Hermes Beckons: Transformation Is Alchemy’s Central Principle
Chapter 16
© 2006 John Caris

Taking advantage of the unusually warm weather for November, Ralph was sitting on the backyard bench, cutting leaves and twigs into material for the compost heap. Now that the bare spot on the top of his head was enlarging, he had taken to wearing a hat whenever he was outside. His gardening hat was a broad brim, straw one. Scattered about the Garlands’ garden were piles of trimmings waiting to be recycled. The large pieces would be set out in a container for Sunset Scavenger Company, who would convey the green material to its huge composting yard. Leaves of most plants and small branches would be placed in the slug, which transformed the green matter into enriching mulch.

Chopping twigs and leaves into smaller pieces assisted the decaying process because when the skin or bark had been breached, bacteria had an easier access. The physical activity allowed him to clear his mind. Worries and anxieties vanished, carried away by the warm breeze. Focusing on the process, he opened to the energies of late autumn: life was moving into its hibernating mode. Because of a temperate climate in San Francisco where freezing temperatures seldom occurred, some plants continued to flower, and many annuals went into a dormant stage but did not die off.

Thoughts arose spontaneously—thoughts of life and death, of rejuvenation and transformation. He was involved in a small way in the eternal cycle of life-death-rebirth often symbolized by the phoenix. Parts of once living plants would become a fertile soil for new life. He knew at the center of his being that this process was the foundation for Hermes’ art. Transformation was the central principle for alchemy and, a strong certainty touched him, for his magical craft.

Studies of the past thirty years indicated that plants were sensitive and perhaps had feelings akin to animals. When he trimmed, he spoke softly, telling the plant he was helping it, cutting it for its own good. Whether the plant believed him or even understood, he did not know, but he felt better, and his actions were gentle and caring. He did not use machines for trimming. The noise was disturbing, and he pictured the machine as attacking. If he were the plant, he would cringe in horror.

Cutting living organisms into parts was an ancient activity. When did humans glean the underlying principle of transformation? Religious and initiatory ceremonies had their roots in this life-death-rebirth cycle. Several books he had been reading on shamanism described not only the shaman’s cultural role but also initiation. One very important stage involved dismemberment. The initiate was cut into pieces, and later the parts were reassembled. After the dismemberment had occurred in either the upper or lower worlds, the initiate was reborn with new spiritual powers.

A rain storm, the first of the season, was predicted for tomorrow. He looked up at the sky. Patches of fog were flowing eastward, but no sign of approaching rain. His mind was forming a request for rain. The amount of precipitation that had occurred this fall was three inches less than normal for early November. Silently, he chanted, “Come rain. We need you.” ***

The first big storm of autumn had blasted the Bay Area and was now moving eastward into the central valley. The rain was tapering off as Rafé and Giulietta walked from the trolley stop at Ocean Avenue and Victoria Street to their apartment. Once they entered their little home, they hung their wet garments in the bathroom, dried themselves, and heated water for tea. They were in an exuberant mood.

“That was an awesome dance session with Sheila.” Rafé observed.

“I knew you’d bond.” Giulietta smiled at her friend.

“Reading your belly dancing books really whetted my desire and interest.”

Rafé had decided to take belly dancing with Sheila Ramzy, a well-known dancer and teacher. The lessons were scheduled once a week, and this was her first session. Since the tuition was an additional expense cutting into Rafé’s meager funds, she needed a part-time job. When she mentioned to the Garlands that she was seeking employment, they suggested contacting Ben Said, owner of Ocean Delights.

Talking with Ben about a part-time position, she found him very accommodating. In fact, he mentioned her magical skills and jokingly suggested that she might perform when she was not busy filling orders. Rafé was enthused with the potential, and they worked out a schedule that would fit in with her classes.

After she told the Garlands that she was going to take belly dancing, they expressed the ignorance of most Americans: belly dancing was not only exotic but on the edge of sexy entertainment. With that attitude they had misgivings until she explained the history and performance styles. They immediately bought several books on the subject, including Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi’s Grandmother’s Secrets, and soon gained an accurate understanding of the tradition.

