THE DEAN SAMPLE
“WOULD YOU CARE FOR ANOTHER PINOT, SIR?” asked the bartender. I was so startled that I almost fell off my barstool, so wrapped up was I with my memories.
“Huh?” I jumped. “Oh—uh—no—uh...I think I’ll take a table now and have dinner. Okay?”
Once I was seated, the waiter brought me a menu and inquired if I was ready for an appetizer. Pirro’s had a lot of choices for starters and nothing popped out at me right away. Against my better judgment, I said, “I tell you what. Bring me another glass of wine first, will you?”
As I savored the cool, dry liquid, I began to flash back again...
I’M NOT SURE WHEN THE AFFAIR BEGAN between Emily and Richard, but about three years ago, I went over to the Dean’s house one evening for a routine matter and there she was. It was a hot night in June and Emily was wearing a cool but revealing negligee. Her face was flushed. Richard, as was quite often the case in summer months, wore only a pair of wrinkled shorts. Their attitude towards one another, accompanied by frequent touching, left no doubt that these two were intimate with each other and had been before this night.
I wondered just how long this thing had been going on. I was almost always privy to Richard’s love affairs, but not this one. Actually my suspicions about the true nature of the relationship between these two had been aroused going back at least a year before this. On two separate occasions, when I was summoned to Richard’s house for some kind of business on evenings when Renato was out of town, I saw something very intriguing. Both times my encounters with the Dean were uncharacteristically brief. I was ushered into the dining room, but there was no music nor offer of a glass of wine. While Richard thumbed through a stack of papers and mumbled some directive or other, I happened to glance at the glass-paneled door that connected the dining room with the room that he used as his home office.
The office was almost completely dark, but the light emanating from the computer monitor inside illumined the face of Emily Ancari, who was probably playing a game or indulging in one of those million ways of mindlessly passing time that these electronic magic lanterns offer. The reflection of Emily’s disembodied face was eerily plastered to several panels of the opened door.
On my way home, and for days to come after these events, I tried not to make anything out of what I had seen. But I couldn’t get away from wondering why Emily was stashed out of sight (or so the Dean thought). I figured there was only one reason, knowing Richard as I did. Of course I said absolutely nothing about it to anybody, confident that Richard ultimately would let me in on his secret when he thought the time was right.
The extra-marital romance might very well have been going on for a year or more without me knowing. I remembered how the thing Richard was having with Lorraine Goodwyn ended suddenly around four or five years ago, and she was his main, although by no means his only, playmate. He also seemed to have backed off from all free and easy women, which I had mistakenly attributed to some kind of reconciliation with his wife, Diane. Now I knew the real reason for this apparently chaste behavior.
Why were they open about this affair with me now? First of all I could be trusted never to say a word about it to anyone. Then I was so indispensible to Richard as both a confidant and colleague, that he probably figured he could not keep it from me forever, so now was as good a time as any to let me in on it. I also had no doubt that he must have had to work hard to convince Emily of my loyalty and discretion, and this may have taken him who knows how long to do
BEING THE ONLY ONE TO know what was really going on between Emily and Richard, it was natural that I’d be dispatched by the Dean to discover the whereabouts of his missing mistress—first to Madame Ulrica’s and then to Sibyl Worsel in Sedona, Arizona.
I landed in Phoenix at about 8:00 PM local time and it was still light, even though it was early spring. But it gets dark very quickly out there and by the time I drove my rent-a-car out of Sky Harbor, night had definitely fallen. Then I drove up I-17 through the desert.
I had been all over the great American West before, but this was the first time I ever drove in the desert at night. What a spooky experience for a Midwestern boy! As I followed the contours of the Interstate, every now and then my headlights would illuminate the stately Saguaros, that looked like ghosts, beckoning me to join them in the dust, to which we all must return someday. (Sometimes I had to forcefully restrain myself from driving off the road!) But this eerie moonscape in a sea of desolation was something I just wanted to get out of as soon as possible. I was somewhat comforted by the fuel gage on the dashboard, which still indicated “Full,” so at least I wouldn’t have to stop at a gas station that would probably be run by “Hills-Have-Eyes” people.
