THE CHRISTMAS solar eclipse foreshadows a new decade.

Prepare to be surprised.



Two chapters from CITIZEN KATE…

FOUR

___________

Janet Simpson walked back into the conference room alone.

“Is she okay?” Brianna Walters asked. She was a senior aide to Senator Ashanti Williams, from Maryland.

No response.

“We all know about Dr. Winter,” Eileen Hall said. New York Senator Angela Murray’s chief of staff had been one of the first women in line after Senator Rosa Bennett told her about Kate’s project. Her husband was a venture capitalist on Wall Street. His contact list of women being treated unequally to their male money managers and corporate partners was near endless. 

“Kate will be here in a minute.” Janet leaned on the table. “When is Senator Bennett’s speech?”

“Day after tomorrow,” said Alexandra, the sister of Florida Senator Margarite Sanchez and her senior aide.

“I can’t wait,” said Brianna. A Marylander, she considered Senator Rosa Bennett the Senate’s newest great light. Named after the civil rights activist Rosa (Louise McCauley) Parks, Senator Bennett felt the civil rights hero in her life. Rosa Parks was an American patriot who went to jail and lost her job for sitting at the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus.

“I don’t care what my sister dumps on me.” The women laughed. “I will be in the Senate gallery for it,” said Alexandra Sanchez.

“Oh, I’ll be there,” Janet said. 

“We’re so busy, but I’ll sneak out. Wouldn’t miss it,” said Eileen. 

None of them had time for an extra project. Senate staffers never got the credit they deserved for their endless hours of service. They were involved because of their curiosity about Dr. Kate Winter, psychic profiler, but her celebrity wasn’t as interesting as why she had gained it. 

Senators couldn’t wrangle the forces Kate could. She had the juice, the will to electro charge their activism. Not to give speeches and send out careful statements and petitions. Kate made things happen. Shook people awake by shock. 

Washington, D.C., was all slog, nothing sexy. 

Kate’s latest project provided a release for Senate aides to engage women on a level they’d dreamed. Make people witness to the vast inequality women experienced. Families the poorer for it. 

With the presidential election one year away, Kate’s “Tell Your Story” project could rev up women to vote. Too many women didn’t bother. Were depressed by negative ads. It kept the worst people in office for too long. Most of whom were straight White men.

The introductory email to the Senate staffers from Security One and Dr. Kate Winter came confidential and couldn’t be forwarded. The project’s mission and scope were as big as the women’s outreach and imagination. Combined efforts that spread across the country.

It was a massive experiment for Kate and her team. 

Security One wanted the stories of women who had been denied equal pay and opportunity to what their male counterparts received. Questions included, “Are you expected to do overtime and work weekends without compensation? Tell us your story.” They asked mothers who had been discriminated against at work to tell their tale. Single women who lost a promotion to a married man were asked to share their stories.

There was a separate section in the Security One web document about sexual harassment and assault. All responses were to be brief. Kate wanted the stories condensed for punch. They provided examples to explain how to be blunt. 

Kate guaranteed confidentiality. Her reputation made women eager to join in. 

Each senator involved had agreed to provide their mailing list. Kate’s web doc and questionnaire also went out on social media. It rocketed across platforms. Each Senate office tapped their hometown campaign team and the local political affiliates for feedback within each senator’s home state.

Dr. Kate Winter walked back into the room. “Don’t stop talking because of me.” She smiled.

“Everything okay?” Janet said.

The women stared at Kate.

She shook her head. “I’m great.” 

Kate hadn’t brought the women into her psychic circle because it hadn’t been necessary. This had changed when they’d seen her rush out before the meeting had started. Kate had talked about this trigger moment in interviews, so the women recognized it.

The room was silent.

Kate sat down between two Senate aides at the table. “Okay, so let me talk about my process a little. Do you ever have an epiphany on an issue you’ve been mulling for days?” All the women nodded. “The ‘aha’ moment brings clarity. It all comes together.”

“I’ve heard you speak. You’re talking about your gut, right?” said Eileen, the New York senator’s chief of staff.

Kate held up a finger and nodded. “When something triggers your instincts. What we call our gut engages. The beginning of a connection. The energy goes much further. Mysticism and a bit of magic are involved. Sometimes I’m transported into the event I’m seeing unfold in my mind.”

The women looked at each other. No one spoke.

“I can become a witness to an event that might happen or has happened. Which one manifests is a surprise. It can also be foreshadowing. A trigger to attract my attention. For instance, I can warn someone about an event that might occur. But what occurs is a surprise in my life. I received the warning but didn’t realize it was for me. I’ve had this manifest and it can be…unpleasant. It can unmoor a person. Send you off course. Challenges your senses.”