Belly dancing originated from women’s traditional rituals, especially initiation and fertility ceremonies. Influential twentieth century dancers like Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis had discovered a source of inspiration and renewal in Middle Eastern dances. The most essential part of belly dancing is that the center of balance is located in the pelvis and hips rather than the chest and head. Dancing focuses attention totally on physical movement. The mind is emptied, and internal chattering is stopped: the dancer enters a meditative mental state. The knowledge gained through dancing is nonverbal, and its memory resides in the physical activity. The pelvis is the axis of motion and rest. At its finest, belly dancing is a channel for a woman to express herself in all her complexity.

Rafé poured boiling water into their cups. While the chai tea was steeping, they discussed their fall classes.

“My acting workshop class is getting into some exciting things. We’re learning different styles of movement for special roles. I’ve asked the instructor if I could perform some magical routines, and he was amazed at the possibilities and enthusiastically accepted.”

“That’s great. I’ll bet these dance sessions will help.” Giulietta laughed. “Could you sneak belly dance movements into the class?”

“That’s a cool idea, but I’d better wait until I’m proficient. Maybe later I could blend some of the dance movements into the roles we’re performing.”

“And into the magic, too. That’d be awesome. This course I’m taking, Imagery and Meditation in Healing, is a mind opener. I’d never realized the way that imagery can be applied in healing. I’ve only considered it important for meditative practices.”

“Have you done much meditation?”

“Oh, I got into it in my senior year in high school. The counselor there was very new age in her thinking and set up a meditation group. She demonstrated a few techniques, nothing fancy. It worked for me; at least in the sense that I could concentrate better. Now I realize that her influence was quite strong. Here I’m working toward a Bachelor of Arts in holistic healing.”

“How do you like that course in autogenic training?”

“It’s crazy. All the things that the mind does at an unconscious level. We’re learning different ways to ease the stress response which releases epinephrine and norepinephrine. These powerful chemicals can quickly affect our physiological behavior.”

“That’s like the things that yogis can do, isn’t it?”

“An important part of the holistic way of thinking is to recognize the truths and useful medical practices found in all cultures. We’re learning to focus on the warmth, coolness, and heaviness of different parts of our body.”

“Like how?”

“For example, I can focus on the heaviness of my right arm.” Giulietta closed her eyes and said, “My arm feels heavy.”

Rafé watched with curiosity, noticing that Giulietta was breathing slowly and seemed relaxed.

Giulietta opened her eyes and stretched her arms. “The statement is said internally, not aloud, in actual practice, and it is repeated several times.”

Smiling, Rafé asked, “I’ve learned a new magic routine. Would you like to see it?”

“Yes. What is it?”

“It involves mind power like your autogenic training. I’ll need a pencil.” She got up from the kitchen table and walked over to a small desk that was utilized primarily for storage because they used the kitchen table when they wished to spread out their books and writing material. Giulietta had a laptop computer that was kept on the desktop. The couch was nearby, and facing it against the other wall were a TV and upholstered armchair. Opening a drawer in the desk, Rafé retrieved a pencil and returned to the kitchen area.

“Will you assist me in this demonstration?”

“Of course. What do you want me to do?”

Rafé laid the pencil on the palm of her right hand. “This is similar to focusing on the heaviness of your arm. I’ll want you to lift the pencil, but first grasp it without lifting it and close your eyes.”

Giulietta took the pencil between her thumb and forefinger, closed her eyes, and waited.

“Now imagine that the pencil is a special metal that weighs thirty pounds. It’s so heavy that you can’t lift it. Now try to raise the pencil. Are you trying? It’s too heavy, isn’t it?”

Giulietta strained, but her attempt at lifting the pencil was unsuccessful.

“You can stop trying now. Relax and let go of the pencil. Now open your eyes.”

“That was weird. Really unbelievable.” Giulietta studied the pencil lying on Rafé’s palm.

“Let’s try again but with the opposite mindset. Please grasp the pencil, be ready to lift it, and close your eyes. Imagine this time that the pencil is a beautiful butterfly—so very light it rises easily. Now pick it up.”

Giulietta lifted the pencil and in a moment of delight moved it through the air as if it were a butterfly. Opening her eyes, she giggled. “Wow. That was liberating.”

