It turned abnormally cold the night Tom Clerkson arrived at the Dee’s Amagansett house with two bottles of Australian Shiraz, a half depleted Heineken twelve-pack, and Edward Kelley in tow, full of apologies for being two hours late: the train had stalled between Southampton and Easthampton. Judging from the cloud of beer fumes following him into the house, Jane assumed that Kelley had reduced the twelve-pack on his own. A self-created “Goth” in his late twenties, swathed in black—poncho, shirt, jeans, sneakers, and a tight fitted nylon beanie which he never removed from his head—Kelley bowed mockingly and would have kissed her hand if she hadn’t snatched it away from him.
“Madam Dee, I presume?”
Despite her initial surge of disgust, Jane found Kelley’s piercing black-eyed stare strangely compelling. But when a closer look revealed the criminally sloped forehead, scraggly reddish beard and thick-lipped smirk of a comic book villain—capable of doing harm for no reason except that he enjoyed it—she grew frightened. Part showman and part con artist, alcoholic, probably on drugs, too—not a good combination, and certainly not safe to have around with eighteen month-old Arthur in the house—Kelley was sure to be trouble.
As soon as they’d finished their promised cold supper, John hustled his guests into the study. Refusing their invitation to join them, Jane went upstairs to look in on Arthur before going down to watch television in the den. A week ago, she’d blown up at John for inundating her with unwanted guests, and he’d compromised by canceling his seminars and giving his staff time off. But emptying the house hadn’t helped; Jane remained tired and grumpy. And having Clerkson and Kelley around wasn’t doing much to improve her mood.
She’d just turned off the TV and was dozing when John burst into the den and startled her awake.
“It’s incredible; you’ve got to see this! The man reads thoughts as easily as reading a newspaper!” Grabbing her by the hand, he pulled her up from the sofa and hurried her toward the study.
Seeing her own reflection in John’s much decried crystal globe prominently displayed at the center of a long table as she entered the room, Jane was both spooked and angered, and she instinctively shrank back. But John would not let go of her hand and continued nudging her forward. Clerkson, sitting at one end of the table, greeted her amiably; Kelley, a glass of beer within easy reach, slouched in his chair opposite. His eyes were half shut, but Jane felt him gazing right through to the core of her. Could he be reading her thoughts as easily as reading a newspaper?
“Edward has told me everything about my past—personal things nobody could possibly know but me—that I was an only child, including every one of my numerous childhood illnesses, the objects in my room when I was ten, my mother’s hospitalization for depression after two miscarriages . . . Edward even knew that my father was a wholesale liquor dealer in Newark for two years during the Korean War,” John babbled excitedly, his forehead glistening with perspiration.
Kelley rubbed his hand across his eyes. Then, as if inviting her to participate in a game improvised on the spot for his private amusement, he said, “Mrs. Dee, why don’t you take a pencil and paper and write a name on it, any name you choose, before sealing it in an envelope.”
Clerkson rapped his signet ring against the table and the sound echoed throughout the cavernous room. “Go on, you’re a neutral party. You have nothing to lose. They say that in ESP experiments, the positive attitude of the investigators influences the course of hits positively. If a skeptical or neutral party is brought into the room, there are usually a larger number of misses.”
“That, in itself, is said to prove that minds influence each other without any need for a physical channel of communication,” John paced behind Kelley’s chair. “You know, Edward, for weeks now I’ve been waiting for exactly the right person to appear, someone just like you.”
Kelley took a sip of beer. “Sit down, professor,” he pointed John to a low green tufted chair away from the table.
The crystal glowed eerily as sparks erupted from the weakening flames in the fireplace. Jane crossed the room and turned on a lamp. Then taking an envelope, pencil, and notepad from a desk drawer, she quickly wrote her grandfather’s name on the first page.
“Now, Mrs. Dee, place the paper in the envelope and seal it.”
Jane tore a sheet of paper from the notepad, folded it, and, turning her back to Kelley, tucked it into the self-sealing envelope before removing the protective tape and tightly pressing it closed.
“Now burn it, the whole thing, in the ashtray,” Kelley ordered, caressing the crystal with his short, square, nail-bitten fingers.
Clerkson and John sat watching as if transfixed.
