Samantha had rather high expectations as she went clanking south on the quaint old Evanston Electric Railway. In the only other experiment in which she had participated, she had been required to place small weights in the palms of people who stuck their hands through a little window. She had then asked them to say whether the weights were very very heavy, very heavy, heavy, medium, light, very light or very very light. On a later run-through, the categories of very very very heavy and very very very light had been added to the previous ones. Even with that addition, the correlations between weight sensitivity, age, and sex had not been thrilling, or even very striking. The experiment shortly to be conducted by the Berwyn Associates might be less rigidly controlled, harder to quantify, and, perhaps, less scientific. But, Samantha giggled to herself, it was likely to be more fun.
When she came down from the elevated at Belmont, crowding her way through the evening rush coming the other way and using her elbows to good effect, Samantha saw Sandy waiting to meet her. Calvin was occupied with last minute preparations, and they were to get something to eat and bring him a sandwich.
When they were settled, Sandy said,
"We're still working on some things that should've been settled, and we may have to change and improvise as we go along."
"What's hanging in the air?"
"The scale for estimating exhibitionism or the lack of it prior to our testing. I've put in some questions to be answered as the other tests are taken. The most important is probably the degree to which people went around unclothed in the home in which the subject grew up. And, of course, I take into account the number, sex, and relative age of the siblings. I also ask whether the background was religious, and so on."
"If you ask too many questions like that, you'll tip off the true nature of the experiment to come."
"I know. I've kept them to a minimum, and I've mixed them in with totally different sorts of questions. The result is that I've got an exhibitionism vs. inhibitedness scale we can use tonight, but I haven't tested it or even tried it on a single subject. I bet the psychologists at Northwestern are much better prepared when they go into an experiment."
"That doesn't sound so bad to me. I know a good many of the graduate students, and a lot of their experiments aren't even well designed."
"We have, at least, thought about the beginning stages. If it's a male subject, Calvin will ask him to undress while you and I stand some ten feet away with the stooges in the background. In the case of a female one, I'll pop the question while you and Calvin stand ten feet away. If the subject complies, we give five points, and then give more points, according to the proportion of clothing removed."
"Does a man get as many points for taking off his shirt as a woman does for taking off her blouse."
"That's tricky because it depends on whether he's already taken off his pants, in which case the critical areas might still be covered by his shirt. We'll just keep records and work it out later."
"What if the subject refuses?"
"We have a persuasion scale. The next level is where we ask again and explain that the electrodes won't work over clothing. The third step is to remove the fear factor by demonstrating the electrodes on our wrists to show that they don't hurt. We also invite the subject to apply them to his or her own wrist. The next level is where we say that the whole experiment will be ruined if they don't cooperate. If the subject still refuses, you and I try gently to ease the subject out of his or her clothing."
"That'll be interesting."
"No violence, please, Samantha. Just a few helping hands."
Since Alice would be helping them, they brought a sandwich for her and convened around her desk. Samantha noticed that Calvin looked pleased with himself, even more than usual, but put it down to pre-experiment euphoria.
When the four subjects arrived, they each took one into a cubicle for the personality tests. Samantha, in addition to putting weights in people's hands, had administered a certain number of tests. Sometimes she had only asked questions and marked down the answers, but there had been some interesting moments.
Mrs. Melissa Medway, a recently divorced woman enrolled in the matching service, had a mournful aspect as she sat down in front of the desk that Samantha was using. A not unattractive woman, at least when one looked closely, her mannerisms weren't good. For one thing, she wore glasses with heavy black plastic frames which slid down her nose and had to be re-adjusted at frequent intervals.
Mrs. Medway had already taken a number of tests for the matching service. Her indicated IQ was a hundred and sixty, but she wouldn't have impressed the uninformed observer as being unusually intelligent. Her characteristic response to most ordinary questions was to open her mouth slightly but silently and frown until it was time for the next glasses re- adjustment. She would then answer the question which she thought her conversant had really meant to ask.
Samantha liked Mrs. Medway immediately, and led off with a question from a standard values test. Mrs. Medway answered, this time without hesitation. Then, without being able to see the booklet Samantha was holding, she recited the next question, the one Samantha had been about to ask. Mrs. Medway answered that question as well, and, as she proceeded to the next one, Samantha broke in,
"I guess you already know this test."
"I've taken them all. None did any good."
