by Carl L. Biemiller,
edited by C. J. Carnahan and Eric Biemiller

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
The chapter links are located at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 4

“Let me get this straight,” said Ballard Kynwood Senior. “You think Woodie has psychic powers, and you want to bug him while he’s ill in the cause of your science, which, as I understand it, ain’t.”

“Inelegant,” muttered Connie Kynwood, concealing an unbidden foreboding while wondering how long the davenport would last without replacing. It had already enjoyed two slip covers and one upholstery job, and there were no visible signs of a pay increase in Woodie Senior’s academic future.

“Boy, for an arts scholar you sure speak good,” said Decker Todd. But you’re close enough except that I’d really feel a bit more comfortable with Beetle’s help as a honest-to-murphy medicine man. The boy suffered a bit more than a bump on the head, you know. His next four to five weeks in the hospital are going to be important ones for him. I don’t want any after effects when I discharge him as cured.”

They were sitting around in the Kynwood’s comfortably shabby bungalow living room sipping intellectual tea which in many university circles is orange pekoe thrice dipped or until the bag dissolves.

“He is going to be all right when this is over, isn’t he?” asked Connie anxiously.

“He’s fine right now,” said Dr. Bailiff, "and you know it."

The Kynwoods, fifteen years married and mutually and ardently possessed by each other, shared a message-laden glance.

“He told you he was fine the other night. Who else did you think told you? An impersonator? And you believed him,” said Dr. Bailiff.

Ballard Kynwood rose, patted his wife on the head absently which annoyed her, and yanked at an ear lobe. He did look like a skinny end on some Big Ten football factory team. He looked as if he were about to run a fly pattern.

“Tell me about psychic research and ESP and parapsychological work,” he said. He looked at his wife. “If we seem squeamish somehow, it’s because we are.”

“Well, that’s understandable,” said Beetle Bailiff looking like some titan monolith from Easter Island who had just dropped in to rest its sixteen tons. “You live in a scientific age, and a lot of your time has rubbed off on you. Most scientists can’t accept ESP phenomena because they don’t fit into any known theories of physics and physiology now in use. But then the essence of science is the investigation of all phenomena. It shouldn’t be only the phenomena that’s deemed proper by stuffed shirts who forget that astronomy was once astrology, and chemistry was once alchemy, and that Newton’s 17th century laws of physics, which started that science, have been pretty well altered since.

“What's more, modern parapsychology has suffered from a bad lot of superstitious ancestors like witchcraft and devil worship and tribal magic. It’s been associated with death and ghosts and demons and even super-beings from Outer Space.

“The truth is that there is something we call ESP which has been manifest in mankind since the beginning. And man has been investigating this psychic phenomenon since the beginning too. What we call parapsychology has long been a part of many Far Eastern and Asian cultures. In many countries today psychic manifestations are accepted as realities, even as normal parts of religions.

“Parapsychological work, the efforts to organize the inexplicable or that which doesn’t ‘fit’ anywhere, came late to the Western countries, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Then, as now, there was great interest in the so-called ‘supernatural’. Man thinks he knows where he came from. He thinks he knows something about where he is and what surrounds him. And he still climbs the walls when he thinks about what happens when he can no longer think about what happens.

“Unfortunately, thousands of phonies have preyed upon man’s perfectly normal interest in the ‘supernatural’. It has been ridiculed for centuries and still is …”

“What are you humming, Woodie?” asked Connie Kynwood.

“Gilbert and Sullivan … Oh, my name is John Wellington Wells/I’m a dealer in magic and spells/In blessings and curses/And ever filled purses/ In prophecies, witches and knells …”

“Exactly,” said Beetle Bailiff. “But about organized efforts to explain…” The doctor paused to order his thoughts and then continued.

"A British Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 and an equivalent society established in the United States in 1885. Not until 1911 at Stanford University under psychology professor John E. Conover was any significant amount of data assembled, and that was in connection with mind reading through experiments with playing cards. Still later psychical research moved to Harvard under the direction of William McDougall who was joined in 1926 by Dr. Joseph B. Rhine and his wife Louisa. The team stayed at Harvard for a year then moved to Duke University. There McDougall headed the psychology department and Rhine began the experiments which created much national publicity and controversy.

"Dr. E. K. Zener, one of his assistants, worked out a deck of cards with symbols instead of numbers for mind reading lab tests that were later used in ESP parlor games.

The soft rumble of Beetle’s voice went on and he made them see the spread of modern research on psychic phenomena throughout the United States, Britain, India and the Soviet Union. He pointed out that in 1970 ESP investigation received long sought recognition when the American Parapsychological Association became affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was invited to participate in AAAS conventions in 1970-71-72.

“You got respectable, eh,” said Woodie Kynwood Senior.

“Then it’s valid, constructive work,” said Connie Kynwood.

“Madam, this university does not consider my departmental budget to be a frivolous matter. The Russian government does not judge its large program in parapsychology to be a playtime thing for Ivan. The hardheads of their presidium were convinced long ago that ESP exists. Their research is directed at ways to use it for the greater glory of the state.”

“He gets touchy now and then,” said Dr. Decker Todd.

“Let ‘em. It’s my son,” snapped Connie.

Her son, Woodie Junior, eased out of a doze. There was movement around him, and a nurse leaning over him.

“You’re going to another room,” she whispered.

