November 1st, 1974.  3:15 PM

 

I let the story of Thibaut's Beads sink in for a few moments.  I had a million questions, the most pressing being which one to ask first.

            "It's safe to assume, then, that this happened in France," I said to Sarah.  "But where in France? And exactly when?"

            "No, Samuel, it didn't take place in France.  Weren't you listening to me?"  Sarah said coquettishly as she gave me that sideways glance that always made my heart skip.

            "Yes, of course I was listening," I answered, and immediately my mind started backtracking.  With names like Thibaut, Aloin and Senet it had to have been France.  I thought I had clung to every word; what had I missed? Did the nobleman live on the border of Belgium? Maybe she mentioned that and it somehow went by me.  "Belgium?" 

            Sarah crossed her arms, pouted, and stared straight ahead.  I could tell she was teasing and wasn't really angry with me, but I still wanted to prove that I had been listening closely as she told the tale of Thibaut's Beads.  I picked up the demon head/flint bead, hoping in vain that it might give some clue to the story's origin.

            It didn't, of course.

            "But those names," I said, having no other course of action.  "It had to be France.  Where could it have been if it wasn't France?  My last name's Louviere, for crying out loud, you think I'd be able to spot a French name when I hear one."

            Sarah took the flint bead from my hand and put it in my breast pocket.  She then picked up the banana-shaped bead and the crystal and did the same with them.  "All right, Mr. Louviere," she said, mockingly adding more emphasis to my last name than usual.  "I'll tell you what makes it so obvious that the story of these beads did not start in, end in, or at any time take place in France, but only under one condition."

            "Agreed," I said.  "Whatever it is."

            "That we spend the rest of the flight talking about anything but beads.  Between my father and you, I believe I've heard enough about beads in my lifetime.  Wouldn't you agree?"

            "Well, beads, I mean, they're what I do," I explained.

            "Deal or no deal?"  She said sternly.

            "All right, deal.  But just for the rest of the flight.  That was your only stipulation."

            She then grabbed my hand and leaned close to me as if ready to whisper a well-kept secret.  "The story obviously didn't take place in France, because it didn't take place at all.  It's a legend, remember?"

            "Oh, no, that's not fair," I said, squeezing her hand, suddenly finding myself in one of those not-so-serious arguments that lovers find so endearing, but those listening find rather disgusting.  "You're playing a game of semantics, here.  I know it's a legend, but what I meant was, where did it supposedly happen?"

            "It doesn't matter what you meant to say, Sam, but rather what you did say.  Now, your question is answered, so what should we talk about besides beads?"

            "But didn't you want to hear about how I came into possession of these beads, and the strange things that have been happening to me and my employees?" I said, remembering our conversation just before she told me the legend.

            "Yes, but not right now," she replied, resting her head on my shoulder. "There will be plenty of time for all of that.  What I want to hear about is Sam.  Not Sam and crystals, or Sam and a handful of chalcedony or moonstone spherules.  I want to hear how you've been, what you've been up to."

            "I've been up to selling beads," I said quite honestly. 

            "Well then," she said, kissing me on the cheek before once again resting her head against me, "let's not talk at all."

            I put my arm around her, lying back as far as I could in my seat.  I then went to sleep, but only long enough to have dreamt of my great aunt placing seven beads into seven leather display cases.  Behind her stood the long-dead Aloin, now a ghost, wearing a serious frown.  I awoke to find Sarah in a very deep slumber, so for the rest of the flight I did my best not to move and simply enjoyed the smell of her hair.