Since Mrs. Medway already knew her "values profile" on the last page of the booklet, they filled it in and disposed of a couple of other tests in similar fashion. That accomplished, Samantha asked her why she had enrolled in the experiment. Mrs. Medway replied,
"I enroll in every one that I hear about. They can't make me any worse than I am, but I might come across something that would get me off dead center and get me moving."
"Do you suffer from depression?"
"So they say. Anger turned inward, if you please."
"A psychiatrist must have said that to you."
"Yes. I went to him because a friend of mine was his patient and he seduced her. I was hoping that he'd seduce me too, but he hasn't so far. I suppose I'm too ugly."
"I bet he would if you didn't wear glasses. Can you manage without them at all?"
"I guess so. I hadn't thought of that. Anyhow, since he didn't seem to want to give me therapy through the vagina, I asked for shock treatments. He's refused those, too."
"That's easy. It's a hundred volts for one second. You just take an extension cord, cut off the female end, and separate the wires, baring the last six inches of each one. You then plug in and touch a bare wire to each temple. You try to hold them there while you say, "a thousand and one.""
"Have you done it?"
"Oh yes, twice. Each time, I bounced out of the chair I was sitting in and wet my pants. But I felt very much enlivened. You might leave the wire by your favorite chair. Then, if you find yourself sitting around unable to move, that ought to do it."
"I'll try it. I have a go at suicide every now and then, but shock therapy is supposed to do wonders for some people."
As they assembled in the main third-floor room before the subjects were brought in, Samantha was surprised to see Dr. Narrison. He explained,
"You young people are running this one. I'll just sit at a desk with my clipboard."
Samantha then looked at the stooges. They looked to her like people who were about to be loaded into cattle cars and sent to an unknown destination. The brand new white underwear looked incongrous on them, and came a long way short of making them role models for wealthy suburbanites. However, she tactfully said nothing to Sandy or Calvin.
The first subject was a Mrs. Hegge, a divorced woman in her late thirties. She was small and pretty, and it was obvious to Samantha, from her walk alone, that she had many times the self-confidence of Mrs. Medway. When she first entered the room and saw the stooges, she looked puzzled. Then, when Sandy asked her to disrobe, she laughed and replied,
"I bet the real purpose of this experiment is to see if we'll take off our clothes with all and sundry watching."
Then, looking at the stooges, she whispered a question to Samantha,
"Who on earth are those people?"
Samantha almost gave the game away by laughing, but Sandy said, in all seriousness,
"They're the other subjects. The electric current is so low that it can't get through any clothing."
Mrs. Hegge again gave a little laugh and unfastened her skirt. Samantha took it to hang up, and Mrs. Hegge handed Sandy her blouse. She still had on a full slip, and, grasping it with both hands, she looked questioningly at Samantha. There was supposed to be only one request put at the initial stage, and they hadn't allowed for the possibility of questioning looks, as opposed to yes/no responses. Samantha supposed that this was why people did pilot studies, but it seemed appropriate for her to nod affirmatively, which she did. Mrs. Hegge took her slip over her head without any obvious embarrassment, and stood erect in her bra and girdle. Even when she walked across the room to the stooges, she acted as if nothing were at all abnormal, her heels making authoritative clicks on the bare wood floor.
The next part of the experiment wasn't supposed to matter. Alice, looking like the matron of a woman's prison in her white coat, would explain to each subject that the other subjects were waiting for a different test, and that she would immediately do the electrode test. The idea was just to get the real subject out of the way so that the next one would be confronted with the same environment. In this case, Samantha noted it down that, when touched in the back, the subject recoiled and said,
"Those things may not have much voltage, but they're cold."
After she had dressed and left by the other door, Samantha asked Sandy,
"Do the results count if the subject sees through the experiment?"
Sandy seemed uncertain, but Calvin said,
"Certainly. We're interested in what they do, not in their incidental remarks."
"I think that woman enjoyed the whole thing. She looks good, and she knows it."
"I gave her the tests, and they did suggest a low level of inhibition. So, at any rate, that much fits."
Before they could discuss the matter further, they heard the footsteps of the next client and took up their positions. This was a Mr. Crum, one of Sandy's clients. A very tall man who looked very hungry, he was visibly surprised at what he saw. Even as Calvin approached him, he began saying,
"No, negatory, no, no, ........"
