on the door handle. I hope Allen is right, she thought as she turned the
“Wait,” Dr. Lasker said. “Wait.” He exhaled a gust of air. “Perhaps we can run these tests a bit later? I see no harm in shall we say on-the-job-verification. We’ll call it probation. No harm done if it doesn’t work out. I’ll get you back to your former program. I give you my word.”
“See, I told you so,” Allen said. “I’ve got this guy’s number!”
Shelly nodded, her hand still on the door handle. “I don’t know? You haven’t been very nice to me, or to Allen.”
Dr. Lasker waved toward the chair. “Please come back? Let’s talk? This is a rare opportunity for you.” And for me, he thought, praying she was what she appeared to be.
“Tell him you’re not a specimen. Tell him you’ll only stay if he promises to show you proper respect,” Allen said. “You deserve that at least.” He was surprised she had shown such strength after all she’d been through since meeting him. He wondered if he’d underestimated her? Just because she’s cute doesn’t mean she has to be a bimbo, he realized. But then why did she seem to always get into so much trouble?
Shelly nodded again and repeated, “Dr. Lasker, I would very much like your help, but I will only stay if you agree to show me proper respect.”
Dr. Lasker felt his whole body tighten at this ultimatum, from a newbie yet. He forced himself not to explode, quietly nodding his head. There is something about this one, he thought, aware that she had him over a barrel…at least for now. “Agreed,” he said, finding the word hard to lodge from his throat.
“I need you to understand that I, and my ghostly friend, Allen, are not specimens for your collection.” Shelly smiled at Allen.
“Your ghostly friend? I like that. Thank you,” Allen said, wondering if he had finally made a small breakthrough with this stubborn human female who he seemed destined to protect.
“You’re welcome,” Shelly replied.
“I haven’t said anything,” Dr. Lasker said, fighting to hold back his notorious temper.
“I was talking to Allen,” Shelly said. “He thanked me for calling him a friend, which I now know he is.”
Dr. Lasker sighed. He had never seen anything like this before, this young girl having a very complex and congenial conversation with a ghostly, at least invisible, companion. He examined her test score again and determined that to have, for lack of a better understanding, a ghost on his team, was worth the humiliation he was now suffering in silence. It was worth almost everything. “Please tell…Allen? Is that his name?”
“I told you he doesn’t know who he was in real life. I gave him the name until we can help him.”
“Forgetful old coot,” Allen said.
“You should talk,” Shelly shot back. “You forgot your own name.”
“I know my name,” Dr. Lasker said, again feeling his temper simmering.
“No. I was talking to Allen again. You have to get used to that. I’m trying to get used to it,” Shelly said. “He’s a bit of a chatterbox. He says he hasn’t talked to anyone in ages.” She
leaned toward the doctor. “I think he’s making up for lost time with all this talking.”
Dr. Lasker nodded. “Hello Allen,” he said, not sure in which direction he should be speaking. “I am Professor Joel Lasker, PhD, Chairman of this department, and I am very pleased to meet you.” He turned to Shelly. “Can he hear me? Should I speak louder?”
“Oh for Pete’s sake! Tell him I hear him loud and clear. Too loud and clear.”
Shelly shrugged. “Allen says he hears you fine. And says he’s glad to meet you too.”
“I never said that you little liar.”
“You actually can hear him right now?” Dr. Lasker asked. “Well perhaps someday I will be able to hear him too? At any rate, Shelly and Allen, welcome to the Parapsychology Department. I have a feeling we are going to get along just fine.”
“I wouldn’t bet my life on that,” Allen murmured.