Fortunately, it was only a little over an hour-and-a-half drive from Phoenix to Sedona, and I found my hotel easily in the heart of “Red Rock” country. Richard’s anxiety notwithstanding, I made no calls after I checked in. I ordered a pizza (or what they called “pizza”) from room service, watched some TV, and turned in early, fairly drained from all the traveling.
Friday morning I began my search for Emily in earnest. From a Yellow Pages in my dresser, I called every single hotel listing in Sedona, but none had Emily Ancari as a guest. First I thought she might be using an assumed name, but I soon dismissed this idea, as any hotel today asks for a credit card, and it was unlikely that Emily had constructed a false identity. She was probably lodging in a bed-and-breakfast, or some kind of private residence, and I figured that there was no way I was going to be able to find her in one of those. I looked at my watch and saw that it was noon. Tired of phone-calling, I decided to visit Sibyl Worsel’s Occult Bookstore.
A quick Google search yielded the address of the store and a link to its website. Curious, I clicked on the link and found that this Ms Worsel did more than sell books at her establishment, dubbed the “Psychic Market.” She also advertized “Aura Photos,” “Psychic Readings” and “Vortex Tours.” Quite a versatile babe!
I dressed comfortably for the nice weather and drove directly to the Psychic Market and went up to the front counter. A small bell on the door alerted the proprietor to my entry, and very quickly a pleasant looking chubby lady emerged from the back room.
“Ms Sibyl Worsel?” I asked politely.
“That’s me,” she answered cheerfully. “May I help you?”
“I was referred to you by Ulrica Novak in Chicago.”
Instantly her demeanor changed from one of lighthearted effervescence to one of guarded wariness. Obviously she had been tipped off to the possibility of my visit by Ulrica. “Yes?” she said guardedly.
I decided not to bring Richard into this and gave her my card. I told her that Emily was an employee of ours and was AWOL, and that we had traced her thus far to this establishment.
“I honestly don’t know anything about this Emily, other than she came here a couple of days ago on the recommendation of Ulrica. Ulrica, you know, sends quite a few clients here. She knows that my powers are stronger than hers, and if she can’t help them, sometimes I can.”
“Look, Mister. The woman you’re looking for did stop in but I sent her away immediately.”
“Sent her away? Where?”
“The first thing she asked me was to concoct a spell, and I don’t do spells. I swear that I have no idea what her problem was, but if she wanted a spell she was going to have to go see this Indian they call ‘The Sorcerer.’ I don’t even know his name. Just ‘The Sorcerer.’”
“So where’s his place in Sedona?”
“Oh, he’s not in Sedona, Mister. As a matter of fact I don’t know exactly where he is.”
“Then how did you send Emily to him?”
“Well, the way you see him is—you gotta go up to Page.”
“Is that in Arizona?”
“Yeah. Up by Lake Powell on the other side of the Grand Canyon. It’s right on the border with Utah.”
“Well then how...?”
“Up around there they have all these ‘slot canyons’ they call them—real neat-looking rock crevices. Anyway, these slot canyons are on the Navajo reservation. So you have to go to one of the entrances to the reservation and some Indians will take you to see the canyons in a jeep.”
“So how do you find this ‘Sorcerer’ fellow?”
“Just go to the entrance like you’re going for a tour, but tell the Indians in the booth that you’re looking for ‘The Sorcerer’ and someone will pick you up and take you to him.”
“And that’s what you told Emily to do?”
“Yep. As soon as she said she needed a spell, that’s where I sent her.”
“Thank you, Ms Worsel. You’ve been very helpful.”
I left the rotund Sibyl Worsel standing behind her counter and went back to my hotel. I called Richard on his cell and brought him up to date on what I had learned and asked for further instructions.
“Page, huh?” he said. “I’ve been there before. That Lake Powell is really something. Page is a very small place, so find the best place to stay in town and I’ll bet that’s where Emily is. She likes her comforts and amenities. If you locate her, do your best to keep her where she is and I’ll be there on Sunday.”
EMILY ANCARI STEPPED UP to the ramshackle lean-to that displayed a faded, handwritten sign that read SLOT CANYON TOURS. The creaky wooden structure had a portico of sorts that provided a modicum of shade, but there was barely enough room for the six or seven people who had arrived before Emily, to shield them from the direct rays of the desert sun. It was still early spring, but in Arizona the temperature can easily surpass 100° on certain days—even well before noon. This was one of them. Emily had been directed here by the desk clerk at the Comfort Suites in Page. This area with the booth marked the boundary of the local Navajo reservation.
