Penny made a quick road to feeling better having Bernadette in the house. They both met Micky when he stopped by for the promised photographs the next day. He appeared just in time to meet the police who were taking Penny’s statement at the time. He’d been shocked at how close he had been to the near tragedy and was going to take a rain check on the photo session after answering a few questions about what he had seen last night. Penny wanted to do something anyway and had Micky come with her and the investigating officers to get some pictures of the area and her after the ordeal. The attack had scared the hell out of her last night but Penny was determined her attacker wasn’t going to scare living out of her today. The police were reluctant to see the crime scene turned into a photo opportunity but Micky saw a news opportunity and bigger possibilities if he compromised a bit and he and Penny settled only he could get pictures of her and the scene and Penny would try to let the story lie as much as possible until the trial.
Howard even came by to say hello when Bernadette told him about the attack and he came see how she was doing which surprised both girls. He was still nervous about the house even though Penny and Bernadette assured him everything was perfectly fine. Penny wondered where Sheldon was through that visit. Howard and Bernadette were going out for dinner and they asked Penny if she wanted to come with them but she said she wanted to stay home. Penny was really wondering where Sheldon had gotten to. The house had been particularly busy today but he hadn’t shown up in any fashion.
Bernadette paused at the front door with some worry about leaving Penny alone after a long day of police and all the talking about last night. ‘You sure you don’t want to come? I could even ask Howard to stay for dinner here. I think he’d do that for the sake of everything you’ve been through, honey.’
Penny was warmed by the concern but she did feel safe having Sheldon here. She hoped he was here somewhere, anyway. ’I’ll be fine, go have fun.’
‘OK, but we’ll make an early night of it, anyway. I’ll be back around 9, OK?’
Penny shook her head because she didn’t want that nut to start overshadowing their lives but she was grateful to know Bernadette and Howard were there for her. ‘Alright, but don’t be afraid to paint the town a bit. I wouldn’t mind a call to say hello, though.’
‘I’ll do that.’ Bernadette and Penny shared a good bye hug and Penny waved them off on their date.
Penny locked the door and turned some of the downstairs lights down and got herself some lavender tea in the kitchen. She checked the downstairs locks just in case while the water boiled for tea. She saw no sign of her ghostly friend downstairs and she really wanted to find out where Sheldon had gotten himself to so she headed up to the study with her drink. She went out onto the balcony and sipped her tea and enjoyed the smell of the evening countryside. ‘Sheldon, honey, everyone is gone now, where have you gone to?’
‘I haven’t gone anywhere; I just thought you wanted some quiet time after last night.’ Sheldon appeared by his precious white board but he wasn’t sure what to talk about. He was still thinking about what Bernadette and Penny had talked about last night and by why Penny might have wanted him to not talk to her last night in the woods. ‘I wasn’t sure how much you wanted a man around the house after last night.’
Penny sighed and smiled a bit. ‘Oh, honey, why would you think that? This is your house, too, Sheldon.’ Penny sat in the wing chair under the Hello Kitty comforter she had for lounging with a good movie and put her tea down on the side table.
Sheldon sat on the sofa and wished he could articulate his feelings as easily as he could mathematics. ‘I was listening to you and Bernadette last night and it was a lot to think about.’
Penny seemed shocked for a second. ‘You were listening in the bathroom? What were you doing in there with us?’
‘Of course, I wasn’t in the bathroom. I am simply aware of the house, especially these rooms since they were the most mine, the place I felt most attached to. The first day you came, I wasn’t really aware you were here until you sat in that chair.’
‘Yeah, I remember hearing a guy’s voice; I thought it was Howard walking around up here.’ Penny remembered that first day and how comfortable she felt up here even with all the wacky stuff around. ‘So, how come you scared Howard instead of me or Bernie?’
‘He brought you both here and you seemed to like it here.’ Sheldon hadn’t really stopped to think why he’d never done anything to Penny to scare her away other than pack up her Care Bears.
‘I do like it here. It feels like I’ve always lived here. I don’t think it would have felt the same without your stuff here, though. So, why did you think I wouldn’t want you around?’
‘Perhaps, I misunderstood your asking me not to talk out in the woods? When you were speaking with Bernadette it sounded like you were exasperated to have men around. I recalled my experience with bullies and abusers growing up but it rather paled to what you and Bernadette described by comparison.’
Penny moved over to the sofa to sit next to her friend. ‘Oh, I couldn’t listen to anyone after that nut got knocked out. I was in too much shock to want anything besides silence. I’m sorry if you thought I didn’t want you around, I didn’t mean that at all, sweetie. Your showing up took all the fight out of him with that glowing trick. And, you’ve helped me with the physics and science stuff, run lines with me for hours; you’ve been one of my best friends. You are exasperating when you get into your finicky just so phases but you are one of the best guys I have ever known, Sheldon.’
Sheldon levitated Penny’s comforter over to the sofa for her. ‘Thank you, Penny, and I have enjoyed your company here greatly. It is odd that I didn’t notice your presence in the house that first day until you came in here. I normally notice such things before people even get in the house. Perhaps, my subconscious was telling me I was here alone too long?’
‘Oh, that’s so sweet, Moonpie. But, that makes me wonder, why are you here? What got you haunting the cottage?’ Penny had read through her books for stuff about ghosts and talked to her psychic. Her psychic had said it was usually some life trauma that kept a spirit bound to a location, something unfinished in life.
‘Penny, only my Meemaw calls me Moonpie. I really am not sure. My work, the arctic question, bringing my murderers to justice, take your pick; I really am not absolutely certain but I do believe some local feral cats may have avenged me.’
