Shelly was a little disappointed they weren’t taking the Cadillac, but saw the unmarked, white Chevy van was filled with lots of equipment. Cameras, tripods, several dozen flashlights, she easily identified, but some of the other objects were unfamiliar. “Is all this necessary,” she asked after Dr. Lasker introduced her to a young Asian looking man seated behind the steering wheel. “This is Chan Lee Pong. He is our driver and camera man tonight.”
Shelly smiled and said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Pong.” She noticed he was slight in figure, had jet black hair which was tied in a pony tail and wore green sunglasses. His jaw-line was high and etched, skin stretched taut. She could not imagine him ever cracking a smile or laughing.
Chan said, “Buckle up. We are late to leave.”
What’s with him, Shelly thought, noticing he had hardly looked at her. Is everyone in this department crazy?
“You can call him Chan,” Dr. Lasker said. “He’s a bit terse, but correct, we are late. I want to get there before dark.”
“We should have left earlier then,” Chan said as he backed the large van out of its garage in the rear of Psych Building B. The door came down and Shelly noticed it was covered with a
concrete brick façade making it almost invisible against the rest of the building. “That’s a nice job,” she said to Dr. Lasker who was sitting next to Chan, riding shotgun.
“You mean the garage door? As I’ve explained to you much of our work here is highly confidential. There are others who would do anything to obtain our secrets and equipment. When I designed this building--”
“You designed it?”
“Why yes. I didn’t tell you that?” He looked puzzled. “I’m getting old. Please forgive me? This line of work can take a lot out of you.” Now why did I say that?
Damn right, Allen thought, wondering if the ‘good doctor’ was ever going to tell Shelly the whole truth about the mysterious Mr. Dodd. I’ll tell her after this job is done, he promised. I won’t let her risk herself just to help me.
“So you really designed the whole building? I’m impressed.” Shelly said.
“Ask him about the missing floor,” Allen hissed. He had tried to pass through the walls like he had done easily everywhere else, but the floor was sealed in some kind of material that blocked all access. Was it lead like what blocked Superman, he wondered.
“What missing floor,” Shelly asked, forgetting Dr. Lasker was listening to every word she said to Allen.
Dr. Lasker felt his body tense up. “You must mean why there is not a 13th floor in the building? Most buildings do not have a 13th floor…for the same reason all the keys are on rabbit’s feet here. I have to admit I feel foolish, but I am slightly superstitious.” In my business you’re a fool not to be, he thought.
“He knows that’s not the floor you mean. Everyone knows most buildings don’t have a 13th floor, but I’m talking about the floor concealed between the basement and the lobby floor,” Allen said. “I’ve never heard of a hidden floor like that before.”
“Neither have I.” She recalled how puzzled she had been when it took two extra flights of stairs to go from the basement to the lobby. In all the craziness, she has almost forgotten about
that. “Dr. Lasker, I wasn’t going to ask about the 13th floor. A lot of buildings are like that. I was
more curious about why there are six flights of stairs from the basement to the first floor when normally there would only be four?”
Dr. Lasker turned abruptly to Chan. “You missed the turn. Make the next left and we’ll be on the Expressway. Pay attention please. We are late as is.”
“I did not miss a turn,” Chan replied, sounding irritated. “You are the worst backseat driver. Everyone says--” He looked into the rearview mirror. “I mean…you must forgive my English. I sometimes make mistakes…like mixing who says something. You understand?” He
saw the girl nod her head. It was okay. She hadn’t noticed his slip, or if she did wasn’t going to ask about it. “You must let me be the driver, Dear Doctor, or take the steering wheel yourself.”
“Don’t be so sensitive,” Doctor Lasker said, hoping he had distracted Shelly from her question.
Chan gazed back at the girl. “Isn’t that what you want of all of us,” he asked the doctor. “Isn’t our ‘sensitivity’ what you work us so hard to develop?”
Dr. Lasker tried to hide his displeasure. “I should have mentioned that Chan here, in fact all our grad student interns are what we call ‘sensitives’. They call themselves, Ectos, which as you know by now is short for Ectoplasmic Researchers.”
“Does that mean they can hear ghosts,” Allen asked, remembering how Dodd had been able to hear him. “Please ask him?”
Shelly nodded. “Dr., does that mean they can hear ghosts? Chan, can you?”
Dr. Lasker looked back at her. She really is a pretty girl, he suddenly thought as her eyes looked so earnestly into his face. “I have never been able to document this ability successfully,” he said, knowing he wasn’t telling her the whole truth. “I would have to define ‘sensitive’ as perhaps being able to viscerally ‘sense’ the presence of some occult energy within a confined area.”
“More double-talk,” Allen said. “He’s definitely hiding something.” So am I. I wonder what she would say if I told her what I saw when I held that knife? He remembered the sight of a young, naked girl with blond hair lying on some kind of bed or table with him—he was sure it was him—standing over her with a sharp knife in his hand. How can I tell her that, he thought, grateful she was not a true Ecto, nor someone with mind-reading ability. How could he tell her that what really frightened him was that he thought the girl under the knife was Shelly?