November 4th, 1974.  9:00 PM       

 

"Wait, hold on just a second.  Are you sure she was wearing an amethyst and hematite necklace?" I asked Sage.  "I seem to remember her wearing poppy jasper and black onyx."  Truth be told, I had no idea what kind of necklace, if any, Sarah wore that night, but by asking a question I gave myself time to think about how to proceed.

            "I'm positive," Sage said quickly, giving me less than a second to ponder my next move.

            "You're not insinuating that she..."
            "I'm not insinuating anything, Sammy.  I'm just saying that I made the necklace she was wearing."

            "You're sure it wasn't made from a pattern?" I asked.

            "Sammy, I don't work from patterns.  I'm telling you, that is a Sage Parker original."

            "All right, then," I continued, "how many of that style necklace are out there?"

            She thought for about five seconds.  "I'd say I've probably made 15 or 20 over the last five years or so.  They've all been sold, except one that was..." she stopped suddenly.

            "Stolen when your place was broken into, right."  I didn't like saying this, and still, I wasn't accusing Sarah of anything – I was just going over the possibilities. "So there's about a 19 in 20 chance that someone bought the necklace legally and somehow Sarah got hold of it, right?"

            "Exactly," Sage said, in a voice as reassuring as she could muster.  "I mean, I sell to lots of people who turn around and sell the stuff to fancy boutiques.  And going by the way she dresses, I'm sure that's the only kind of store she shops in."

            "Right," I said.  "Then that's it, isn't it?"

            "Yes, Sam, that's it."

            "Well, you take care of yourself, Sage.  I'll give you a call in a few days, just to make sure everything's groovy."  I used one of her words to show how unconcerned I was about the possiblities we'd talked about, but I felt sounded clumsy and stupid.

            "All right, then, Sammy," she said, kissing me on the cheek.  "But try to stick to only using your square words, okay?  'Groovy' just doesn't fit you."

            "You’re right.  I'll call.  Stay safe."

            I stood there watching until she had driven safely out of sight.

 

November 4th, 1974.  9:05 PM

 

When I walked back to the parking lot behind the store, I found Sarah had recovered from her near-migrane.  She was standing by my car talking to Lenny K.  Before I reached them the horn of Moondagger's van blasted several short, impatient beeps at Lenny K.  He immediately said goodbye to Sarah and ran to the van.

            "'G'night, Sam," he said as he passed me, and the moment the passenger door slammed shut the van peeled out.

            My hastily thought out plan was to compliment Sarah on her necklace to see her reaction.  But as I walked over to her I noticed she wasn't wearing it. 

            "Feeling better?" I asked.

            "Much, thanks," she answered.  "Lying down for just a few minutes always seems to stave off those migraines.  I'm so sorry I missed all the rigamarole.  It seemed so exciting."

            "Oh, it was," I said, meaning it.  "It definitnely was."  I thought it best to say nothing more.

            I should probably mention here that I really didn't think there was anything strange going on with Sarah based on Sage's revelation.  I didn't want to seem suspicious.  I know women have a special ability to pick up on that, and if it was all for naught (or even if there was something to be suspicious about), if Sarah felt like something was wrong, it would only hurt me in the long run.  I merely kissed her and escorted her to the car.

            "Why Samuel, how chivalrous," she said as I opened the door for her.  I didn't mention that I wanted to check the pavement on her side of the car to make sure she didn't "accidentally" drop her necklace.  When I reached my side, however, I dropped my keys – but this was only a ruse so I could look under the car.  Nothing.  If Sarah had been wearing a beaded necklace made of  amethyst and hematite, she hadn’t dropped it in the parking lot.  That meant it was either still on her person, or perhaps she had given it to Lenny K.  If the latter was the case, a simple phone call in the morning would solve The Mystery of the Missing Necklace.

 

November 4th, 1974.  9:30 PM

 

We had been driving in silence for almost half an hour when Sarah finally spoke.  "That little fellow, Larry, is that his name?"

            "Lenny," I corrected her.  "Lenny K."

            "Yes, Lenny K.  He was telling me that Mr. Moondagger's ceremony got a little spooky at one point."

            "At one point?"  I laughed.  "Heck, I've only seen two of Moondagger's services, and I've found every moment of both of them to be rather spooky."

            "The Lenny fellow said that the other beads – well, most of them, anyway – were within a couple of blocks of where we were.  Don't you find that odd?"