Rafé joined in the laughter. The image of the pencil moving in the air had morphed into an origami butterfly fluttering through space. She wondered if that could become part of the routine? She would ask Ralph about the possibility.

“Rafé, have you ever heard the story about the butterfly and the Taoist sage?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“I heard it in my philosophy class. There’s this Taoist sage who is meditating in the temple garden when he falls asleep and has a strange dream. First he dreams he is a butterfly fluttering about and then lands on a flower. Falling asleep, the butterfly dreams it is a Taoist sage meditating. The ringing of the temple bells wakens the sage, who is now confused, not knowing who he is.”

Rafé giggled. “He’s both or neither.”

“It’s bizarre, isn’t it?” The professor used the story to illustrate the philosophic question of identity.”

“My people have clans. It’s a way of broadening the family group and its identity. I’m a member of the otter clan, and I do have an affinity with some of the otter’s traits.”

“Otters are playful and so are you.” Giulietta giggled.

She started to tell her friend about the importance of ktiti, otter, but paused. The moment was not propitious to relate otter’s sacred nature. Manabozho, Great Rabbit, had instructed ktiti in the secrets of the Midewiwin and given him the drum, rattle, and tobacco. Otter became Manabozho’s special agent for establishing the Midewiwin and teaching humans about it.

“If you could be any animal, what would you be?” Rafé decided to refrain from discussing anything serious and maintain a playful manner.

Giulietta thought for a few moments. “Some type of bird. I’m not sure what, though. Maybe a hawk. They’re plentiful in the Napa Valley.”

“Birds would be fun—soaring high in the sky.” Thinking of the water bird, Rafé felt a soothing warmth spread within. ***

Big fly hovered in the air, stationary, before it began flying in a spiral path up toward the ceiling and then back toward the floor. The kitties were mesmerized by big fly’s movements. Ralph, sitting in his rocking chair, was examining stage illusion designs in Guy Jarrett’s The Complete Jarrett. The buzzing sound first alerted him, and then Lucy began to chatter followed by Karma’s melodious accompaniment. Using the crossed-eye focus, he stared at the fly. Amazement filled his mind: big fly seemed to move in and out of sight—vanishing and reappearing in a continuous oscillation. He wondered if the kitties were able to track the fly or did they also lose sight of it? Wagging her tail, Karma could contain herself no longer. Leaping into the air, she struck out at the fly with her front paws. Intent on maintaining its advantage, the fly quickly moved toward the other end of the studio with Lucy jumping up after it.

The three were engaged in their game of chase. Lucy and then Karma leaped into the space big fly had vacated a second before. As a spectator, Ralph was amused. Although he was cheering the kitties on to greater endeavor, a part of him secretly yearned that the fly would win. Normally, the fly, if not caught, would eventually die and become a tasty morsel for one of the kitties.

As the game progressed, Ralph, tracking the fly as deftly as he could, realized that the kitties were acting as a team. They seemed to have a two-prong strategy—tire big fly and drive it into a corner where they could use the walls as a spring board for their leaps. Big fly, acting as if it were aware of their game plan, continued to move back into the middle of the room. Oh, oh, Ralph thought, big fly was noticeably tiring; and while one of the kitties rested, the other pursued.

Suddenly, big fly swerved and flew directly at the mirror. Ralph jumped up and hurried to the stage. He had lost track of the fly, although the kitties were sitting in front of the mirror, looking up into it. He peered at the mirror and saw the fly resting on the glass. Lucy sprang upward, followed by Karma, and the fly vanished. He blinked and astonishment choked him. Big fly was now resting on the inside of the mirror, its belly showing through the glass! Ralph reached toward the glass and touched the spot where the fly was, but this was not a window pane. If big fly was not on the other side of the mirror, then . . . He looked around the studio as if an answer would be disclosed. Rationally, he knew that what he saw was impossible because a reflected image would show the fly’s back, not its belly. His mind did not want to accept the irrational but most likely explanation: big fly had entered the looking-glass world.

Joining the kitties in their wait, he pulled his rocking chair over to the mirror so that he also could comfortably study this mystery. Both Lucy and Karma, instinctively knowing the fly was inaccessible, were patiently waiting for it to move. As long as big fly remained stationary with the kitties doing guard duty, he could ruminate on this perplexing puzzle.

