Richard Topham is a teacher of "harnessing psychic potential" and attempts to teach his students how to beam thoughts into another person's mind and move spoons with their brainwaves.
One day, Richard visited the Lilac Inn for a slice of pie in the summer of 1929 and since it was crowded, agreed to share a table with an older man. The man, Josiah Crowley, became interested in the idea of "harnessing his psychic potential" and insisted that Richard teach him everything about it, even letting him move right into his house.
When Josiah Crowley died, no one could find his will for months. Seeing an opportunity to take Josiah's vast wealth for himself, Richard forged a will using Josiah's own typewriter that left almost everything of Josiah's to him, including his house.
Richard Topham puts up flyers on the cars of the Lilac Inn's customers that advertise his psychic classes, which he hosts in Josiah Crowley's house. Presumably the Inn's previous owner Gloria Crandall didn't mind when she was alive, but her daughter Emily's new guardian Jane sure does. Although she usually ignores Richard, Jane is so distressed when the Inn's kitchen suddenly catches fire that she answers his question about the Inn's visitor, Nancy Drew.
When Nancy inevitably pays him a visit, he implies that he knows her name through his psychic powers and not because Jane simply told him. After making Nancy complete a packet of odd questions in order to make sure her mind isn't inferior and won't "damage his psychic energy", Richard allows her to look around the house and poke at odds and ends that used to belong to Josiah. Having already searched everything thoroughly himself for the real will, Richard doesn't mind if Nancy looks around and might even hope that she'll uncover something he hasn't.
Later in the day, he gives a lesson to a young woman named Ms. Deckman on moving spoons with her mind. He becomes increasingly frustrated with Ms. Deckman's endless questions until he politely but firmly cuts their lesson short, to be completed another time.
Before the end of the day, Nancy finds the real will in Josiah's safe deposit box, which left Richard Topham nothing. He claims he will prove that this other will is a fake in court, but Nancy's lawyer of a father Carson Drew believes he doesn't have much of a chance.
- Mr. Topham owns a grey cat named Uri who will mew ceaselessly unless he has his favorite toy mouse.