“And better if you’re alone when this happens,” Eileen said. The New York senator’s chief of staff took a chair closer to Kate. 

“You don’t get a warning?” said Jennifer Zachary, Senator Mike Bollinger’s aide.

“Yes. Sometimes,” Kate said. “I’m often compelled to react because of it.”

They stayed quiet.

“The description is wild to me,” Eileen said. 

Janet chuckled. “It would be nice if we could keep these conversations in this room.”

Kate smiled. “I’ve been interviewed about this in the papers, all over cable, and I’ve had every comment possible tweeted at me, emailed to me, or yelled at me from an audience. Nothing to hide here.”

“You never told me how it started,” Janet said.

A grin spread across her face. “Simple. The portal for me was the church. It wasn’t until later that prayer morphed into something more for me.” 

“You said in one interview it was meditation. I’ve tried it but I keep thinking of things I have to do,” Jessica said, who was an aide to Senator Patricia Pullman.

“I knew in my gut my first husband and I wouldn’t last. But my career hadn’t taken off yet. I was scared because I couldn’t live on my salary,” said Alexandra, Senator Margarite Sanchez’s sister. “Ugly to admit but I’m not ashamed. When things got bad and I thought he would leave me stranded. I screamed at God and told Him I wasn’t ready.”

Reactions rippled through the group. 

“Lordy, Alexandra, I feel you. I’ve yelled at Him too. I mean Her,” said Brianna, Senator Ashanti Williams’ aide. 

“The moment you receive a message is unmistakable.” She did a sweep of the group. “Do any of you meditate?” Janet held her hand up. 

“What is meditation? Do you mean praying?” said Tamako, an aide of Senator Millie Tan of Florida.

“Similar. Prayer is where this adventure began for me. But it wasn’t automatic. It took a while to flow with the groove of meditation. I started with music that relaxed me. But I had to wrangle my thoughts. Years ago, it started with the off switch on the tape in my head.”

“Oh, I can relate,” Janet said. “Those words from my mother drilled into me had to go. ‘Marry young,’ over and over. I knew it but it took forever to accept all I had to do was stop the tape.”

Kate laughed. “God, Source, Him or Her, to whom do you pray?” 

A chorus of laughter fluttered around the room. 

“God,” Jennifer said. 

Kate nodded. “The answer isn’t outside yourself. It rises from the center, from inside.”

Jennifer sat back in her chair. Her head swiveled toward Janet, who smiled back. “She’s talked about this with me.” She smiled. “But I’m Catholic, so the ‘outside yourself’ stuff is a challenge. By definition, God is outside me.” Befuddlement spread across her face. 

Janet had a grin on her face. “How has it worked for you?” 

“Oh, hush, you’ve seen me thrash around on this subject. It hasn’t worked for me since the pedophile scandal,” Jennifer said. “Leaving the church left a gigantic hole in my life. But I had to.”

The room was still. 

“I still crave the ceremony of my church,” Kate said. “When I attend, my meditations during service go deeper. A friend in Los Angeles belonged to an Episcopal church with a separate small chapel open during the day. I often snuck in to meditate.”

The women stared at her, rapt in wonder at the conversation. 

“I was raised Southern Baptist in South Carolina. When I moved to Maryland, the first thing that went was church. I can’t lie. The misogyny got to be too much,” said Brianna, an aide to Senator Ashanti Williams.

“So, put your faith at the center. Don’t make it about the denomination. Think of faith as your foundation,” Kate said. “In meditation, the process begins with your breath. Clear your mind.”

“Stop the tape in your head,” Janet said.

“Nothing starts until you let go,” Kate said. “The mind can open up and reveal pathways and portals. You can always duck for cover in your brain. The machine of your body.”

Murmurs went through the group.

“Connection is when an answer to a question in your mind is presented or maybe you discover you’ve asked the wrong question. It depends on your level of commitment and the life you live.”

“If I’m good, you mean, it will work better?” Jennifer said. 

Kate’s guffaw surprised the group. Senator Bollinger’s aide understood a part of it. “Connection is complicated, not binary. I know many well-meaning people who are clueless. They live by rules. They won’t let go of the architecture. It begins with being honest with yourself. Assess your choices. Is the life you’ve chosen authentic to you? You won’t make your mark if it isn’t.”

“Senator Pullman is great, but she balked when I joined your efforts. If I could explain it to her, it would help.” Jessica paused. “Why this project now?” 

“Great question. Do all of you want me to continue? We’re talking about a giant puzzle.”

Nods around the room. When Janet nodded, Kate forged ahead. 

FIVE

___________

“People often feel what happens in Washington doesn’t touch them. No matter what happens, the politicians in Washington, D.C., aren’t compelled to act,” Kate said.