When the flames in the ashtray had died, leaving a pile of black ash, Kelley leaned forward and caught Jane’s wrist. Recoiling from his touch for the second time that evening, Jane covered her aversion by hastily demanding, “Okay, what was the name?”
Kelley released her from his clammy grip and said matter-of-factly, “Nicholas Fromond, the same name as your brother, but it was your grandfather you meant.” Wiping beer froth from his upper lip, he turned to John. “Your wife is a perfect transmitter, Doctor Dee. Perfect.”
“Bravo!” Clerkson sprang from his chair.
“Would you be willing to try one more, Mrs. Dee? You’re very good,” Kelley declared, but this time without the arrogance of before. He’d softened his tone and was actually coaxing her, rewarding her for her obedience. “Take a deck of cards, don’t let me see it. Pick one, put it in a sealed envelope, and place it anywhere in the room after I leave.”
This time Clerkson didn’t have to persuade her. Jane went and fetched the cards and the envelope on her own.
“Come and get me when you’re ready.” Kelley got up and walked out of the study closing the door behind him.
Clerkson wordlessly tried signaling her to hide the envelope containing her chosen card behind the bookcase, but she ignored him and stuffed it under a sofa cushion. Then she called Kelley back into the room. John squeezed her hand approvingly as Kelley, again piercing her with his eyes, returned and took his place at the table.
“Over there,” Kelley pointed confidently at the rosewood hutch in the corner of the room, where, to Jane’s astonishment, the envelope was tucked behind the glass.
“But that’s not . . .”
“Take it. Open it.”
Jane quickly pulled the envelope out from behind the glass, tore it open, and saw her card: the jack of clubs. Immediately returning to the sofa, she lifted the cushion, and found nothing there.
“You’re a great magician, Mr. Kelley.”
Kelley never removed his black-eyed stare from her face. “It isn’t magic. It’s a gift I was born with. It can’t be learnt, like a trick. You ought to know, because you were born with it too.”
Jane chuckled. “Maybe, but I can’t take it seriously. I have other priorities.”
For all the drama and flash of the evening’s telepathic display, nothing could dispel the distinct, if unspoken, aura of gloom remaining: John appeared drained, Clerkson dyspeptic, and Jane had a throbbing headache. Only Kelley was now alert and cheerful, as if infused, vampire-like, with the energy he’d sapped from his audience.
Clerkson looked at his watch as the clock over the fireplace chimed half past midnight. “I’m afraid we’ve overstayed, Mrs. Dee. When is the next train back to New York?”
“Of course you’re not going back tonight.” John jumped up to bar him from leaving. “There are more than enough rooms here. Besides,” he added with a nervous laugh, “you don’t think I’m about to let Mr. Kelley out of my grasp now, do you, Tom? I’ve been searching for a treasure like him for too long to let him slip away before I’ve finished studying him.”
“It’s up to you, Edward,” Clerkson shrugged. “It was you who wanted to meet the great Doctor Dee, so don’t blame me if he eats you up. I’m going back to good old laid back California. You Easterners have always been too intense for me.”
Jane picked up Kelley’s empty beer glass and, hoping John would take the hint and let the men leave, yawned loudly. “Oh, pardon me.”
“Of course it’s no problem at all for us if you two stay overnight,” John persisted.
Too exhausted to argue, Jane did not mention that she’d reserved two rooms for them at the Amagansett Lodge. “He’s right, Mr. Clerkson—”
“Tom . . . Please call me Tom.”
“All right, Tom. You’d better stay, because John won’t rest until he and Mr. Kelley have unlocked all the cosmic mysteries.”
“Maybe not all, only half . . . right, professor?” Kelley placed a proprietary hand on John’s shoulder.
“So you’re staying?”
“Looks like it, ma’am.” Taking Jane’s arm, Clerkson walked with her to the foot of the great staircase in the hall, John and Kelley following behind.
“We’ll start for real tomorrow,” John said.
“But without publicity—and no outside observers, please. I work better in small private settings,” Kelley replied, still controlling the situation with a feigned modesty that irked Jane even more than his earlier godlike arrogance had.
Leaning his great bulk in closer as they approached the stairs, Clerkson squelched a burp before whispering into her ear, “I can leave him to you, I see. But he’ll require lots of tender loving care.”