“One adult for a Canyon Tour?” asked the Indian woman in the booth.
“No,” said Emily in a subdued tone, so that no one would overhear her. “I’d like to see the Sorcerer. I was told to come here and that you could arrange it.”
The Indian woman looked closely at her and asked, also in a hushed voice, “You have twelve hundred dollars in cash?”
Emily looked up and spun her head in frustration, then back to the woman, “I don’t have that much cash with me. Do you take credit or debit cards?”
“Cash only, to see the Sorcerer. A hundred for us, a hundred for the driver and a thousand for the Sorcerer.”
A despondent Emily took a waiting taxi back to a bank in Page, where she got the needed cash. When she returned to the booth, it was 11:45. A new group of tourists were jammed into the shaded area. She went back to the ticket window, only to find a sign that read “Out to Lunch. Back at 1:30.”
Undeterred, Emily shouted through the ticket window, “Anyone there?”
Quickly the Indian woman whom Emily had talked to before, came into view, at first not seeing who had so brazenly ignored her out-to-lunch sign. “Can’t you read? We don’t...” Then seeing who it was that was calling her, she came up to Emily and said quietly, “You have the money?”
Emily silently opened her purse and put twelve crisp one hundred-dollar bills in front of her. Without saying a word, the Indian woman went back into the shack, out of sight. Then Emily heard a strange electric squawking that was totally new to her, and the murmuring of the woman’s voice in a very weird language. After a loud, crackling squawk, the woman reappeared. She took one of the bills and said, “A special driver will be here for you soon. He will take you to the Sorcerer.” And with that, the woman vanished into the back room of the hut.
About forty minutes later, a dust-covered banged-up jeep pulled into the assembly area. With grumblings of, “It’s about time!,” “Well! Finally!” and “I don’t believe we’re actually going!” the tourists who had been sweating it out under the small roof of the lean-to began swarming towards the jeep. But the driver, a very young Navajo with a red shirt and large yellow cowboy hat, gestured for the onrushing people to get back. “Sorry! Special tour. Please hold on for just a little while longer. One of the visitors on the last tour got lost for a while, but now they found her. Your driver will be here in a couple of minutes...Missy?” he called loudly, clearly indicating Emily. “C’mon get in!”
Ignoring the whining and bellyaching comments from the irritated tourists, Emily quickly got into the front seat of the jeep, noting that the vehicle was painted red. The thick covering of dust had concealed the jeep’s actual color from a distance. She wondered briefly how this young man knew who she was, but then reckoned that the woman in the ticket booth must have given him her description.
Initially she tried to make small talk with the driver, hoping that some kind of communication would lead to some information about the mysterious Sorcerer. But the young lad, who called himself “Johnny,” made it crystal clear that he did not wish to engage in even the most innocuous conversation.
After a few minutes from the Tour booth, Emily heard that identical “squawk” that she had heard before. Johnny reached under his seat and, without taking his eye off the road or decreasing his speed one bit, pulled out a rather large, rectangular, olive-green box with an antenna sticking up. He pushed a button and spoke some unintelligible mish-mash into the box and got an equally unintelligible garble in return from the box’ speaker. Then with a loud squawk, Johnny stowed the box back under his seat. Emily didn’t bother to ask the driver about the box or what was said, but she thought she recognized the contraption as a World War II-era “walkie-talkie,” or two-way radio—the kind that John Wayne or Audie Murphy would use during battle scenes in the movies. Why don’t they use cell phones?
After maneuvering around and through some curious-looking rock formations that Emily assumed enclosed the popular slot canyons, they accessed a road (or at least a worn strip in the rocky ground that passed for a road) that seemed to lead straight across a vast, flat table of land to the side of a barren reddish mountain that rose at least a thousand feet from the desert floor. That is, it looked like a flat expanse of land, but it was very rough going over all the bumps and ruts on this primitive road. On one occasion Emily was almost thrown from the jeep completely. Johnny simply laughed and yelled, “Hold on, Missy, it’s gonna get rougher!”