“But how did you discover… I’m not sure how to say this. How’d you go from the church to being psychic?” Jennifer said.

“I’ve not shared these details outside my circle of colleagues. My theory is anchored in the radical idea of religious interpretation and how Peter and the disciples stole Mary’s story.” 

“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this,” Jennifer said.

Brianna and the other women lit up.

“Man invented crucifixion long before Jesus Christ. Let’s agree Christ was magnetic. More charismatic than your average rebel. His revolutionary actions, beliefs, and declarations drew attention to himself. So, what if through prayer he opened the same portal you or I can tap through meditation?”

“What’s the difference?” Jennifer said.

“There are a lot of definitions, so you must choose what makes sense to you. For me, prayer is tied to traditional and patriarchal religious strictures. Prayer is an act directed to the ‘father.’ Meditation requires no church, no ideology, and no go-between. Spirituality is the biggest threat to organized religion because of the private connection to God or Source each person can develop.”

“Back to Jesus,” Brianna said.

“Is it possible that Jesus channeled from the Lord and spoke His words? Yes. The tougher question is whether you or I can perform the same miracle.”

“You believe we can,” Janet said.

Kate didn’t respond. “Enter Mary.”

“The whore, right?” Jennifer’s sarcasm was obvious.

“Convenient for the disciples isn’t it,” Kate said. She surveyed the women for reactions and continued. “The Gospel of Mary suggests she was ‘the first disciple.’ My belief is the disciples’ betrayal of Mary was the beginning of the subjugation of women inside the church which was replicated in towns and cities as a structure for society. Men in charge had the sole direct line to God.”

“It takes a penis.” 

Chuckles rippled through the women.

“Who said that?” Jennifer said.

“Guilty. Atheist, here.” Eileen Hall raised her hand. “Religion was Man’s way to design the world in his image. Christ was a convenient model.” She was from New York and Senator Murray’s aide. 

“True. The church was central to society for a long time,” Brianna said.

“Mary threatened Peter and the disciples because of her intimacy with Jesus.” Kate paused. “What if…” She met the eyes of each woman as she spoke. “What if Mary’s sight of the resurrection was a vision. Something she channeled through prayer. Her faith so sure Source spoke through her?”

“You mean it wasn’t physical?” Brianna said.

“Mary didn’t see the resurrection as I see you. It was… Oh. I never thought…” Jennifer’s voice trailed off.

“Jesus prayed to be spared by God.” Kate stopped. “Have you said this to God when on your knees? When life breaks you in half? The specifics don’t matter…” Kate’s voice was low. 

The women leaned in. The room stilled.

“This journey began for me when I was young. It consumed me. Kept me alive. Then I had to face doubt when I took philosophy in college. It became the voyage of my life.” Kate paused and took a sip from her water bottle. “Mary Magdalene’s story proves to me women’s authentic role is to lead the faithful. Jesus needed her, and she became a closer confidant than his disciples. It was a miracle they found each other. In today’s terms, they clicked, understood each other and both interacted with the divine. It was their bond.”

“Peter was jealous,” Jennifer said.

“Maybe Mary was a revolutionary too. She wasn’t written out of history. She witnessed it. A woman to verify Christ’s story. It was too much for the disciples,” said Tamako, the aide to Senator Millie Tan.

“We must construct our own narrative and respond to how religious men wrote about women since Christ. They decided only men could talk to God… You all know the rest better than most,” Kate said. “Man’s ego corrupted the church. His narcissism has led to the collapse of America’s moral compass.”

“Are you saying Mary’s visions make her psychic?” Alexandra said. Her face blared doubt.

Kate broke into laughter. “No. Psychic ability is another topic.” 

“Whew. Good,” Jennifer said. 

“The way men constructed the chapters of the Bible wrote women out, gave them disgraced biographies, or turned them into saints. But what was worse is they spoke of the ‘miracles’ in these Bible stories as extraordinary and something outside human experience. Mary ‘saw’ the resurrection, as if it was a physical event she could film.” Kate used air quotes and emphasized one word.

“If Mary had a vision…” Jennifer’s voice trailed off. 

The women stayed quiet. She hadn’t finished speaking.

“So could…we.” Jennifer turned to Kate, who smiled back at her.

“I’ve never heard it stated so plainly,” Janet said. 

“Traditional folks consider my ideas blasphemous. I’ve heard it all from the patriarchal crowd. Change threatens a lot of people. To religious leaders and their alt-right supporters, losing their influence through women’s equality is the ultimate threat,” Kate said. 

“It makes you the ultimate threat,” Jennifer said.

“Exactly,” Janet said.

The room was quiet.