“He’s John’s responsibility, not mine,” Jane snapped. “I don’t go in for the paranormal. The ordinary world is enough for me to cope with.”
Behind them in the study, the fire sizzled as it receded at last into ash.
After seeing his guests to their respective rooms, John made his way back to the family wing of the house. Hoping Jane would be asleep he carefully opened the bedroom door and tiptoed inside. But Jane was wide awake, sitting up in bed with her arms across her chest, her thick red hair wound in a top-knot tied with a strip of ragged linen. A heavily blue-penciled copy of his latest article lay face down beside her.
“You were away a long time.”
“Why do you wear that rag on your head? You know I hate it.”
“That’s because you come from the wrong side of the tracks. We aristocrats have always enjoyed dressing like peasants.”
“You’re talking too loud . . .”
“Don’t worry; our esteemed company can’t hear me. They’re all the way at the other end of the house.”
John climbed into bed and placed his cold legs between her thighs. “Mmm, you’re warm—typical of a choleric type,” he teased.
Jane tugged at his beard then kissed him. “Why do I stay faithful to you, old man? Better yet, why do I love you even when I’m angry at your shenanigans?”
“Because I’ve hypnotized you, my dear. Didn’t you know that the department secretaries all think I’m Rasputin, and that I have magical seductive powers over beautiful young Czarinas like you?”
Jane kissed him again, less enthusiastically this time. “I wish you’d let me edit your stuff like I used to instead of spending all that good money on Antoinette’s savaging,” she pointed down at the article beside her.
“Why, what’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing . . . you’re too touchy.”
“Oh, Jane, you never did want me to publish any of this, did you? You’d have been so happy if I were still studying rats in mazes, wouldn’t you?” John looked away from her. “Who knows? Maybe you’re right. Tonight, for a moment, when Kelley seemed to be going off into trance, I had the sudden urge to delete all my computer files, trash all the data and forget about publishing my findings.”
“As long as you brought it up, let me tell you, that man scares me, everything about him—his demonic stare, that beanie he never takes off. Just being in the same room with him makes my flesh crawl,” she shivered.
“And yet, he’s the most extraordinary subject I’ve ever come across.”
“Coming from you, John, with your tendency to exaggerate the virtues of everyone you’ve ever worked with, that isn’t saying much.” Jane unlaced her legs from his to register her displeasure. As she did, several pages of the article scattered and slid off the bed. She was about to bend over and pick them up when John pulled her close. “Leave them,” he said.
“No, I want to pick them up now.”
“God, you’re stubborn.”
Having collected the papers and restored them to order, Jane sat back on her pillow. “If you really want to know, I hate your crystal-gazing experiments. I hate the gossip about you, and I hate what Burghley can do, is already doing, to your career. Why can’t you take Elizabeth’s advice and go back to being a mainstream psychologist?”
John gently stroked her hair. “I can’t, darling—you know I’ve never been as grounded as you are . . . that’s what you always say yourself, isn’t it?”
“It’s true, I am more grounded than you, but you’ve got to admit that I’m also more intuitive—even that Kelley of yours says so. And my intuition tells me that you’re in for a heap of trouble with him, with the crystal, with the whole thing.” Jane turned away and buried her face in the pillow.
John wanted to hear more from her but was prevented from asking by the sudden onset of three sharp stabbing pains in his shoulders and legs accompanied by three loud knocks against the bedroom wall behind him, as if someone were pounding a fist inside. “Jane . . .” he whispered when the pains and the knocking sounds had passed. She’d apparently heard nothing. “Jane,” he whispered again, wondering whether the lugubrious pounding accompanying his pains had something to do with Kelley. Leaning over then, he saw that she had fallen asleep with his article still in her hand. Taking it from her he placed it on his night table. Sighing, he pulled up the covers. Things were going to be difficult between them. Jane was a tempestuous woman, even volatile at times. But Kelley was too valuable to let go. She would have to make her peace with him. John nuzzled up against his wife’s warm back and quickly fell asleep. Shortly after, he dreamed he was walking naked in Washington Square Park, every inch of his skin plastered with red and blue crossed tattoos. Just above the elbow of his left arm, there was a black armband inscribed in red ink with the words “Without me you can do nothing.”