November 5th, 1974. 11:10 AM
It seemed that
every time I woke up lately I was in more pain than the day before. I guess
one could expect that to happen if they’re not going to sleep, per se,
but getting knocked unconscious on a daily basis.
injuries weren’t bad enough for me to be admitted to the hospital whose
waiting room I was currently occupying, just a couple of sutures in my
forehead. But I was told to wait around for some test results as well as for
a police officer who wanted to talk to me. I had no idea what town I was in,
but if the size of the hospital was any indication, it wasn’t a major one.
And that would explain me having to wait to talk to a cop, since there
probably weren’t that many on duty.
still hadn’t received any word on the severity of the accident. I don’t
remember what happened between that awful sound of impact and arriving at the
hospital. As far as Celia, Justin and Gilbert were concerned, I hadn’t been
Though several of my bones protested, and were quickly joined by various
muscles, I lifted myself off of the uncomfortable couch and limped to the
payphone. Earlier I had called information for the number of The Eye of
the Rainbow Dragon, but no one had answered. I knew there was no reason
for Sage not to open her shop on a Tuesday if everything was well and good,
and it was making me rather nervous when she wouldn’t answer. At first I
called every 15 minutes, but then it dropped down to every five. Again no one
picked up, so I decided to indulge myself in another awful cup of coffee from
the vending machine to kill some time.
this trip to the antiquated, hulking cube of metal I pushed the button that
offered cream. My first cup I took black, and the taste was so strong and
acidic I didn’t think I’d be able to force another one down unless it was
diluted by something…anything. The monolith spit out 25 cents worth of
coffee into the small cup, and I closed my eyes as I took my first gulp
expecting the awful flavor to be slightly lessened. It wasn’t. When looking
into the cup I saw just a black pool of coffee with some white chunks of
something that I assumed were supposed to symbolize cream.
poured the contents of the cup down the drinking fountain drain and went back
to the couch.
November 5th, 1974. 11:15 AM
minutes passed more slowly than most half hours, even with the help of an
inane game show playing on the black and white set in the waiting room.
Though I didn’t relish the act of trying to stand again, I was hoping on this
attempt Sage would answer the phone.
was in the act of groaning – merely anticipating how much it would hurt to
stand – when Celia entered the waiting room. She didn’t look like she had
just been in a car accident, in fact she looked like she’d just left the
makeup chair on some glamorous Hollywood soundstage. Her hair, as always,
fell into perfect place, and she wore a neatly pressed blazer and matching
“Mr. Louviere, I’m glad you’re okay,” she said. And though her words seemed
to show some degree of caring, her tone told me that my being up and about was
merely something to notice, not necessarily be pleased with.
“Celia, you seem to have come out of this better than you went into it,” I
said after finally having reached a standing position. Humor didn’t seem to
be working on her this morning. She handed me a shaving kit recently
purchased from the hospital gift shop, and pointed to the men’s room door.
“Go clean yourself up, I’ll be waiting out here. And don’t worry about your
clothes, I have a suit coming.”
“You have a suit coming?” I was stunned. “We’re in the middle of nowhere,
where are you getting a suit from?”
“When I’m on a job, Mr. Louviere, I like to present myself in a professional
manner, and I insist that those I’m working with look just as good. Now, if
you don’t mind, time is of the essence.”
“Wait, wait, just hold on,” I told her. “First of all, you didn’t answer my
question. I asked where did you get a suit? And secondly, who said we
were working together?”
“The suit is from a local tailor. I just guessed at your sizes, but I
wouldn’t be surprised if I’m pretty spot-on. I’m good at that kind of thing.
And secondly…” she continued, mocking my tone of voice, “I said
we’re working together. And if you could just give it a few seconds of
thought, you’ll realize that I’m right on this one. Now hurry up.” She put a
hand on my shoulder and pushed me towards the men’s room door.
* * *
After splashing a couple of handfuls of water on my face I felt brave enough
to check out my reflection. I looked like hell. The white bandage just above
my left eye was the only thing that wasn’t scraggly, wrinkled, bruised, or
just plain filthy. I had been wearing the same suit for too long, and during
its most recent tenure it had not only been through an auto accident, but also
spent some time lying in a dirty motel parking lot. And it still looked
better than the rest of me.
shave seemed to revive me a bit, and the kit came with a comb so I was able to
make myself look much more presentable than I would have believed just a few
minutes earlier. But it was the brushing of my teeth was one of the most
refreshing experiences I can recall.
was about finished, just making sure I’d wiped all the shaving cream from
behind and under my ears, when an orderly entered the restroom with a garment
bag slung over one shoulder.
