1st, 1974. 2:10 AM
When I was in the ninth grade my dad read a newspaper
article about how two friends who lived on opposite sides of the country
played a game of chess by mailing each other their moves. He was strangely
fascinated by the concept, and since he didn’t play the game, he tried to
talk me into finding a pen pal who would be interested in an interstate
match. When I refused, he found one for me, my second cousin, Albert
What started off as something quite boring
soon turned into an obsession, and I became very angry with my father for
getting me involved in it. During the summer I wanted to go out and play
baseball or go swimming, but instead found myself in my room staring at the
chessboard, wondering what devious plan Cousin Albert had in mind when he’d
written his last postcard. In my mind’s eye I would imagine him sitting at
a large writing desk, the board off to one side, scribbling his next move
with a great quill pen, the ink having been freshly dipped from an ornate
brass well. In his other hand he would be clenching a pipe. After
finishing his writing, he would read it to himself and throw his head back
laughing maniacally as the rosewood smoke drifted up from the pipe bowl and
curled around his shoulders, like some spiritual familiar proud of its
unearthly aid in the design of his strategy.
Since Cousin Albert was only 13 years old
and lived in a one-room tenement in the Bronx, I knew my visions had no
basis in fact. But I kept the evil apparition in my mind, for it gave me an
enemy I had to defeat.
It didn’t take long before I wasn’t
listening to my teachers in school, or my parents at the dinner table when
they asked about my day or reminded me of chores I’d forgotten to do (and
the ones I had better do tonight). Eventually my father sat me down and
gave me an ultimatum: either quit the chess games or stop taking them so
I wanted to end the matches, I truly did.
But I just couldn’t. My father suggested I relax a little. He said when a
new postcard comes, make the move on the board, study it for a few minutes,
and then get on with life. He told me when I least expected it, when I
wasn’t even thinking about the game, the right strategy would come to
me. And he was right.
After a few weeks, I spent little time
pondering moves. The proper offense would just pop into my head at any
time, and when it did, I’d write my cousin. Suddenly I was a much better
chess player, and in my mind Cousin Albert was now just a snot-nosed kid.
As a result I became bored with chess and haven’t played since.
I was reminding myself of this as I lay in
bed. I decided if I was to make any sense about the series of events with
the beads, Celia, my employees, and now Sage’s store being broken into (if
it was even connected to everything else), I’d have to just forget about
it. But when you remind yourself to forget about something, it is
impossible to do. (For example, don’t think of a monkey. See? You did,
even though I told you not to.)
Eventually I drifted off to sleep, and
though I don’t remember my dreams, I’m sure they were about beads.
1st, 1974. 9:30 AM
The plane back to Ohio was leaving that evening. I
decided to return and not wait around for Sarah who might not ever present
herself. That morning my first stop was the office to put together an
assortment of beads and other supplies to replace what Sage had lost. I
could have just had them mailed to her, but I knew she had a lot of work to
do to replace the finished pieces of jewelry, and with the Christmas
shopping season officially starting later this month, she had her hands
full. It would take me out of my way to deliver them personally, but if by
chance I was in any way responsible for her misfortune, I wanted to do all I
could to help her get back to a state of normalcy.
1st, 1974. 9:50 AM
I had two more
appointments before I had to be at the airport. Having gotten an early
start, I had an hour or two to kill, so I took a trip to the local public
library. After a few minutes of searching though the card catalogue, I
scribbled down the Dewey decimal numbers for all the books about (what
I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for,
so I grabbed a copy of Not Just Around Your Neck: A History of Beads
by Lawreen Kayle, So Why Aren’t You Beading Yet? by Junior
Matthews, and Magic That You Wear or The Spiritual Property of Beads
by someone who called him or herself Drasputin. I sat down in an
uncomfortable wooden chair and set the books on a table containing dozens of
impromptu carvings of initials and acid rock group logos before it really
sunk in that I didn’t even know where to start.
I took the book by Drasputin, opened it to
about the middle and started flipping back 5 to 10 pages at a time. I would
be lying if I didn’t admit that I fully expected to see a wood carving of my
gray-brown ugly bead, or a black and white photograph of some stodgy-looking
man in a sand-encrusted fedora holding it up against a backdrop of a
recently unearthed pharaoh’s tomb.
After spending my free time flipping
through the three volumes, I learned nothing that I couldn’t have found out
by asking around the office or having lunch with Sage Parker. Disappointed,
I left the library and headed to my first appointment.
1st, 1974. 11:15 AM
Officer Kelly Daily of the Seattle Police Department
had been a friend of our saleslady, Eliza Jones, since childhood, and like
Eliza had an obsession with beads. Shortly after Eliza was hired, she gave
her friend a tour of our office and Kelly’s nervous excitement could only
have been matched by a child’s private expedition through Santa’s workshop.
I was told that Eliza and Kelly spent most of their Saturday nights in
junior high staying at each other’s houses and beading while talking about
boys and fashion. I was in town the day she visited, and since I was
relatively new to the business, was still awed by how such little trinkets
could mean so much to so many people.
I had gotten Kelly’s phone number from
Eliza, and she agreed to meet me for lunch at a coffee shop downtown. The
reason I wanted to talk with her didn’t have as much to do with her
admiration for beads as her experience in law enforcement.