‘I was talking to my psychic a little while ago and she said unfinished work or quests can be something that holds spirits to the Earth, maybe this is all about your theories and the arctic thing you can’t solve?’
Sheldon scoffed at the suggestion. ‘Psychics, they are a most ridiculous source for suggestions. Which spirits told her that idea?’
Penny rolled her eyes at Sheldon’s myopic awareness. He still saw himself as a real scientist in a world without the supernatural. ‘I don’t know, but not ones that told her the existence of spirits was ridiculous, I’ll bet.’ Penny smiled at the frustration in Sheldon’s glare after that retort. ‘Look, you’ve been obsessed with that one thing ever since we moved in. It seems like you don’t think of much else besides scaring folks away, Sheldon.’
‘I have always valued my privacy, Penny, even when I was alive. Also, I am bound to the house and property so there was little else to occupy me before you came and made it possible for me to get outside. I never thought anything would bring me to think of it until you came and vandalized my models. You got me thinking of something besides my home and my work.’ Sheldon looked at the new models and comics Penny had bought for him. She was a breath of fresh air that he wondered if he would have appreciated if he had met her when he was alive.
‘Maybe, it’s not the work that needs settling; maybe it’s your ties to the people around it? Tell me about the arctic again. I remember Howard went, so tell me about the other guys, too.’ Penny thought whatever Howard’s guilty feelings were about everything it all kept coming back to whatever happened up north.
Sheldon looked out the balcony doors and recalled the expedition once again. He outlined what the experiment was and got back into the science of what he was trying to prove.
Penny shook her head in rejection. ‘No honey, you’ve told me about the science stuff. You’ve been over that stuff more times than I can count just while Bernie and I have been here. No, tell me about the people, why were they there for you and how were you set there with them?’
Sheldon couldn’t imagine what Penny was getting at since it did nothing to address the magnitude of what he was trying to discover or the depths the failure brought him to. ‘Howard, Raj, and Leonard were there because they were my friends. They were the people I trusted most to help me succeed in my project. Howard is quite good as an engineer in spite of having only an M.A. and it’s criminal he doesn’t apply himself further. Raj really understood my work the best of the group. His grasp of the theory and what I needed to succeed was far ahead of the other two. Sometimes, I wish he had come here since he might have been able to untangle this question with me. He was somewhat more focused on Leonard, though. Leonard is an experimental physicist. He’s not as profound as he imagines himself but he is a competent engineer when it comes to creating the machinery needed to test a theory. Unfortunately, he spent far more of his time bemoaning his inability to pursue his new found relationship with Priya.’
Penny snapped a glance at the new name and its association with a new found relationship. ‘Who was Priya?’
Sheldon groaned at the memory of Leonard’s whining for months up in the arctic and his frequent bouts with Raj. ‘Priya is Raj’s sister. She is a lawyer who had moved into the LA area from India to work at an international law firm on their Asian business law interests. Raj introduced her to us about a month before we left for the arctic. Leonard and Priya started dating 12 days before we left. Twelve days where Leonard had no work focus and was a constant source of distress with his arguing with Raj who didn’t approve of their dating. Raj is quite protective of his sister and felt Leonard wasn’t suitable boyfriend material. I was inclined to agree with Raj since Leonard’s focus is easily distracted by any pretty girl no matter whether he is in a relationship or not. That has put an end to more than one past relationship of his.’
‘How did Howard feel about all this Priya talk?’
‘Howard and Raj have been best friends for ages. I believe he felt caught in the middle. He wanted to support Leonard as a friend but he, too, was aware of Leonard’s shortcomings so he was reluctant to counter Raj’s objections to their dating. It was soon after we returned that Raj decided to take a job at a rather prestigious university back home in India with his parent's assistance. They are somewhat wealthy. I believe he took the failure of the experiment quite personally even though he was not affected by the fallout. Howard’s story you have some familiarity with.’
Penny was thinking about a lot, and especially about Priya. Besides the experiment, she was the one thing in this story that tied all four guys together and she tied them together before the experiment. Men bringing about disaster in pursuit of a woman was a theme in drama as old as time, just ask Helen and Paris. ‘Sheldon, I really think we should talk to Howard. I think his guilt might be deeper than just your death. He left his job and so did Raj right after you came back.’
Sheldon nodded. ‘Yes, the experiment was touted to have proven my theory but turned out to be unrepeatable and therefore unsupportable.’
Penny frowned. ‘Yeah, that’s what happened but I don’t think that was the cause of all this. What happened with Leonard when he came back?’
‘I am unsure. He seldom came here after he first met Priya. When we returned from the arctic I saw nothing of him at all except when we were in meetings with President Siebert and Professor Gablehauser over the embarrassment of my early release of results. Leonard was far more concerned to renew his pursuit of Raj’s sister.’
‘So, Leonard didn’t really face any consequences at all from this, just you, Raj, and Howard?’ Penny had watched enough Sherlock and Miss Marple, always look for who benefits most from the crime.
‘Why would he face any consequences, he didn’t release any false data?’ Sheldon had no idea where Penny was going with this.
‘Yes, why would he face any? Haven’t you ever thought about how much Priya is tied up in all this, Sheldon?’
Sheldon looked at Penny and gasped out a laugh. ‘Whatever for, she was in California and had no way to affect the experiment apart from listening to Leonard’s talking in his sleep about her? That’s a memory I wish I could forget.’
‘Sheldon, sweetie, you talk a lot about quantum entanglements in your work but I think you have missed a very obvious one in your arctic data. We really should introduce you to Howard and Bernadette.’