Louviere? Sam Louviere?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’s me,” I answered.
young lady in the waiting room told me to give this to you.” He handed me the
November 5th, 1974. 11:40 AM
“You clean up
quite well, Mr. Louviere,” Celia said, handing me a new fedora as I stepped
into the waiting room. And though I would have preferred to have taken a
long, hot shower, I had to agree with her. The suit was dark blue with a
conservative, yet modern cut, and the fit was so precise it was hard to
believe I hadn’t spent several sessions having it tailored. The shirt was a
crisp white, and if I had any complaints they would be with the tie. It was a
boring shade of red.
Since Celia hadn’t mentioned the conditions of Justin or Gilbert/William, I
was aware that the news probably wasn’t good, but I asked anyway.
“Gilbert will be fine,” she said. “He has a couple of broken ribs, so he’ll
be here longer than we can wait around for him. Justin…” she trailed off,
noticeably choosing her words wisely. “Justin didn’t fare so well. He’ll be
kept here until he can be moved to a more modern facility.” Then, as casual
as a customer asking me if I have any moonstone gems on hand. “now, shall we
be on our way?”
paused, afraid of hearing the answer to my next question, but knowing it
needed to be asked.
“And what about Shirley?”
“I’m not familiar with anyone named Shirley,” she said in a cold,
“Shirley’s my car.”
“Ah, your car.” Her head tilted back slightly, and there was just the hint of
a smile. “Unfortunately your car didn’t make it. Let’s just say, once you
see it – or her rather,” there was a mocking tone in Celia’s voice that
I didn’t appreciate. “You’ll wonder how you survived at all. Don’t worry,
though, you’ll have plenty of time to mourn and retrieve whatever luggage,
beads, charms and whatnot, when all this is settled.”
turned and took a few steps towards the exit when she sensed I wasn’t
following her. She turned, her expression reminding me she was deadly
“I’m not going anywhere right now,” I told her.
“Excuse me?” She seemed genuinely surprised that someone wasn’t doing exactly
what she was saying, when she was saying it.
“I’m still waiting on some test results, and besides, the police want to talk
Celia stepped up to me and leaned in close, staring into my eyes. Then,
after a few moments of her impromptu checkup: “You’re fine. Let’s go.” She
grabbed me by the arm, leading me to the door.
“Well what about the police?” I asked. “I can’t just take off before they get
all they need about the accident.”
“Mr. Louviere, in case you hadn’t noticed, I take care of things.” Her tone
was deadly serious. “And one of the many things I’ve taken care of while you
were wasting your time watching silly television shows was the local law
enforcement. They have all they need, we’re free to go.”
really?” I asked, and instead of answering verbally her expression showed
extreme impatience. “Well maybe I want to talk to them. Have
you thought about that?” Unfortunately for my ego, Celia didn’t respond to
“And what would you tell them, Mr. Louviere?” She paused, but not long enough
for me to answer. “That some mysterious strangers and myself had kidnapped
you to help us look for some magic beads?”
just might,” I said sternly, but realizing how silly that was.
“And would waiting around here to talk to them bring you any closer to your
precious Sarah?” Again, she was right. I couldn’t admit it, so I changed the
like your necklace,” I told her. It wasn’t much, really, and could have
looked quite odd one someone else. But like everything Celia wore, she made
it look great. It was simply thin, silver strand supporting two faux pearls.
Now, I realize that a faux pearl is a faux pearl, and except for color and
size they pretty much all look alike. But these two I recognized, and I was
flattered that she wore them. “Which of the three clasps did you use?” For
once I seemed to set Celia off balance. Remembering what she had purchased
from me that night in the burger joint – oh, does that seem like it was
a hundred years ago – when she was pretending to be an innocent waif in need
of a birthday gift, had the hoped-for effect. It wasn’t much, just a twitter
in her demeanor that lasted less than a couple of seconds. But still, I had
gotten to her. Her hand absentmindedly went to the pearls.
“You have a rather amazing memory, Mr. Louviere. And I must admit, your
recent penchant for head injuries hasn’t made you any less sharp. That’s
good. I’ll need you sharp. Now, can we leave here and get on to more
smiled. I was proud of myself.