I had only been waiting in the booth about
10 minutes when Kelly walked in with her partner, a sad-eyed man of about 50
whom she introduced as Nolan. She was a very petite woman, but oddly enough
this probably worked in her favor, as everything hanging from her gun belt
seemed twice as large, and therefore, doubly intimidating. Her
straw-colored hair couldn’t have been long enough to touch her shoulders,
but she still had it tied back in a ponytail so it wouldn’t get in her eyes
if she were to take careful aim at a fleeing perp, or write a ticket for
jaywalking to some unlucky housewife.
I stood and shook each of their hands as
she introduced me to Nolan, and as we sat she had to raise her voice over
the din of clinking glasses, conversation, and the sound of metal flatware
on ceramic as she ordered “the usual” from someone named Maggie who was out
of my line of sight.
“Nice to see you, Sammy,” she said. “So
what’s new in the world of beads?”
I handed her a plastic bag about half the
size of a slice of bread filled with various samples of new product. Nolan
squinted at me, and even though I was just being nice, it felt like I was
paying off a law enforcement officer with contraband gems in a clandestine
meeting with nefarious intentions. Nolan, using his finely tuned cop
instincts, sensed my guilt and squinted at me harder. But when Kelly, in an
innocent, velvety voice said, “Aw, how sweet! Thank you!” he seemed to
“I talked to Eliza last night after you
called. She wanted me to tell you to have a safe trip if she doesn’t see
you before you leave,” she continued. “So, what can I do for you? You
sounded a bit worried on the phone.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really,” I said. And
then I told her of the uneasy feeling I’d been having lately, and how it
related to the curly-haired Celia Andrews, the experiences of my other
salespeople, the undoubtedly-Celia witch woman, and the maybe/maybe not man
in cahoots with her who had expressed an interest in unique beads in
“accidental” meetings with my female sales staff.
She looked at me for a moment with knitted
brows before she burst out laughing. Nolan chortled a bit, apparently not
at my story (I was a complete non-entity to him -- he was just there for a
sandwich), but at his partner’s guffaws. I felt my ears prickling, meaning
I was blushing the blush I always curse myself for not being able to get
under control, and it seemed to take much too long for Kelly to finally work
through the laughter and talk seriously about the situation.
“So let me get this straight,” she said as
the waitress placed empty mugs in front of them and filled them with
steaming coffee. “You’re hoping I can give you some advice from a law
“I’m not sure what I want,” I admitted.
“It’s just really strange, and I’m sure you’re used to dealing with odd
people and events, so I thought I’d bounce it off you to see what came
“Hmmm.” I could tell she was thinking
seriously and trying not to say anything that might embarrass me further.
“Well Sammy, to be honest, I’m not aware of any laws against buying beads
under false pretenses.” I’ll give her credit; at least she tried to
hold back her laughter.
I gave her time to catch her breath before
“I understand that,” I said. “But a
customer of mine, a good friend, really, recently had her store broken
into. She sells jewelry made from beads that I’ve sold her. This blonde,
Celia, had stolen my purchase order book a few days after I was at my
friend’s shop, so she knew I had sold her some beads. And when she was
going through my samples, she didn’t find what she was looking for, so isn’t
the obvious conclusion that she was backtracking? Tracking down my
customers to see if they had the bead she was after?”
Nolan rolled his eyes. (If I were in his
shoes, I would have also thought the bead salesman across the table was a
“Okay, where is this store that was broken
into?” she asked. “In Seattle?”
“No, it’s in Cincinnati.”
Nolan leaned over and pointed to the
placemat in front of me. On it was a map of the US, and each state had
cartoon icons displaying tourist sites and anything else the state was known
for. His index finger tapped at the state of Washington between a drawing
of the Space Needle and the lumbering silhouette of a Sasquatch.
“We’re here,” he said staring me straight
in the eye. “And Cincinnati is…” It was at this point he realized he had
no idea where Cincinnati is.
“It’s right here,” I said pointing to a
simple drawing of the half-circular Museum Center at the bottom of Ohio.
“Okay. So by my estimation that puts it
some two thousand miles plus outside of our jurisdiction.”
“Be nice, Nolan.” Kelly said. “How could
this woman have broken into your friend’s place and stolen all those beads
if you saw her here in Seattle?”
“Maybe she didn’t do it, maybe that guy
did. Or maybe there are more than the two of them. Besides, the robbery
was the night before the Christmas party so she had time to fly here.”
“Christmas party?” If Nolan had any doubts
that I was a lunatic, they had by now evaporated.
“Be nice, Nolan,” Kelly said again. “Have
you heard from any other customers that were in the book she stole?”
“Well, when you get back to Ohio, make some
calls, see if anything strange has happened to your other customers. But
most importantly, don’t make too big a deal out of it. It’s probably a
series of unrelated events, and when you consider the hours of driving you
do -- allowing for plenty of time for your mind to wander around and start
connecting dots that shouldn’t be connected -- well, you know, things can
look worse than they actually are.”
She thinks I’m as crazy as her partner
does, I thought as the waitress came by, setting a sandwich in front of
the two police officers. Though it was All Saints’ Day, I had the feeling
that nobody up there liked me.
..................to be continued
© 2006 Brightlings
Beads and M. Robert Todd