And it did get rougher and bumpier the closer they got to the towering orange cliff, but Emily stoically held on for dear life to the bottom of her seat, determined not to come off as a weak sister in front of this Indian. As they neared the base of the mountainside, Emily could make out what looked like a shack with a tin roof, and what must have been a wooden outhouse next to it. A tin roof! If Emily had her directions down, this cliff faced south, so there could never be any escape from the blazing sun. Why didn’t the people who lived here roast to death? She just shook her head silently. I guess it takes all kinds.
When they pulled up to the shack, Emily gave Johnny his hundred dollars before he could ask for it and shakily got out of the jeep. Sitting on the porch, thankfully in the shade, was an old man. Both he and Johnny laughed as they saw how wobbly Emily was from the ride. Johnny sprang to her side and gently took hold of her arm, assisting her up the couple of steps to the porch. The old man gestured for her to take the empty wooden chair next to him and Johnny quickly got back into the jeep. With a few words of Navajo between him and the old man, he sped off in a cloud of dust.
Once she was seated, Emily looked closely at her host. This man was not just old, he was ancient! He had the typical high cheekbones of an Indian and long gray hair that was wrapped around his head and braided into a pony-tail. His face was wrinkled like Emily had never seen before. Every inch of his parchment skin was grooved with tiny indentations. But he still had a twinkle in his lively eyes, and he actually seemed amused by Emily’s reaction to his appearance.
“I take it that you’re the Sorcerer?” asked Emily, as firmly as she could.
“Some people call me that,” said the old man.
“Then this is for you,” and Emily counted out the ten bills and gave them to her companion.
The Sorcerer turned slightly and barked out something in Navajo. Almost immediately an elderly Indian woman came through the door. She was short and plump, with close-cropped gray hair, wearing a green-and-white checkered blouse and faded blue jeans that were a couple of sizes too small for her. As the Sorcerer gave the money to the woman he said to Emily, “This is my daughter, Betty. And you are...?”
“My name is Emily,” she said standing and shaking hands with the sixty-or-more-year-old “daughter.”
“Very pleased to meet you Emily,” said Betty, with a warm smile. The daughter then returned indoors.
“Is Johnny related to you too?” asked Emily.
“Johnny is one of my great-grandchildren,” said the old man with pride. “Betty is his grandmother. His father is a colonel in the Marines.”
On a low table in front of them sat a small portable TV. As if on cue, the scratchy voice of a female news anchor said,
“Two more U.S. Marines were killed today in Afghanistan, victims of a suicide bomber on the outskirts of Kabul. That brings the death toll of U.S. military personnel to 14 in this month alone.”
The old man chuckled and angrily bent forward and powered off the TV. “Fourteen! And they go on and on about how it’s so horrible that there’s been over nine thousand Americans killed in eight years and two wars! These aren’t wars...they’re long skirmishes!”
“You don’t think Iraq and Afghanistan are wars?” asked Emily incredulously.
Humbled slightly, the old man said, “Yes, I suppose so. Any time they’re shootin’ at you it’s a war. Johnny’s dad’s over there—for about the fifth time. He could get it at any time I guess.”
“Let me tell you somethin’ Missy. At Iwo Jima and Okinawa alone we had over 16,000 killed. That was a war! What would these media people we got today say about that, I wonder?”
“Were you there?”
The old man sighed tiredly and stared out across the desert. “Yeah, I was there. Me and a whole bunch of Indians from around here. Most of ‘em never made it back. I was a Codetalker. I killed me a lotta Japs, too!”
“A Codetalker. What’s that?”
The old man chuckled and shook his head disparagingly. “They don’t teach you nothin’ about history anymore do they?”
When Emily had no answer, he continued. “At Iwo and Okinawa, we was fightin’ the Japs in real close quarters—to the death. And sometimes, your life or other boys’ would depend on whether you could get artillery support—or tell someone where the Japs were movin’. Anyway, they used us Indians to talk Navajo over the radios ‘cause the Japs could listen in, but they couldn’t understand our lingo. One of the Marine generals said that if it wasn’t for us, we never would have won at Iwo Jima. Naturally we were in the thick of the fightin’ on the front lines, so a lot of us got killed. I was lucky. I hear there’s a lot of Jap tourists around here now. I still don’t like ‘em and I’d never trust ‘em.”
Feeling a slight change of subject was in order, Emily asked, “Those walkie-talkies, or whatever they are. Did you bring those back from the Pacific?”