If this were a stage illusion, what would be its method and construction? He needed to consider the problem practically, or his mind would slip into the irrational. An illusion allowing him to walk through a mirror or wall or any other solid structure was easy enough to construct. In fact, many magicians used penetration effects in their shows, from the coin through the table to larger illusions. When he was young, he had a penetration effect where he dropped a solid wood block through a piece of glass placed between two wood tubes. He still had most of his childhood props. He got up and went over to the cabinet where he kept small sized apparatus and looked at the effect, nursing memories of his youth. Next to it were a box which vanished cards and the square circle from which he produced silk cloths, flowers, and a glass of cola. Musing over the routines he had performed, he returned to the rocking chair.

He thought of the effect where a selected and signed card was discovered behind a window pane, but a mirror presented a radically different situation. The image of the fly could be projected onto the surface. No, he would disregard cameras, computers, and other equipment of modern technology. How would Herrmann or Kellar or Maskelyne or Robert-Houdin perform this routine?

A sheet of glass could produce and project images onto empty space. A prime example was the nineteenth century effect called “Pepper’s Ghost.” It was this illusion that began the long and successful magical use of glass, especially in the form of mirrors. Conjurers discovered that with mirrors they could also hide and make invisible physical things.

What was there about the mirror world that had caught the imagination of such intellects as mathematician Charles L. Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll? Another idea jabbed at him. Is the mirror world the realm of the dead? Does it capture light from our world because it is so gloomy?

Shasta peeked into the studio and saw Ralph on the stage quietly gliding to and fro in his rocking chair, staring at the mirror. Wondering what had caught his attention, she walked to the stage and, standing beside him, looked at the mirror. He was so still she hated to disturb him, yet she whispered, “What are you looking at?”

He broke the trance mood and turned toward her. “That fly on the glass. I’ve an idea for a mirror illusion.”

She looked again at the glass. “It’s not there now. It must have flown away.”

Turning back, he examined the mirror carefully. The fly was gone. Then he glanced at the floor in front of him. “The kitties . . . where . . .”

“They’re eating dinner. It’s getting close to happy hour. Do you want to fix a fire?”

As they were walking by the desk, Shasta glanced at the levitating clock and paused. “There’s the fly on the clock.” Ralph, seeing that Big Fly was sitting quietly, realized that, even if reality is absurd, all’s well that ends well. ***

“I like it. Revenge—hidden family secrets—love’s labor lost—turmoil spiraling of control.” Ralph placed the manuscript of her novel on his lap. Sitting at the round table and watching the fire in the wood-burning stove, Shasta turned and smiled at him. A Mona Lisa smile, Ralph thought, of sweet inner gnosis.

She had assigned as the motivation for Dinwot’s murdering of Ned Walden an old-time feud between the two men, an animosity that reached back into their adolescence. Through diligent research Peaches and her team discovered that Malus Dinwot was an alias for Vaughn Wackoley, who had competed with Ned in high school: Ned had not only beaten him in several magic contests, but won the favor of the woman they both loved. Ned and Arlene had lived a happy life, raising two children, Kirk and Ellen, who was now living in Arizona. When Arlene had died three years ago from breast cancer, Ned had sunk into a depression, but Kirk had helped him rise out of his sorrow and regain interest in their business, which had been very successful.

Envy and jealousy were the motivating emotions that propelled Mal Dinwot’s revenge: he had smoldered through the years with hate. Ned’s success had only increased Mal’s rage and vindictiveness. When Dinwot had learned of Arlene’s death, he plotted his retribution: knowing that Ned was at a low ebb, he struck first at the Walden family business and then directly at Ned, hoping to injure Kirk in the process. In the torturous pathways of his mind Dinwot believed that his true love, Arlene, had been unjustly stolen from him, and so he had never married, living perpetually in his self-created hell.

“I thought that new character, Mizzy Direction, added a comic ingredient to the story, besides having an important role in the intrigue and mystery.”

Shasta exuded a warmth and sparkle that expressed her excitement at completing the manuscript. After an editorial reading with the proverbial red pencil, she would submit it to her agent and publisher. “Your help was a major influence nourishing my imagination. The discussion of magic history and then delving into your library enlarged my knowledge.”