 

November 2nd, 1974.  8:30 AM

 

            The city was Cincinnati, and the room number was 214.  It was in this very room           that I called the home office just a few days ago hoping beyond hope that there        may have been a message from Sarah.  As I expected, there wasn't, and I believed   I would never see her again.  Now fate had brought me back to the same city, and         sheer coincidence put me into the exact same room.  But this time instead of                      pining for a lost love, I was arranging some Bali-style clasps and toggles             in my display case as I waited for Sarah to finish her shower.  Her being here with          me was still almost too much for me to believe.  Every now and again I'd stop and   listen for the sound of the shower; afraid if I didn't hear it, it meant somehow            she'd disappeared or that she was never here in the first place.  On my third or             fourth listen I didn't hear the shower.  There was a pause just long enough for my           heart to leap into my throat before the bathroom door opened and Sarah stepped    out, tying her robe and towel-drying her hair.  The second good morning kiss she           then gave me was even sweeter than the first.  She sat down at a  small table      and began applying her makeup using a mirror she had taken from   her purse.

            "So what is on our agenda today, Mr. Louviere?" she asked.

            "First, some breakfast," I said. "Then I'm going to an interesting shop to replace some beads that were stolen from a customer.  I think you'll like it.”

            "Customers with stolen beads and a pocketful of mysterious trinkets that are forgeries from an old legend.  I must say, Samuel, your life is much more interesting than the usual bead salesman's."

            "Don't forget the most captivating aspect of it," I said, leaning in for my third good morning kiss.

 

November 2nd, 1974.  9:15 AM

           

While waiting for our eggs benedict, I again brought up the story of Thibaut's Beads.

            "You said those weird beads I have are just fakes, being pawned off on some unsuspecting rich person who knows the legend and believes it to be true, right?"

            "Oh, Sam, must we?"  Sarah was quite bored with the whole subject, but with Celia and her gentleman friend still in the picture, I really wanted to know all I could.

            "Just a few more questions, then I'll let the whole thing drop, okay?"

            A reluctant nod was Sarah's answer.

            "If a person believes the fable is real, then they must know that this Aloin guy spent the latter years of his life going all over the world purposefully losing the beads.  How could anyone be gullible enough to think they could have been found?"

            "The story goes on to say that since the beads contained the magic of sentient spirits, they are able to find each other...a force sort of like spiritual magnetism causes them to come together eventually."  Sarah thanked the waitress for refilling her coffee before she continued.  "It may take hundreds or thousands of years, but the beads will always end up together one way or another.  There are dozens of rumors that they've been reunited more than once since Aloin first separated them.  Various tyrants throughout history are credited with owning the beads; a necklace made of them being responsible for both their rise to power as well as their unavoidable downfall."

            "So why would anyone want them?" I asked.  "If, after all, they  undoubtedly bring misery?"

            "You know the answer to that, Sam," she said.  "Everyone wants power, and they think they can learn from the mistakes of others and handle things...differently."

            "I guess some people never learn." I said.

            "No, I guess not," she replied in a tone that told me she wanted to change the subject.

 

November 2nd, 1974.   9:50 AM

 

As Sarah and I walked arm in arm down the Cincinnati street, I did my best not to question her about Thibaut's Beads, those who may be after them, and some of the specific warlords who allegedly had them in their possession. 

            "That's the shop," I said pointing across the street to The Eye of the Rainbow Dragon.  "You'll like Sage, she's quite a character."

            Sarah stopped suddenly.  "Sam," she said.  "I'm sorry, but there was a luggage store a few windows back.  Would you mind if I went in and did some browsing while you went on ahead?  I need some new bags, with what mine have been through and all."

            "Sure, but why don't we both look after I talk to Sage?  I'd really like you to meet her."  I didn't try to hide the disappointment in my voice.

            "Oh, you go ahead.  I'll be quick, I promise," she said.  "I'll meet up with you, and I'm looking forward to meeting your friend.  I'll be right behind you, cross my heart."

            Instead of waiting for an answer, she kissed me on the cheek and headed back in the direction we'd come.

 

November 2nd, 1974.  9:55 AM

 

According to the handwritten schedule on the front door, The Eye of the Rainbow Dragon didn't open until 10:00 on Saturdays.  I was preparing for a five-minute wait when I noticed Sage coiling up the cord of a vacuum cleaner inside.  I tapped the glass to get her attention.