The negatives trailed off softly into confusion as the question was actually put to him. Then, when he refused outright, and Calvin moved to level two, Sandy approached Mr. Crum while Samantha moved behind him. When Calvin finally moved up to the maximum notch, Samantha slid Mr. Crum's jacket off, but kept it behind him at elbow level to trap his arms. Sandy, taking that opportunity, had his pants unfastened. As they fell, Mr. Crum made a noise, a sort of "awk" sound, which struck Samantha as appropriate to the giant wading bird he so closely resembled. Then, when Samantha put her foot on the fallen trousers and helped him step out of them, his loafers coming off in the process, Mr. Crum's tremendously long white legs looked ideally suited for negotiating a swamp while his black-thatched head snapped at insects and dipped to swallow the occasional frog.
Mr. Crum was still expostulating as they removed his tie and unbuttoned his shirt, but they got him over to Alice to be tested. Samantha whispered to Sandy,
"It looks as if his penis is about a foot long."
Sandy giggled, making Mr. Crum blush, and Calvin looked at them sternly.
Mrs. Medway was the next, and, as Samantha had expected, she complied without a word. Her glasses fell off when she had her dress over her head, but the frames were so substantial that no damage was done when they hit the floor. When Samantha gave them back to her, Mrs. Medway said,
"That happens all the time. Perhaps I'd be better off if I didn't see so much."
A little later, Sandy pointed out to Mrs. Medway that her girdle had split up the back. She replied,
"I keep forgetting to get a new one. Anyhow, it holds my stockings up."
As Alice went over Mrs. Medway with the electrodes, Samantha explained quietly to Calvin that she hadn't been able to administer the tests in the usual way. She added,
"I did manage to work some of the questions into our general conversation. Nobody went around undressed in her home. She and her sister didn't even share a bedroom, and they were orthodox Jews."
Calvin whispered back,
"Then she'd ordinarily be very inhibited. It must be our setting that's done it."
Samantha wasn't so sure, but she let it go for the moment.
Mrs. Medway smiled at Samantha as she left. It was the first time Samantha had seen her smile, but she wasn't sure what meaning it might have.
There was a pause before the next subject, who appeared to be in the ladies' room, and they had a chance to review the results so far. Sandy and Calvin had both marked Mrs. Hegge down as being extremely uninhibited, both on the tests and in the experiment itself. Calvin continued to claim that Mrs. Medway's inhibitions had been overcome when she entered the room and that, from then on, she had functioned in the same way as Mrs. Hegge. Samantha objected,
"Mrs. Hegge undressed because she wanted to be looked at. Mrs. Medway did it because she thinks she's worthless and nothing matters. And she feels that way because she's in an abnormal depressed condition. Her inhibitions might not have been overcome so easily is she'd been feeling half-way decent."
"Depression isn't usually a temporary condition. It's become part of her personality, or may have been from the beginning. Anyhow, this is experimental psychology, Samantha. Philosophical distinctions aren't allowed."
He was in some danger of being kicked sharply in the shins when Samantha was distracted by the appearance of the next subject.
The moment Samantha saw Miss Gatewood, she was reminded of a Mississippi woman. Even though Miss Gatewood hadn't spoken, and Samantha knew that she wouldn't have a southern accent, it didn't make any difference. This was a woman who might go to tea with her mother. It wasn't only the beautiful clothes. Miss Gatewood's manner and bearing, and also the warring messages given off by her eyes and mouth, all suggested to Samantha a hypocrisy so rooted in convention, and so deep in the so-called soul, that no experience whatever could make the slightest dent in it.
Indeed, there was the same hint of upper-class public sexiness combined with a private and complete subordination of sensuality to considerations of power and control. These were the women who, in front of everyone, elaborately hugged and kissed the husbands of friends, their tits and loins making contact through a couple of layers of light clothing. But, once the party was over, they were extremely careful to maintain their position by denying their husbands what they most wanted and needed.
Poor Longstreet Valerius, Samantha's father, had been almost destroyed by such conduct, and Samantha was always looking for a chance to avenge him. She doubted that the present situation would offer such an opportunity, but she was prepared to use her imagination.
When Miss Gatewood saw the stooges, she stopped and put a fluttery hand up defensively. However, the palm was soon turned inward to touch her blouse, as if the danger were contained within. Samantha hated that sort of stagey femmy gesture. But then, true to form, Miss Gatewood forced a weak smile, looked away from the stooges, and moved her hand into a little dismissive wave in their direction. As she focussed her smile on Sandy, the implication seemed to be that the presence of some regrettable people, half offstage, hardly affected the main business. When Sandy greeted her, Miss Gatewood looked much more comfortable, only to be hit with Sandy's immediate request. She then fluttered with both hands, and said,
"Oh yes, I see. But isn't it rather public ......."