After Ned’s murder Virgil had begun monitoring all of the company’s online activities and, of course, continued to inspect Dinwot’s. When Kirk sent a message to Mizzy through a magic chat room, telling her about his father’s death, Virgil became suspicious. The computer followed the trail from the chat room via Mizzy’s e-mail address to the web site of Dinwot’s Magical Empire, and after Virgil had learned that she was Dinwot’s assistant, the computer told Peaches and Aeneas. Further investigation revealed that the two were dating frequently. Kirk, however, did not realize Mizzy’s relationship to Dinwot, which she kept hidden. Mizzy had originally attracted Kirk’s attention through the chat room, and as their romance grew, they dated. Several times she visited Kirk at the shop and subtly absorbed secrets to their effects, even viewing designs.

Peaches, of course, was distraught, but Aeneas reminded her that a crush on a client was undesirable in their profession. Besides, she had never indicated to Kirk that she was romantically aroused. They decided that the best plan was to maintain the secrecy about Mizzy’s true role and use it to trap Dinwot. Whatever they told Kirk would eventually reach the murderer. They also agreed that Mizzy did not know about Dinwot’s past and his desire for revenge. She was only involved in industrial spying for her employer, who had become a father-figure to her.

“‘Killing is an admission of defeat; the murderer can’t solve problems any other way.’ I like that. Peaches is a psychologist and philosopher.” Ralph looked up from the manuscript. Snuggled in the comfy chair near the fireplace, Karma raised her head and meowed, signaling her assent. Lucy, resting on the couch, confirmed her agreement by smiling at the novelist.

“I was discovering insights about the creative process both in the novel and my poems. This has been a time of expanding awareness. By being creative, one rises up, filled with joyful feelings. When creative activities are stopped, melancholy steps in—the blues enter.”

“I’ve found that purely physical activities don’t always block off the blues, yet they usually cut down on its power and intensity. But certainly creativity fills the void—the black hole.” Ralph’s embellishment arose from his recent experiences.

“As I explored the motivational pattern underlying Dinwot, I moved deeper into my inner chambers, stirring up unpleasant memories and emotions. What’s in the past is often hidden—repressed—especially if it’s ugly, bad, or immoral. It’s kept invisible from awareness.” She stared at the flames dancing in the stove, an invigorating animation that delighted her.

“A kind of unmanifested realm from whence thoughts are brought to consciousness, becoming manifested. These are terms I use in my alchemical studies.” Sharing his occult findings with his love invigorated his soul.

“Manifested-unmanifested . . . I like that. Peaches entered the unmanifested realm and discovered the true secret behind Dinwot’s revenge against the Waldens to solve the case. It’s very magical imagery.”

“The illusion used to ensnare Dinwot in the finale of the story was excellent, so fitting the story’s theme.”

“I’d like an honest critique of the triumphal performance at Kirk’s shop.”

Ralph stared intently at the flames gamboling in the stove, mentally examining the twists and turns of the storyline. Mizzy becomes very important in Kirk’s life, visiting him often at the shop. Within two weeks after Ned’s death she has gained his total confidence and love and begins assisting him with projects that he is working on. She now is an integral part of his life. Peaches and company use her double role in a deceptive fashion. They create a customer, Merlin the Awesome, who orders an illusion to be built. Virgil phones and talks to Kirk, telling him what the apparatus is and that the designs will be faxed to the shop. It is a special version of David Devant’s Artist’s Dream, which will apply the Simone effect and force Dinwot into a confession. Aeneas and Virgil construct an electronic device which will allow them to monitor and participate in the performance. The device is mailed to Kirk, who installs it in the prop. Kirk is not told of the deception so that he will not give away the hidden agenda. If Kirk knows that Mizzy is a double agent, his attitude will change, and Mizzy will realize that something is wrong. They are using the conflict growing in Mizzy over her attachment to Dinwot and her love for Kirk.