            As usual, her greeting was a warm one.  After unlocking the front door, she threw her arms around me and planted a big kiss on my cheek.  Maybe it's a good thing Sarah isn't here to see our reunion, I thought.

            "Sammy!" she squealed. "You made it!  Wow, now that is customer service! Traveling across the country with a couple of day's notice.  I am impressed!"  She then pushed me away, her hands on my shoulders, and held me at arms length, looking me up and down.  "I was just going to ask how you're feeling, but I guess I don't have to.  You're feeling pretty good, aren't you, Sammy?"

            Was my happiness with Sarah's coming back into my life that obvious?  Was I wearing the dopey grin of a puppy love-stricken schoolboy?  I felt the warm rush of blood to my face.  Damn, I hate it when I blush.  "How can you tell?" was all I could think of saying.

            She then placed the palm of her right hand about six inches from my chest.

            "Your aura," she said.  "It's fixed."

            I looked down to see no evidence of a repaired (or unrepaired) aura.

            “It is?”

            “It looks like it to me,” she said, taking my hand and leading me to the back of the shop.  Once there I set the bag of replacement beads on her display case.  Plywood made up the cube that was once glass.  “They smashed the whole case, those idiots,” she said.  “You’d think they could have just hammered one pane of glass, but no, they had to break them all.”

            “Are you sure you’re okay?”  I asked her.

            “Oh, yeah, completely,” she answered.  “It happened in the middle of the night so I wasn’t in any danger.  I’m not wigged out by it or anything, just a little ticked off that I’ve got to remake so much stuff and do it quickly.”

            “Sage, had you noticed any strange customers in your shop in the days leading up to the burglary?” 

            “Jeez, Sammy,” she said, playfully hitting me on the shoulder.  “Are you absolutely sure you’re not a cop?  Not only do you look like one, but you’re starting to sound like one.”

            “Sorry,” I said, spreading out the beads, findings, wire and other replacement items for her inspection.  “It’s just, well, if anyone sticks out in your mind as being particularly strange.”  I was hoping she’d describe a blond with curly hair, so I could connect the dots of suspicion that had formed in my mind.

              “Look around at what I sell, Sammy,” she said, waving her arm broadly.  “You’re asking me if I’ve had any strange customers lately?  Sure I have.  They’ve all been strange.”

            “You have a point there,” I admitted.  “Okay, so how about any unusually normal customers?  Or more specifically, a pretty blond who seemed rather anxious to get her hands on some beads, maybe for a niece’s birthday? Or perhaps a distinguished looking man?  That’s really all I’ve got as far as a description on him.  Just distinguished looking.”

            She bit her bottom lip, and thought for a few moments.  “No, sorry.  No curly-headed blonds, at least not any that aren’t usual customers.  And as far as ‘distinguished looking’ gentlemen go, you’re about as distinguished looking as I’ve seen inside these walls in a long time, Sammy.”  Then, changing the subject:  “So how’d you get your aura fixed Sammy?  If Moondagger couldn’t do it, I would have guessed that no one could.”

            “To be completely honest, Sage,” I said, straightening my tie, “I have no idea.  I didn’t even know it was repaired until you just mentioned it.”

            “Well, someone had to have fixed it.  I mean, auras don’t just go around repairing themselves,” she said, arranging the beads and comparing them to a handwritten list.

            “They don’t?” I asked.

            “It’s impossible,” she said confidently.  “But if it wasn’t someone, it may have been something.”

            Well, I thought, if it was someone it must have been Sarah, but she hadn’t seemed to notice my aura was dented, much less mentioned what she’d gone through to fix it.  And if it was something, well, the only new things I have around me now are those three beads.  But it couldn’t be because of them, they’re just forgeries.  Aren’t they?

 

 ..................to be continued

 

© 2006 Brightlings Beads and M. Robert Todd