He would just as soon go home, he thought, home to peanut butter and apples and his own room with the police radio and the winning game ball signed to Woodie Senior by his Purdue 1934 teammates and some Northwestern players as well as his shell collection and books, including four dirty ones borrowed from Tinker Tubbs who was his friend and a corner back on the freshman team, and his mother and father. He began to think about home. And his secret place of all things. He hadn’t thought about his secret place since he was a little kid maybe a year or so ago or even what was hidden in it. There was a note from Mary Estelle Luke who used to let him see her without pants every now and then when they were eleven before she moved away, and a five-dollar gold piece you could go to jail for having … The secret place … every boy had one… and his was a section of board molding where the wall in his room joined the floor in a corner, and it pulled out and could hold lots of stuff. Practically all kids had a secret places. Tinker Tubbs had one, but it wasn’t all that secret if he went around showing it. Probably even the Queen of England had a secret place and the President of the United States when he was a boy. It was fun thinking about home.

“He’s my son too,” said Woodie Senior. “And what’s with the Russians, Dr. Bailiff?”

“Hard work and some different theories,” said Beetle, easing his weight in the room’s biggest chair while its spring twanged and whined like a steel guitar. “They talk about ‘bioinformation’ instead of ESP, and claim it’s a basic ability of all living things …

"Something called ‘bioplasma’ flows out of everything alive, according to Russian theory, and interacts with ‘bioplasma’ of other living things. ‘Bioplasma’ is an energy but not a physical energy like light and heat. It’s a special kind of life ‘energy’, and, according to Russian science, it can be seen as kind of a ‘glow’ coming out of animals, and even parts of plants. Soviet parapsychologists, using a photographic technique called ‘Kirlian photography’ developed by Semyon and Valentina Kirlian, have made pictures of the ‘glow’ around people with psi talents. The Soviet psychic researchers theorize that the ‘bioplasma’ idea may explain mental telepathy, clairvoyance, psycho kinesis, all sorts of things."

“That’s fascinating,” said Connie Kynwood. “But would your experiments hurt Woodie in any way, particularly while he’s so ill?”

“No way,” said Dr. Decker Todd firmly, “Your son may be your son, ma’am, but he’s my patient until I turn him loose well and maybe better than he ever was to this house.”

“What do you say, Connie?” asked Ballard Kynwood Senior.

“I think so,” she answered.

Reginald B. Bailiff nodded.

“I’d ask only that you didn’t speak of this to anyone, and just consider my work with Woodie Junior as private as a doctor-patient relationship just as you do Dr. Todd’s association with Woodie. I have some departmental funds available for my so called subjects which might keep Woodie in spending money. Decker Todd, for instance, will only send you a bill that Blue Shield won’t cover.”

“Untrue in this case,” said Dr. Todd. “University professors and their ilk never have a bean, but I shall of course grab what beans are about. It’s the revised Hippocratic oath … guides all modern medicine …”

“What I want to know,” said Woodie Senior reflectively, “is how you’re so certain that our son has psi talents. I assume that it is not the usual thing for you, with your reputation and position, to visit folks like us quite so frankly. I further assume that Woodie’s talent must be remarkable, although he’s normal to us, and we’ve never seen any signs of the unusual about him.”

“And we don’t want to see any signs either. We just want him home and well,” snapped Connie.

“Answer the man, Beetle,” said Dr. Decker Todd.

“I am firmly convinced that the boy is different enough to be of great help to a new and worthy science,” rumbled Dr. Bailiff.

Ballard Kynwood Senior performed a humless hum which vibrated his lower lip. For an instant he looked like a thinking hawk.

“Fathers should be confident, not dubious,” he no-hummed. “Faith, it all boils down to faith…”

Dr. Decker Todd saw it first.

“Beetle,” he said softly. “Toward the … you see it?”

The winning game ball signed to Woodie Senior by his Purdue 1934 teammates, and some Northwestern players as well, was in a solo incoming flight. The football moved steadily from the door to Woodie Junior’s bedroom near the back of the house down the hallway which split the bungalow.

“Woodie, oh Woodie, I think I’m going to scream.”

“I think you are not going to scream,” said Connie’s husband firmly. “You’ve seen that ol’ game ball before, you know. You used to be pretty proud of it.”

He stretched out his hands. The ball settled into them.

“I was sensational that day,” he said. He peered over the ball at his wife. “You’re sensational every day, dear. So’s that new quarterback.”

Connie Kynwood stared into the black moon of Dr. Bailiff’s face.

“Woodie Junior?” she asked quietly. “And lonesome as well as sick,” she added decisively.

Reginald B. Bailiff nodded. There is no more suitable haven for an ESPER adept, a priest of the power, than being a highly qualified parapsychologist in charge of the parapsychology department of a major university. He can guide his work and recruit his workers in comparative peace, and without ever stinting the high cause he serves.

Dr. Decker Todd’s honed surgeon’s eyes could detect no visible signs of any particular shock in the Kynwood’s. They were strong and durable people, he decided; sound human stock.

“You ain’t got a roll-out mouse or a strike-throwin’ cat back there, have you? Or maybe a long throwin’ dog?”

“I don’t know what we have. I don’t know what we’ve gotten into either,” said Ballard Kynwood Senior.

“Goodbye, ma’am. Goodbye, professor. We’ll see you at the hospital. Ah, that is, ah, and let’s hope that none of us drops the ball,” said Decker Todd.

Connie Kynwood surprised them.

“We’ll make the play-offs,” she said.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Five Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Four Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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