While they are building the contracted prop, Mizzy tells Kirk that she knows a potential customer who might be interested in purchasing another unit of the apparatus. Kirk phones Merlin the Awesome, and of course Virgil answers, giving permission for the demonstration and the possibility of building a second apparatus. Once the illusion is built, Mizzy invites Dinwot, disguised as The Exalted Wizard, to the shop for a demonstration. Kirk is as surprised as Dinwot when the illusion deceives them. This is not what Kirk has built, so he thinks. The premise of the effect is based on the idea that the audience is supposedly shown the secret, but they are fooled.

The night before the demonstration, Peaches and Aeneas go to Dinwot’s office and shop building, which is located in an old warehouse district, and arrive around midnight. The building is enclosed by a chain link fence with barbwire on the top. Aeneas acts as a lookout and stays in contact by cell phone with her and Virgil. Peaches uses her athletic skills to gain entrance. Although she specialized in gymnastics, she was also good in track and field events. She has devised a special pole which she uses to vault the fence. An alarm system protects the doors and windows, but Dinwot has never considered that an entry can be made from the roof. Her utility belt has several tools attached, including a rope with a grappling hook. Throwing the hook onto the building’s roof, she pulls it snugly against the parapet, fastening it there. After testing that the rope is secured, she ascends hand over hand to the rooftop. Her entry will be through one of the five skylights, which are only screwed shut. Using the rope and grapple again, she descends into Dinwot’s shop. Completely searching the building, she discovers incriminating evidence of Dinwot’s culpability, including the hiding place of the murder weapon, which she leaves where it is. After making copies of paper evidence to take with her, Peaches climbs the rope to the roof, reseals the skylight, and descends to the ground. Aeneas pushes the vaulting pole through the fence. After hurdling the barrier, she retrieves the pole by a wire attached to its top and pulls it through.

His thinking paused, and a query arose in his mind. “What guided you to the finale?”

“I’ve spent several hours in your studio absorbing mystic ambiences for fertilizing my imagination.”

“Did you hear any voices or did any spirits materialize?” The humorous tone belied a seriousness embedded in his feelings.

“The poster of Thurston’s Million Dollar Illusion was one that stirred my soul.”

“Yes, it was originally invented by British magician P.T. Selbit, but a few years later Americans, like Thurston and Carter the Great, devised their own apparatus.”

“I remembered you mentioning the illusion when we were talking about the Magic Cellar last spring.”

“The apparatus was based upon Proteus, a device constructed by Pepper and Tobin in 1865. It applied the technique of silvered glass as a means of creating invisibility.”

“Yes, I read that article by Mike Caveney in the May, 2002, issue of MAGIC. According to him, even if the spectators know where to look for the secret, they cannot perceive the hidden channel. It’s totally unmanifested. I was so completely intrigued by the idea that an illusion can cause misdirection by presenting a prop that appears to hide nothing that I searched through your books on magical illusions and found several potential routines. I narrowed it down to Devant’s combining the Mascot Moth and Artist’s Dream in a single dramatic performance. My decision was based on how they could be used to force a confession from Dinwot.”

“What was the ultimate consideration?”

“Earlier, when I was studying your posters, I had noticed the one of the Artist’s Dream. The painting, which looks like a window, is in the center of the illustration while the artist is asleep in a chair on the right and the Spirit of Mercy, whose identity I learned from my research, is on the left. The artist’s wife, dressed in a white gown, is standing on the top rung of a short ladder, which is below the bottom of the painting. The painting resembles an outdoor landscape, something that could be seen from a window. The Spirit of Mercy, also dressed in a white gown, pulls back a curtain that had covered the painting. The room’s backdrop is heavy drapery.”

Pausing to gather her thoughts, she doodled on her notepad. “After reading the descriptions of the performance, I reexamined the poster image. A few days later we watched the 2002 film Simone, starring Al Pacino and Rachael Roberts. Who can explain the byways of the imagination? I was fertilizing and watering the house plants when all the bits and bytes came together—an aha epiphany. The image of the artist’s love becoming real and stepping from the canvas fused with the digital reality of Simone, who could never, ever manifest in the flesh.”

Ralph picked up the manuscript and turned to the second to last chapter. He began reading it.

Ushering The Exalted Wizard and Mizzy into the workshop area, Kirk walked over to a large LCD screen. “This is the new illusion I’ve built.” Kirk’s pride was evident to his guests. “It’ll revolutionize stage magic.”