            "Yeah, I certainly do.  I also believe that not only were they a couple of blocks from where we were, but they're most likely at most a couple of blocks from where we are now."

            "Do you think we're being followed by your mysterious blond?"

            "I'm certain of it," I said, leaning over and taking my address book out of the glove compartment.  I handed it to Sarah along with the notebook from my jacket pocket.  "Could you go through this notebook and see who I have appointments with tomorrow, and then jot down their numbers from the address book?  We're going to be driving most of the night, and I'll have to miss some sales calls I have scheduled."

            "And where are we going?" Sarah asked, with a slight bit of flirtatiousness, as if perhaps my sudden change of plans had something to do with an impromptu romantic interlude.

            "We're being followed by Celia Andrews or her distinguished looking friend, or more probably, both.  But they don't know we know we're being followed."

            "I, for one, am not following you at all, Sam," Sarah chortled.

            "They've got three of the beads,and I've got three of them.  They want mine, and – even though I'm not quite sure why – I want theirs.  We know they're following us, but they don't know we know.  I think it's time I tell them we ought to have a sit-down and get this thing settled once and for all."

            "That could be dangerous, Samuel," she said.

            "No more dangerous than pretending they're not around and being taken by surprise when they decide to liberate us from the beads using – how should I say this --  more illegal means to acquire them."

            "Sam you're starting to scare me.  We're not in danger are we?"  There was genuine concern in her eyes.

            "Well, they did break into Sage's store and steal everything, didn't they?"  I looked for a reaction, but she betrayed nothing.

 

November 5th, 1974.  2:00 AM

 

Ed & Lucky's Moto-Lodge hadn't changed at all since I'd last been there – not that I was expecting much since it had been less than a month since my previous visit, and even then I was quite sure it had remained exactly the same for at least the last two decades.

            "What a quaint little place," Sarah said with more than a little sarcasm.

            "It's where I first met the mysterious Celia," I said.  "She came to me in the middle of the night supposedly looking for beads to make her neice a birthday present– and like a fool I beileved her."

            "Don't be so hard on yourself, Samuel," she said, patting my knee as I turned off the engine.  "At least she didn't get what she was after."

            "No, but she was able to steal something valuable," I said.  "My purchase order book that contained every sale I had made over the past few weeks.  With that, she could backtrack and find out who I'd sold beads to...who I might have sold the bead to.  I'll be right back, ” I said as I got out of the car.

 

November 5th, 1974.  2:20 AM

 

As luck would have it, I was able to get the same room at Ed & Lucy's that I had that night so many weeks before.  Then again, maybe it wasn't luck, as my car was the only one in the parking lot.

            While Sarah took a shower, I turned on all the lights, opened the drapes, and placed my display case so it sat in plain view of anyone driving by.  This has to be a good enough signal that I'm onto them, I thought.

            And then I waited.

            Sarah came out of the bathroom looking more beautiful and sexy than I could have guessed anyone could while wearing my old blue plaid, flannel bathrobe.  She held two plastic cups in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other.

            "I was saving this bottle for a more romantic evening, Samuel," she said, grinning.  "But with all the excitement, tonight may have its own amourous offerings."  My smile undoubtedly came off false and disinterested.   "Thinking about your silly beads again, aren't you."

            "Yeah," I admitted.

            "Samuel, back in the car you said your order booklet held the names of those you might have sold the bead to."

            "Yeah?"  I was wondering where she could possibly be going with this.

            "Can I gather from that that you didn't sell your bead to anyone?"

            "I guess you could say that."

            "So you still have it?"  She moved closer, speaking seductively, barely above a whisper.

            "No, I don't.  I didn't sell the bead," I said.  "I..."

            "You what?" she said, after a long pause.

            I had no idea what to say.  My heart was telling me anything I said to Sarah would be safe, that she was on my side.  But in my mind there was an entirely different argument going on.  If she was wearing a necklace made by Sage, where did she get it?  Could she have bought it in a shop somewhere?  Yes.  Does it make more sense that it was given to her by whomever broke into Sage's store, or that -- just maybe -- she had stolen it?  Yes, of course it made more sense.  But having traveled as extensively as I had, and having met as many interesting people as I had, if there's one thing I've come to realize it's that no matter the case, stranger things have happened.

            So here I was, stuck in one of those arguments between my heart and my mind that never seem to occur unless there's a beatufiul woman around.  And from previous experience, I realized there's only one way out of this predicament --  by lying to myself.