“Yeah. Me and Eddie Redbear—he was a Codetalker too—we managed to bring about twenty-five or thirty brand new ones back. We still use ‘em. They work great! All we gotta do is replace the batteries every now and then.”
“I gotcha. But they’re so—uh—heavy and unwieldy. Why don’t you use cell phones like everyone else?”
The old man sighed again. “Look where you are, Missy. Ain’t no cell phone gonna work in this desert.”
After a long pause, the old man cleared his throat. “So. Miss—uh—Emily is it?”
“So what kind of man trouble you got that you came all the way out here to see me?”
“How did you know my problem was with a man?” and she immediately suspected that Ulrica Novak had told that Worsel woman in Sedona everything Emily had told her.
As if reading her mind, the old man soothed, “Hey. Nobody told me a thing. Whoever you told about your problem, they didn’t say nothing—at least to me.”
“So how do I know you got a problem with a man?” The old man looked up and said dramatically, “The Great Spirit told me.” When he saw that Emily looked as if she believed him. He laughed and said, “Not really, Missy. It’s just that ten-out-of-ten women who come to see me...Well it’s always about a man. The men who I see...Half the time it’s women and the other half it’s about money. You being a woman, I reckon it’s about a man. Now. Do you want to tell me about it and how do you think I can help you? By the way, who sent you here—one of those dingbats in Sedona?”
“As a matter of fact, it was...”
“I don’t want no names! Just lemme tell you that all those so-called psychics in Sedona are a bunch of nutcases and con artists. They’re all crazy as coyotes. But the people they rip off just don’t know it.”
“Well, I saw a psychic—or at least someone who said she was a psychic—in Chicago. She couldn’t help me after a couple of visits so...”
“And how much did she charge you before she came up empty?”
“Three hundred dollars. And then she recommended another psychic in Sedona.”
“And how much...?”
“Nothing. She sent me to you without me even telling her anything about my problem.”
“Nothing? Well it sounds like you ran into an honest person.”
“I don’t know if she’s honest or not. After I thought everything out the best I could, I figured the only way I could solve this thing would be for someone to cast a spell on me. And when I mentioned that to her, she said she wasn’t into spells and she referred me to you.”
“Well, it may seem strange to you, but I don’t really cast spells myself—but I’m very strong in the Spirit, and I may be able to help you. Now why don’t you tell me all about what’s bothering you.”
Emily began with a brief biographical background of herself. She emphasized the importance of music in her life, and living in Italy. She also described the relationship with her father and how she thought that played into her attraction for older men. As she spoke, the old man listened patiently, without the trace of an expression on his deeply lined countenance.
Then she came to the nub of her dilemma. “Mr.—uh—Sorcerer—or whatever your real name is...Okay. Here goes. About thirteen years ago, I married a man who I thought I was very much in love with...Actually I do love him but...Anyway this man is an Italian and I met and married him in Italy. He is also a musical genius—he’s a conductor and concert pianist. But on our honeymoon, I realized that he could not give himself entirely to me because music always comes first with him. I still cared for him very much and I felt that it was some kind of a great honor to be the wife of a musical genius.
“Anyway, about ten years ago...No. It was exactly the day after 9/11. Renato—that’s my husband—he brought home these two Americans who were stranded because all flights were grounded for a few days. One of these men was the dean of a music school in a university near Chicago, and he had worked out a deal with Renato where he would direct a couple of operas and conduct the orchestra two times each year for a huge salary. Plus, Renato would be free at all other times to conduct or play anywhere in the world. Of course he would also get paid for that and he would get an honorary PhD from the university. So it was a really great deal for Renato.”
“But not for you?”
“No it was good for me as well. Maybe too good as it turned out. Anyway, the first time I met Dick—he’s this Dean guy—at our villa in Italy, I was very sexually attracted to him...I mean, I was really surprised that I could feel that way about any man after being married to Renato for about three years. As for Dick, that first time I met him I could tell that he was very attracted to me, too. And after that first day, Renato had to go out of town, so I was left alone in our villa with Dick and his friend, the Assistant Dean, Oscar. But Dick was extremely proper and gentlemanly then...I don’t know...Maybe if he hadn’t desperately wanted Renato for his School...Who knows...?
