An Original Work of Fiction
David G. Yurth
All Rights Reserved
After we left the club, Renken deposited me at the front door of a quaint little bed and breakfast called Sara’s, just off I-10 in Lawrence Park. He apologized for not taking me home with him, but explained that his daughter by a prior marriage, a precocious 12-year old on break from her private school, was currently occupying the rest of his house.
When I went to the registration table, literally a table in a corner with a computer and a vase full of purple gladiolas on top, I discovered that my arrival had been expected. A young Hispanic guy named Hector picked up my bags and led me out through the back door and across a hacienda style veranda, complete with a fountain, palm trees, and an outdoor fireplace.
I tipped Hector $20, figuring the room must have cost at least ten times that much, and he left with a satisfied smile on his face. I unpacked my bags, checked out the bathroom and the wet bar, and fired up my notebook. I logged onto the hotel’s Wi-Fi broadband Internet connection and tucked it under my arm.
I carried the notebook out onto the courtyard, found a comfortable wicker chair next to the water fountain, and started to surf some scientific sites I often use. I use iLex, a proprietary search engine developed by a Scottish friend of mine, when I am looking for ideas. I only use it sparingly because it is still a beta test prototype, but when I need to search out information about ideas or concepts, iLex is the only tool I have ever found that allows me to do that. One of my pet projects over the years has been to develop a truly semantic search engine and after several years of testing and development, this one seemed to be measuring up. After creating a suitable graphical user interface, it would be ready to take to market. I’d been working with Graham on this one for nearly five years.
My search took me to some interesting places. I found a web site with a collection of peer reviewed white papers describing experimental studies about water witching and dowsing. One of the guys I have corresponded with over the years, Dr. Dean Radin at University of Nevada at Las Vegas, wrote a book entitled “The Conscious Universe,” in which he described in considerable detail how the phenomenon of dowsing appears to work. As far as the metadata is concerned, lots of studies by lots of people have verified that some people can find water by simply walking around holding a wand in their hands. Some of them can apparently also tell you how far down it is and how much water is flowing. I was amused to discover that several of the major wildcatters in Texas swear by their dowsing experts.
I found that hundreds of papers, articles, books and research reports have been written about this subject over the years. Bob Parks, who is the guardian at the gate for the American Physical Society, wrote a string of scurrilous articles attacking the idea on the basis that because it cannot be explained by the rules of physics, it simply can’t happen. So much for the enlightened practice of physics in the 21st Century.
I also discovered a book recently written by a famous Scotsman named Hamish Miller, entitled “Dowsing: A Journey Beyond the Five Senses.” I liked the editorial review supplied with the description of the book.
Dowsing is an art used for millennia to find water, minerals and metals, and today employed by builders, plumbers, and electricians the world over. Although it remains one of the most widely used paranormal skills, little is understood about it.
I discovered a web site managed by the American Society of Dowsers. I had heard of this organization, but knew nothing much about them. While I was scrolling through their list of publications, books and articles, I recalled an experience I had had when I was about 8 years old.
My dad and I were walking through a lightly forested area about a mile inland from the ocean, near a little town on the Northern California coast above Bodega Bay. Walt Cellars, the guy who supplied propane for all the homesteaders in that area, had bought ten acres and needed to find a place where he could drill a water well. I remember watching my dad cut a willow branch from a nearby tree. He stripped the bark from two branches that met in a fork, so that the pointed end extended away from the fork at the other end.
He took one end of the fork in each hand, held them so that the pointed tip extended horizontally away from his belly, and began walking. I had no idea what he was doing at the time, but after wandering around for about an hour, the tip of the willow fork suddenly curved downward towards the ground. I recall Walt and my dad marking the spot with a rock, then walking away and coming back towards the spot from another direction. Each time they got within ten feet of the original spot, the tip of the willow wand would dip down and point at the ground.
I remember thinking how silly it all seemed. There was a part of me that was totally convinced my dad was dipping the willow tip deliberately, just to play some kind of game with me. I told him I didn’t believe he was finding anything. I’ll never forget the smile that lit up his face when I said that. He promptly marched me off about fifty feet away from the spot, handed me the willow wand and nudged me back towards the rock he had just put on the ground.
