Dangerous Reflections Beginning 2

Chapter One

University of Western Pennsylvania, 2013

With the magic wand tucked in her backpack, Martie knocked on the office door. It fell open a crack, and inside sat the man she most – and least – wanted to see: Professor Cirksena, the only person who could help her.

Her former Ph.D. professor in psychology looked up from his work, and smiled. “Come in, my dear.”

Martie forced herself to step into the office. Her heart raced, not with affection, but with fear. Six months ago, she had ended their relationship.

He had praised her thesis. It showed much promise, he’d said. Something sparked when their eyes met. As the weeks passed, Martie became enamored.

Then she’d discovered his hidden agenda.

“I have been expecting you.” The professor’s odd northern Germanic accent sent a shiver of repulsion through her. Without wanting to, she recalled his hands on her, and his hot breath in her ear. He had a dark sensuality that attracted her – and scared her to death at the same time.

“I heard about what happened to your father and grandmother. I am sorry.”

Besides the stress of being in his presence again, her second sight shot up mental flares.

Escape while you still can.

Martie lifted her chin in defiance. “I need your help, Professor.”

Cirksena’s pose emanated arrogance, with his fine Burberry suit and smug expression.
“So formal, my dear? You used to call me Marcus. We were friends once, were we not?

And colleagues. I am certain we would have proved Jung’s theory, if you had given us the chance to finish.”

“I am just as sure we wouldn’t have.” Her voice shook. “I’m not here to talk about my dissertation. I’m here because I need your professional opinion. Believe me, it’s the only reason I’m here.”

Cirksena leaned forward. “Is it about your family? Have the doctors made a diagnosis? You came home to find them in that comatose state, did you not?”

Martie’s face grew hot. How does he know so much?

Reaching into her backpack, she retrieved the wand, and placed it on his desk. “What is your assessment of this heirloom? It belongs to my grandmother.”

“Ah,” was all he said as he picked up the wand.

Alarms went off for her. He recognizes it! Martie stared at him.  “You’ve seen it before.”
“What an odd thing to say. I have seen ones like it before.”

She watched silently as he withdrew a loupe from his top drawer, and put it to his eye, examining the wand’s markings. After studying it for several minutes, he looked up from beneath bushy eyebrows, his gaze boring into hers.

What’s going on here? Whereas a moment before, her second sight unequivocally knew Cirksena recognized her Gran’s wand – now it was saying Cirksena spoke the truth, that he had never seen it before.

Somehow her sixth sense told her these opposing ideas were both true.

Cirksena did not break eye contact. Martie summoned her willpower and looked away.

“Well?”

“What would you like to know?

Martie steadied herself, but could not keep the nerves out of her voice. “After my family got sick, our lawyer delivered this wand to me. And then I went through Gran’s papers. Her biological mother Violet Morley had been a member of an English magical society in the nineteenth century.”

A sob caught in her throat, but she repressed it. “The timing of this makes me suspicious. I can’t help but think this skeleton in the family closet has to do with Dad and Gran’s sudden illness. This wand seems to be the key to saving them. But I can’t quite figure it out.”

Martie had no problem with begging when it came to her family. “The longer they are comatose, the less likely they will regain consciousness. Can you help? Will you help me?”

Cirksena’s dark eyes found hers and held them for a moment, before returning to his examination of the wand. He weighed it in his hands, and ran his finger over the odd alchemical symbols painted along its18-inch length..

After what seemed a long time, he set the wand on his desk. “I will help you. I expect something in return.”

This startled her. “What do you want?”

“If you agree to my terms, I will rouse Judith and Martin Frank Harris from their lethargy.” He sounded confident he could do it.

Truth dawned like a red sun rising before her eyes. “You had something to do with that.”

“Nonsense.”

Her backpack slipped from her hands and hit the floor with a thud as another revelation occurred to her. “You know my dad because he teaches at the university. But how is it you know my Gran’s first name?”

“I think you had better sit down.”

“You already knew about my family’s connection to magic? How long have you known? The whole time? Even when we almost –”

She did not dare speak that out loud.

Cirksena rose. Martie backed away.

She did not have to be a psychic to sense how he much enjoyed this cat-and-mouse game. It was written on his face, evident in his voice.

He gestured toward a chair. “Stay, and I will tell you some of what I know.”

Some of what you know?” The realization he had been manipulating her all along sank in. “That’s right – you came to me about my dissertation. Oh my God, am I that stupid? That’s why you came to this university to teach.  Because of my family.”

So much for ESP. Why hadn’t she “sensed” this? Did he have some ability to cloak his intent from her second sight? It would explain how two opposing ideas could both be true in her mind at the same time.

Cirksena forced a smile. “That’s ridiculous. It’s simply that the topic of your dissertation intrigued me. Jung’s investigation into alchemy is an atypical interest for a post-graduate psychology student in Pennsylvania. So I looked into your family history.”

This ran deeper than Cirksena admitted. A professor does not do a background check based on a student’s thesis topic. “What do you want from me? What do you want so badly that you would slither your way into my research project? It has to be more than a chance to score.”

Momentarily taken aback by her comment, he said nothing. When he finally spoke, Martie thought she heard him wrong.

“I want the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“You want what?”

He repeated it.

“You’re being sarcastic.”

He was perfectly serious. “I want you to bring me the elixir of life. ”

Martie’s mouth fell open. “You’re laughing at my thesis, throwing it in my face, messing with me.”


“I believe in your thesis.” Cirksena was emphatic. “I want the stone. I’ll settle for nothing less.”

“There is no such thing.”

“Yet you tried to prove its existence yourself.”

She glared. “I gave up. It was naïve, wishful thinking. You flattered me and I stupidly believed you when you praised my theory in the first place. You encouraged my obsession. You manipulated me.”

“I encouraged you, yes. Because the Philosopher’s Stone does exist. I know who has it. And if you want to save Judith and your father, you will find it and bring it to me. That is my price for helping you.”