            I need to keep this information from Sarah, I justified, for her safetyIf something were to happen to me, wouldn't it be best if she knew nothing, or at least as little as possible?  Could I live with myself if I put her in danger?

            It only took a moment, and though they agreed to disagree, my heart and mind were at least in accordance with how to handle the situation; tell Sarah as little as possible.

            "I lost it," the lie came easily now.  "I'm not sure where.  It was with me for years, and then one day I noticed it was gone.  For how long?  No idea."  I took the wine from her, filled the cups, and raised one in a toast.  "Here's to tonight.  Let's hope something happens."

            "Oh, I'm sure something will," Sarah said touching her cup to mine.  "One way or another."

 

November 5th, 1974.  3:00 AM

 

I was sitting by the table with Sarah on my lap, doing my best to stay awake.  She had given up the battle against sleep about 10 minutes before, and the slow rhythm of her breathing wasn't doing much in helping to keep me from slumbering.

            How stupid, I thought, thinking Celia and her cohort( or cohorts) would take our stay at Ed & Lucy's as an invitation for some kind of truceThey have the upper hand, and they're going to keep it that way.  It was then that I noticed a second car in the parking lot, and for a moment my heart skipped.  But it wasn't a Lincoln Continental, it wasn't black, and neither Celia nor a distinguished looking man emerged from it.  Someone else had gotten a room.  Nothing more, nothing less.

            I leaned forward slowly and carefully so as to not wake Sarah.  Putting one arm around her back, and the other below her knees, I was able to carry her to the bed.  She let out an extended exhale, and her eyes opened briefly, but she hadn’t awakened.  As I lifted the downturned blanket to cover her, her purse appeared, and I had an irresistible desire to look inside.  After checking that she was truly asleep, I gently placed my finger at the lip of the leather bag and opened it.

            Nothing, just as I thought.  I knew I should be ashamed of myself, but at the same time I realized I hadn’t gotten a decent look inside.  I leaned forward, moved her wallet and hairbrush aside, and saw a piece of jewelry made of amethyst and hematite.  My heart sunk, I felt betrayed, but instinctually my brain now took Sarah’s side.  So what? I rationalized.  She has a necklace that may or may not have been made by Sage.  Who’s to say Sage hadn’t seen one just like it and copied it?  Or so what if someone bought a necklace from Sage and sold it to someone else?  My heart wanted to wake her up and confront her with the string of beads then and here, but luckily my mind prevailed, keeping me from doing what would undoubtedly be irreversible damage to our relationship.  I closed her purse, telling myself I had all night to think about what to do.

            Just then the light from a pair of headlights sliced across the room.  Both my heart and mind agreed to instantly forget about any suspicions concerning Sarah and beads.  I ran from the room out into the parking lot, only to see two red taillights pull out onto the street and drive away.

            I’m going crazy, I thought.

            “You’re going crazy.”  I turned to see Sarah standing under the doorway, not knowing just how much she was agreeing with me.  She clutched the top of the robe, pulling it closed.  There was deep concern in her eyes.  “If those people do come looking for those phony beads, just hand them over, Samuel.  Give them up, it’s not worth putting yourself through this.”

            She was right.  I didn’t believe for a second that the seven beads were the infamous Thibaut’s Beads – though some of Moondagger’s  revelations made me think there was something to them.  But whatever it was they possessed, power, charmed spirits, or mere luck, it wasn’t worth losing both my sanity and Sarah for them.  I took the beads out of my pocket, and stared at them resting in the palm of my hand.  How stupid I’d been to let them get between me and anything else, most importantly  Sarah.

            “You’re right,” I told her.  Then I spoke loudly to no one.  “They’re right here, if you want ‘em, come and get ‘em.  I’ll hand them over.  I don’t even want them anymore!”  I was half-expecting Celia Andrews to come walking in, smiling broadly and only saying “thank you” as she took the beads, but there was no response of any kind.  I put them back into my pocket, and Sarah came to me, her arms wide open.

            I fell into her embrace, and the kiss was one of the sweetest we’d shared.  It was passionate, of that there was no doubt, but I’m not sure if it was a long kiss.  My memory here has kind of faded as during our embrace I lost consciousness from a strong blow to the back of my head.

 

 

 

 ..................to be continued

 

© 2006 Brightlings Beads and M. Robert Todd