Instead of walking in a straight line towards the rock, I turned around and began to march off in another direction. It was typical of me – I hate being told what to do and do not take orders very well. Never have. Unfortunately, dad was a military man through and through, used to giving orders and taking orders. Every time he gave me an order, I made it a practice to do just exactly the opposite. I usually got whacked for it, but it never seemed to make much of a difference to me. It was one of the reasons we never got along.
I remember he was about to swat my backside when Walt waved him off. “Let him do it his own way,” he said, and for once I felt free to walk wherever I damned well pleased. Eventually, after about fifteen minutes of wandering around, I found myself struggling to keep the tip of the wand up. It felt as if some invisible hand had tied a string to the end of it and was pulling it down like the end of fishing rod. I felt a strong, steady, unyielding force relentlessly pulling the end of the wand until I backed up a few feet. Then it stopped and the tip of the wand came back up.
I remember how determined I was to keep the rod tip up, no matter what it took. And when I walked back to the spot where it had first begun to dip down towards the ground, I tightened my grip and leaned backwards to keep the tip in the air. I walked a few steps further on and discovered that no matter how hard I held onto the wand, there was absolutely nothing I could do to keep the tip of it horizontal.
A month or so later, dad told me that Walt had drilled a well that hit an artesian spring at about 75 feet. I remember drinking some of that water the next time we visited the Cellars. It was the cleanest, purest, most wonderfully cold water I had ever tasted in my life.
I’d been cranking along for nearly two hours, totally engrossed in my search, when movement across the courtyard caught my eye. She was wearing a tiny black dress, suspended from her shoulders by the thinnest of straps. She was barefoot, carrying a pair of black high heeled shoes by their ankle straps. She saw me sitting by the fountain, waved and walked directly over to where I was sitting, like she had known me all her life. She sat down on the edge of the fountain, crossed her legs and leaned towards me.
“Hi, Doc,” she said.
“Hi, C.J. What’s up?”
“Well, Renken thought you might like a little company.”
“You mean, like business company or personal company?”
She smiled and looked straight at me. “Like, whatever,” she said.
I felt my face flush and noticed a welt of real anger welling up inside my chest. “Whatever?” I said. ” You mean like, Renken sends his personal stock over here like a bottle of champagne? Like that?”
Her smile faded because my voice had betrayed me. “What’s wrong with that?” she asked. “You got a problem with champagne?”
“Yes, I do.” I slammed the lid down on my computer and she flinched. “I have a real problem with it.” I took a breath without taking my eyes off her. Two could play this game.
“Tell you what,” I said. “There’s nothing I’d enjoy more than sharing some skin with you right now, but not like this.”
“So what’s the problem?” she said. She hadn’t moved an inch and continued to look directly at me. I got the distinct impression I was being sized up for lunch by a very competent predator.
“If you were here with me because you decided you wanted to be here with me, that’s one thing. But if you are here because someone paid you to be here, that’s just not gonna happen.” I scanned her face, taking time to breathe.
“I appreciate beautiful women, same as any man,” I said. “But I am not for sale and neither are you. So, whatever Renken’s paying you, it’s nowhere near what you’re worth. And besides, I make it a habit not to dip my pen in the company ink.”
I stood up and walked back to my suite without looking back or saying another word, wondering whether I would still respect myself in the morning. I closed the door and sat on the corner of the bed, discovered my heart was racing, and decided I was really pissed off. Without another thought, I picked up the phone, called the front desk, and asked them to get me a cab. Pronto.
The burbs of Houston are not like Manhattan or Georgetown or San Francisco. Taxi cabs are not an entirely extinct species, but you have to wait awhile before they respond to the call. They are not a ubiquitous commodity anywhere in Texas, so it took nearly an hour for someone to get to Sara’s bed and breakfast. When the phone rang, I picked it up and Hector told me my ride had arrived. He came to the room, picked up my bags and carried them across the courtyard, through the registration area and out through the front doors.
When he opened the door, I saw a familiar sight. The white Cadillac El Dorado was there, red interior and all. Billy Ray was there. CJ was there. Grinning from ear to ear, like they were headed to a family reunion. Billy Ray got out of the car, opened the trunk and loaded my bags. CJ opened the passenger side door and slid over so I could get in.
At first, I was prepared to be mad and stay mad. But when I got used to the fact that I was sitting next to her in the front seat of Billy Ray’s ride, I started to laugh.
“So, I passed the test?” I asked, looking around CJ at Billy Ray’s beaming face.
“Damn straight,” he said.
She patted me gently on the knee.