“In any case Renato and I came to America and we got a nice house near the University—this was part of the deal, too. For a few years nothing happened between me and Dick—sexually I mean—although the attraction was stronger than ever. Now, another part of the deal Renato and Dick made was that I would teach at least one class per semester. I do have a degree in Music Ed but I’m not really a very good musician—I’m a singer by the way. So they let me teach a class voice course—I guess they figured I couldn’t screw up too bad doing that. So one day—almost five years ago—I had to see Dick about something relating to my class—I can’t remember what, now. So all of a sudden, we were alone in his office and—well, it just happened right then and there. One minute we were talking about business and the next we were rutting away like a couple of animals in heat on top of his desk. (By the way, something tells me that I wasn’t the first woman he screwed on his desktop.)
“So, with Renato’s traveling and all, it was easy to make it with Dick a lot. See, it’s hard to explain, but Dick gives me everything. Unlike Renato, he gives me his entire soul. It was, and always has been, much more than just a sexual affair. We did, however, keep it very secret. Even Oscar, Dick’s friend, who’s closer to the Dean than anyone, didn’t find out about us until fairly recently.”
“Did you ever consider breaking with your husband?” asked the old man.
“Yes I have. On many occasions. But that wouldn’t be fair—or good—for any of us.”
“Well, as for myself...I just don’t think I could ever get over the guilt and embarrassment it would cause me—not in a lifetime! And Renato would be devastated if I left him for another man. I could never hurt him like that. And actually I still really and truly love him. He’s the most remarkable man I’ve ever met and it has always been a great source of personal satisfaction to know that I have been the wife of such a man. Dick, of course would almost certainly lose Renato, who has been such a huge benefit to Stockman. Dick may love me with his whole heart and soul, but I wouldn’t like to think about how he’d feel if Renato left Stockman. The School would definitely suffer with such a loss, and I’d hate to see the effect it would have on Dick. But there’s something else that makes things very complicated.”
“And what’s that?”
“About five years ago, the same year as I began the affair with Dick, I had a baby—a son, Joseph.”
“Naturally this son is Renato’s pride and joy. God only knows what would happen to Joseph with a messy divorce case.”
The old man frowned. “You really do have a problem. But how can I, or anyone, for that matter, possibly help you?”
“Years ago, I spent some time in Sicily. The people there are—oh I don’t know. What I do know is that I believe that certain individuals have a psychic or a spiritual power. I was told that you are one of these people. What I’m looking for you to do is to cast a spell on me—or whatever you call it—to root out this love in my soul that I feel for Dick. I’ve tried and tried—but it’s no good. I just can’t do it myself. I know it’s wrong—but...Can you help me?”
The old man said nothing at first. He stared intently into Emily’s eyes. Finally he said, “I can tell that you speak truly. That is important. Give me your hands.”
Emily stretched out both her hands, which were immediately clasped by those of the old man. His hands were dry and wrinkled like his face but she was surprised by the strength of his grasp. He continued to stare into her eyes for the longest time, then, applying even more pressure to his grip, he looked up, closed his eyes, and murmured a few words—in Navajo—in a sing-songy chant. This continued for about five minutes. Then he looked Emily straight in the eye once again. “The Spirit has now given you the strength to do what you must do. You feel it?”
And suddenly Emily felt a rush of chills washing over her whole body, and, at the same time, a warmth she had never felt before emanating from her solar plexus. “Yes,” she affirmed simply.
The old man kept her hands in his for a few moments more and then released them. He said nothing more to Emily, but called over his shoulder in his own language. Suddenly Emily heard the walkie-talkie squawk again and Betty, she guessed, speaking into it. In a few minutes a swirl of dust appeared in the distance. Soon Johnny and the old jeep zoomed up to the shack and stopped. Emily started to leave, but came back again and, with tears in her eyes, kissed the old man on top of his gray head and whispered, “Thank you, and God bless you.”
As the jeep sped across the desert in a billowing cloud of angry sand, Betty came out on the porch and sat next to her father. She chuckled, and in Navajo said, “Well, that was an easy thousand bucks from that white woman. It would be good if we had more crazy white folks like that one.”
The old man did not reply, but gazed at the rapidly disappearing mini-dust funnel. He knew his daughter was right, but in his heart, he really wished this particular “crazy white woman” well.