Her voice trailed off without a definite refusual, and Samantha saw that Sandy was confused. She wasn't supposed to move to level two unless it was clear that the subject had refused at level one. Then, as Sandy remained silent, Miss Gatewood turned her back to the stooges. Looking straight at Samantha, she began to introduce herself. Sandy, of course, had to intervene to complete the introduction. She then moved, rather abruptly, to level two. Miss Gatewood indicated Calvin with her eyes and whispered,
"Perhaps if one weren't right in front of him, so to speak, but, of course, I do understand ....."
The electrodes were then brought over and displayed. Miss Gatewood touched one, as if it might be red hot, and then laughed as she replied brightly,
"That doesn't hurt at all, does it?"
Miss Gatewood showed signs of sidling toward the exit, even though Sandy, with a little smile, lightened the heavy moralism of level four. That held her momentarily, with her arms now wrapped defensively around her. However, she still replied,
"Could we possibly do this, perhaps, a little later, you know, with some sort of gown ..."
As Miss Gatewood's voice trailed off again, Samantha had her hands firmly around the other woman's waist, undoing the complex fastenings of her skirt. She could feel the nervousness of her quarry, but Samantha imitated her mother's voice and more extreme accent as she whispered in Miss Gatewood's ear,
"Lucky you to have a good looking young man like Calvin watching. I just bet he'll dream about you tonight."
The maximum southern accent seemed to surprise Miss Gatewood and reduce any resistance she might have displayed. As the skirt loosened and came down, Samantha continued to feel in the squirming body in her hands the conflicting desires to run away and be stripped naked in front of the bright-eyed Calvin.
Sandy, other factors apparently in mind, motioned Samantha away before she could whisk away Miss Gatewood's fifty dollar slip. As she stepped reluctantly back, Samantha happened to notice Dr. Narrison. He was sitting goggle-eyed and transfixed. Then, as Miss Gatewood went tripping over to join the stooges, Dr. Narrison looked as if he might suddenly do something rather violent.
Alice completed the procedure and Miss Gatewood left, dressed and smiling, with her psyche much less damaged than Samantha might have wished. Sandy explained to Samantha,
"She's become sort of a friend, and I already felt badly about pushing her as far as we had."
Samantha wondered how anyone as sensible as Sandy could approach Miss Gatewood in a friendly fashion, but let it go.
Dr. Narrison then came over and congratulated them on a well-conducted experiment. There was a peculiar light in his eyes, which Samantha attributed to lechery. After he left, she and Calvin and Sandy decided to stop in a little restaurant near Sandy's place for a snack.
On sitting down, Calvin announced that he had a surprise for Sandy. He explained,
"The scandal sheet that's paying for all this has wanted pictures all along. Of course, we couldn't splash people like Miss Gatewood on the front page in their undies. So, before we started tonight, I staged a photo session with Mr. Algoma, his photographers, and our stooges. We got some good shots of the tall fairly good-looking woman mostly undressed. We used the other stooges, still dressed, as a backdrop to make it clear how public it was."
Sandy asked anxiously,
"Does the woman's face show?"
"Mostly in profile."
"That awful man at the paper might say it's Susan Gatewood."
"He doesn't trust you either. He wanted you out of the way, so I sent you to meet Samantha."
Sandy, not looking pleased, repeated,
"What's to keep him from doing it, then?"
"For a start, he's never had access to Miss Gatewood or her name. I gave him the caption for the picture. The stooge was paid to let us use her real name. It's Barbara Parker, which doesn't sound bad. I identify her as a quickly rising young executive in a prominent international firm of management consultants. The gullible might think it's McKinsey and Co."
"Then it's really a fictitious firm?"
"No. It's us. We're management consultants in the sense that we'd be happy to give psychological tests to managers. And we're international. Whatever Goodman's nationality really is, he certainly isn't a native-born American."
"Well, I guess it's okay."
"It certainly is. Algoma gave me a five hundred dollar check, more or less as a tip for services rendered. I spoke to Goodman right afterwards and asked him what to do with it. He didn't want a cut, and said that I should split it with you. So I'll give you half when I cash it."
"Wow! There are times when I find it hard to believe that Dr. Narrison is a criminal."
"But you still do?"
"There was something, but I doubt that it had to do with money."
Samantha suggested, somewhat frivolously,
"He might have killed his brother over a girl, and still be uneasy about it."