“We each have our own crisis moment, but for me, it was the numbers of women sexually harassed at their jobs who have contacted us. Most women can’t afford to quit a job they’ve worked hard to earn. Many don’t want to because they love their work. So, women put up with abuses by men in authority when we shouldn’t.”

“This is off-topic, well, maybe not,” Janet said. “The President’s chief of staff has harassed more women than I can count. He’s a pig and so are his friends.” 

“He’s a dangerous man. Be careful with people like Patrick Boot. When we disrespect adversaries like the alt-right, we ignore their influence. Security One has access to information you don’t. Sources come to us all the time. Don’t think he isn’t on our radar.”

The women traded glances. “Maybe if American women stand up and deliver a primal scream people will pay attention. I had to do something but couldn’t do it alone. This affects every woman in the country, their daughters and granddaughters, but we don’t have enough of their stories. I want this to shock people awake.”

“We’re fighting to survive,” Janet said.

“Kate’s right. This is about religion, the church, and control. Where men banded together and used traditional life to control women,” said Janet.

Kate smiled. “Not enough men who run the world—”

“Rewrite. You mean White men.” Brianna smiled.

“Yes, I do. They didn’t change after feminism and White women gave them a pass.” She smiled at Brianna. “We have stories from women signed “anonymous” because they’re tied to non-disclosure agreements to get compensation from the man who sexually harassed them and cost them their job.”

“Women my age were too flip about feminism and were too quick to announce the post-feminist era. Conservative women were in a hurry because they’d lost their voice after Roe,” Janet said.

“I didn’t understand it because I’ve worked with groups around the world who save women’s lives every day because of cultural laws and ignorance. ‘Post-feminism’ doesn’t exist around the globe.”

“The Weinstein scandal shocked me,” Eileen Hall said. “Glamorous movie stars and you wonder what happened to them. Some did one movie then disappeared. It was insane.”

“And Gwyneth Paltrow?” Jennifer said. “What a story in the book She Said.”

“If feminism had worked men would have reacted, changed their behavior and there wouldn’t have been a Weinstein problem,” Janet said.

Kate nodded. “Neither me-too nor Weinstein stopped the changes to Title IX and Title X during the Trump era. The system further rigged against women. It was by design.”

Affirmations all around the table. 

“Okay. Let’s do this,” Janet said. 

“Oh, please, one more question,” said Alexandra. Senator Margarite Sanchez’s sister had a tortured expression on her face.

Janet deferred to Kate, who gave the okay signal.

“What about the psychic aspect of your meditations? I’m aware this is tricky to explain,” Alexandra said.

Kate’s laughter set off nervous chuckles around the room.

“When something rises out of my meditation. I never have awareness of where it will lead. Once I’ve connected to the message, there is no way to tell the outcome. But when I’m given something through a message from Source, I never doubt. The compilation of information or puzzle pieces takes time to form a picture to follow. To answer your unspoken thoughts, yes, it can frighten, astound, and terrify.”

A murmur fluttered through the group. 

“You nabbed the serial killer Raymond Drake through your… I’m not sure what to call it. Psychic weather vane?” said Jennifer. 

“Energy is tonal. It requires respect when you tap into where your instincts want you to go. The pull can overwhelm you.” Kate got quiet. “It can also kill. The draw toward knowledge is placed in the center of an abyss. It takes a mystic with a magician’s touch to unlock.” As Kate took in the women in the room, it was like witnessing story hour at a kindergarten class. 

A hand went up.

“Another question?” Kate waited.

“This is personal to me. I sense it is to you too,” Alexandra said.

“Yes, it is.”

Janet smiled. “Ditto.” Hands went up around the room.

“You don’t think Richards should be in office.” Alexandra waited.

“No secret. The president has few friends in our world. The national security industry employs over two million people in the Washington, D.C., area. He has little support and the ones he has are hoping to save their pensions. The rest of us want him out of office.” Kate took a deep breath. “Enough from me.”

The spell in the room was broken.

“Okay,” Janet said. “Let’s start with New York. Where’s the local outreach?”

Kate listened to reports from each of the women. Enthusiasm was high. The group was psyched because the first stories they’d read from women were strong and there were hundreds of them, and they were still coming in.

The dead woman in Kate’s vision wouldn’t leave her mind. 

Messages to her from Source. Kate had forced herself to trust it, although it was difficult when the vision was vague, with one object as a beacon.

For Kate, there was always an object. 

This time it was a dead woman, and snakeskin stilettos.

The worst part of the whole experience for Kate was the vessel aspect. There was no way this would ever be normal. The surprise was maddening and dangerous. If she became vulnerable in front of the wrong people, it could cost Security One. Neither Kate nor Clay had come up with a risk management solution.

Some events can’t be foreseen. … … …

Holiday photo: Markus Spiske, Unsplash