“Sure,” I said. “Let’s go.” I offered her my arm, but she didn’t take it.
November 5th, 1974. 11:55 AM
In the parking
lot we wove our way up and down the rows of cars, and Celia knit her brow as
she looked for ours.
“I’d rented us some new transportation,” she said. “They said it would be out
here by now. As you probably guessed, my car didn’t do any better than
yours. Ah, here it is.” She checked the license plate against a small slip
of paper she took from her purse, but we both new that precaution was
unnecessary. There was only one shiny, new, black Lincoln Continental in this
hick-town parking lot.
“Would now be a good time to ask where we’re going?”
“Sure,” she responded, but said no more.
“Then I’m asking,” I told her.
“First we’re going to retrieve the three beads that Justin, Gilbert and I hid
last night. I told them it was a bad idea not to keep them with us, but
Justin was able to convince Gilbert it was the smartest thing to do. I didn’t
like it, but I also hate to argue with an employer.”
The car was unlocked, and the keys were already in the ignition. As we pulled
out of the lot, I felt my eyelids getting heavy. I was going to sleep – real
sleep, not trauma induced unconsciousness – and I wasn’t going to fight it.
But I did have one thing to say to Celia before I dozed off: “They’re not
going to be there, you know.”
If she responded, I didn’t hear it.
November 5th, 1974. 1:40 PM
here,” was all Celia had to say to wake me. I’d slept well – a dreamless
sleep that I was grateful for.
“Where’s here?” I asked, but she didn’t answer. Just a few steps out of the
car and I found out.
“You left these valuable beads, these things that have caused me, you, and
others no end of trouble and expense, at a bus station?”
leaving them here was a stupid thing to do, Mr. Louviere, wouldn’t wasting
time looking for them here be just as idiotic?”
“They wouldn’t be wasting any time, Celia, and I think you know that. They’ve
got help. Moondagger. He’s lead them right to these beads. I’m telling you,
they’re not here,” I said, holding the door to the station for her.
“Ah, yes, your plumbing supply spiritualist,” she said. “I called his shop
this morning, and he wasn’t in. I talked to a young man named Lenny. He
seemed quite worried. It seems that he was sleeping on the couch, heard
nothing, and awoke to find Mr. Moondagger nowhere around. He says he didn’t
hear anything, but in the morning had a horrible headache. I’m guessing they
used chloroform on him.”
“So, you think they got him. Then why would you believe your beads are still
here?” I asked.
“Because I don’t believe in psychics, Mr. Louviere, just as I don’t believe in
magic beads, gemstones, pearls, crystals or little pieces of silver. I’ve
been paid to do a job, if my employer is off his rocker and wants to believe
in enchanted amber, I won’t judge him. But I will find what he’s looking
“What do these beads look like?” I asked her as we stepped over an
unconscious man in the hallway. “I mean, the other four are about the ugliest
beads I’d ever seen.”
“They’re not that bad,” she said. “According to the legend, these three are
the good beads.”
“The good beads?” I was extremely confused.
“Don’t you know the legend?” She asked.
“Well, mostly, yeah. Though it is kind of new to me.”
“Apparently when this Thibaut character was prancing around the world
collecting magic beads, he was able to acquire three of them through gentle
persuasion, trading, and outright lies that made the medicine men, or whatever
they were, hand over the beads of their own free will. With their blessings,
even. The other three beads, however, were acquired through threat or
outright violence. The mystics who handed over these beads cursed them,
filled them with ‘bad’ magic. That’s part of the power of the whole set
together: three parts white magic, three parts black. Both sides of the
universe represented equally.”
had reached a row of lockers and Celia took a key out of her purse. She
checked the number on the key ring to the numbered metal plates.
“That’s only six beads. What about the seventh?” I asked.
“Oh, you mean the one you’re taking me to as soon as we leave here?”
“That one supposedly is the ‘buffer’ bead. It’s placed in the center of the
magic necklace or whatever the owner’s supposed to wear. It keeps the evil
and the good separate, so as they’re not in constant conflict with each
other. Without that bead, Mr. Louviere, the powers would be at odds, and of
no use to anybody. Ah, here we are.”
leaned over, sliding the key in the lock.
“It’s a waste of time,” I told her. “Those beads aren’t going to be in
then she opened the locker, and we both looked inside.
..................to be continued
© 2006 Brightlings Beads
and M. Robert Todd