“It looks so ordinary . . . a large TV screen. Hardly something that would be magical,” The Exalted Wizard responded.

Mizzy was gently bouncing on her feet in excited anticipation and started to reach for the monitor’s switch, but Kirk’s hand was there first.

The screen glowed, and an image of the shop’s interior appeared. A figure slowly emerged from the background, walking toward them. As the face became clearer, Kirk cried out. The figure was Ned.

The Exalted Wizard, maintaining control over his responses, asked, “What are you doing, Kirk?”

Mizzy gasped and grabbed Kirk’s hand. The apparition seemed to leave the screen and emerge as an holographic image into their space. The ghostly Ned reached into the air and suddenly a .38 automatic was in his right hand. Aiming the gun at The Exalted Wizard, he spoke harshly, “Well, Vaughn, we meet again and this time I have the gun. Now we’ll see if you can take a bullet.”

As Ned moved forward, Vaughn edged backwards. “You’re a figment of fantasy . . . a three dimensional image.”

“I’m your conscience, Vaughn. I’m as real as you are.”

“What do you want?”

“I want revenge, Vaughn. You need to be punished for killing me and threatening my business. Kirk has been harassed by the police for the murder you committed.” Ned stepped closer to his arch enemy.

“You speak of revenge! What about me? You stole Arlene from me and destroyed my life. You were always so high and mighty.”

“You were angry at my success? You’re the arrogant one filled with madness.”

“You’ve nothing on me. No evidence that I harmed you.”

Abruptly, Mizzy came to her senses, now understanding what was transpiring. Letting go of Kirk, she approached her boss. “Who are you? Malus Dinwot, I realized was your stage name, but I never knew your real name. Vaughn, you are not only mean-spirited but also evil if you killed Ned.”

“I didn’t. You have no proof.”

Mizzy glared at him. “I know you tried to destroyed the Waldens’ business because I assisted you.” She turned to Kirk, who was shocked, his eyes wide open. “I so sorry, Kirk dear. I deceived you at first, but I truly love you now.”

“I . . . I can’t believe you. You helped Dinwot? Were you in on the murder too?”

“No, I was not.” She paused, thinking. “I believe I can find evidence of Vaughn’s culpability.”

Another apparition manifested beside Ned: Arlene, whose fury was palpable. Shaking her finger at Vaughn, she said, “You are an evil man. I was here and witnessed the murder. You came here disguised as The Exalted Wizard, wanting an illusion built, and mercilessly killed my husband. You have my eternal hate, Vaughn.” Looking at Kirk and Mizzy, she spoke with certainty in her voice. “You can find evidence in Vaughn’s workshop. The gun is hidden in a nest of boxes that are being varnished.”

“What! Don’t hate me, Arlene.” Vaughn screamed, his face pale and rigid. “I love you. I did it all for you.” He turned and ran to the door, yanking on it, but the door refused to open. Now panicked, he searched for another way out of the locked room.

“Yes, Vaughn, it’s all over. The police have been notified where to locate the murder weapon, and they have a search warrant and are on their way to your workshop.” Ned declared, his ghostly visage expressing a desire for retribution.

“That’s not true. Someone planted the gun. I never killed you.” He stared angrily at Mizzy. “I understand now. You betrayed me just like Arlene. You planted the gun. I’ll kill you for this.”

He jumped at her, but Kirk blocked him and then crashed his fist into Vaughn’s stomach. As the villain bent over holding his abdominal region, Kirk slammed a hard right to the side of his head. Vaughn collapsed onto the floor. The only door to the shop opened, and Peaches, Aeneas and Lieutenant Hawthorne of Albany Homicide entered, followed by two uniformed officers. They had been in the office area watching and listening to the entire performance. The uniforms grabbed Vaughn, pulling him to his feet, read him his rights and then handcuffed him. The murderer, still befuddled by Kirk’s home run punch, looked around. “Where’re Ned and Arlene?” The ghostly spirits had vanished.

“A very fine utilization of your sources and an enchanted finale. Peaches and her team performed captivating magic.” Ralph rose from the couch and in two steps was hugging Shasta and giving her a tender kiss.

Hermes Beckons Chapters He Must Become What He Is Not Seeking the Portal to the Immortals