November 5th, 1974. 2:15  PM

It didn’t take us long at all to reach Saul’s, (aka Moondagger’s) plumbing supply shop, for the bus station was just around the corner.  What took longer than expected, however, was convincing Celia to take me there.  I finally had to threaten to just look up the address in the phone book before she finallyconceded.  I don’t think it was a lack of faith in my plan that was making her so obstinate – after all, she had no idea what my strategy was.  The problem she was facing right then was that, for once, she wasn’t in charge.  She needed me more than I needed her, and she couldn’t stand the fact that she was going to have to listen to me.
            “I don’t know what you expect to find here, Mr. Louviere,” she said as we walked across the parking lot.  “If this Moondagger character can find that last bead, the people we’re racing against are well on their way to it.”
            I stopped before going into the store.  “Do you like cartoons, Ms. Andrews?”  I asked.
            “Excuse me?”  She was becoming irate, and I was loving every second of it.
            “Cartoons.  You know, drawings photographed so they look like they’re living beings.  They usually involve anthropomorphized animals chasing each other, getting in all kinds of high jinx.  Their faces take the shape of a frying pan when they’re hit with one, that kind of stuff.”
            “I know what cartoons are.  And no, I can’t say I’ve spent much time watching them in the last 20 years.” 
            “Well there’s a famous one you may have seen.  It’s about a mouse apprentice.”
            “Someone was apprenticing to be a mouse?”
            “Funny,” I said, even though it wasn’t.  But we both knew she wasn’t attempting to be humorous, just trying to be difficult.  “No, he was already a mouse, he was a wizard’s apprentice.”
            “Mm hmm.”
            “Well, one day he tried to test himself – see if he could perform some of the magic he’d seen his mentor do.  And to his surprise, he did some pretty amazing things.”
            “Look, Mr. Louviere,” she said, looking at her watch more for my benefit than for her own.  “I think I know that one.  If memory serves, it turned out to be quite a disaster for the little rodent.”
            “Well, yeah, in that case it did,” I agreed.  “But the fact remains that he did perform magic.  Truly amazing, wonderful, spectacular acts.  And he was only an apprentice.”  I inhaled deeply with an air of superiority as I hitched up my pants.  I had won this round.
            “Alright,” she said.  “I only see two things wrong with your logic.  First, I doubt we’re going to find a rat with magic powers in this plumbing store, though I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on that one.  And second, you may not realize it, but what we’re doing is very important.  To base our plan of action on a kids’ movie doesn’t seem to be the wisest choice.  For quite some time now I’ve made my living – a rather lucrative living – by solving people’s problems.  And not once, not in the stickiest of situations, have I ever, ever, made a decision based on a movie about ducks, rabbits, or mice that I had seen as a kid.”  She was overly excited, and even more perturbed.  She jabbed her index finger into my chest to accentuate each syllable of her rant.
            “Are you through?”  I asked, when eventually she seemed at a loss for words.
            “”Not at all, Mr. Louviere, I haven’t really even started.  If I’m ever questioning which clasp to buy that would best accentuate the faux pearls I’m using to make a bracelet, I’ll respect your opinion.  If I happen to be in doubt about whether to use Czech glass or crystals when stringing a necklace, or what kind of spacers to use, I’ll call you, I promise.  But when I’m looking for something, when I’m being paid to find anything – be it the burial place of an Aztec king, or, yes, even beads, I’m the professional.”
            I gave her a few seconds to calm down.  It took longer than I’d expected.
            “Alright, Celia,” I said eventually.  “You’re doing your job fine.  You’re looking for seven beads.  You know who has six of them, you’ve got me on your side, and I’m the only one who knows who has the seventh.  So, just relax, take a deep breath, and indulge me for a few minutes, okay?”
            She didn’t answer, and just stared at me.
            “If you’ll just give me the opportunity, I may be able to offer a little assistance that might help resolve our shared concerns.  If I’m wrong, we’ll do it your way.”  Then, after a long pause during which she stared at the sky for a while before running her fingers through her ever-perfect hair, she gave up.
            “I’ve had the displeasure of working with some real interesting people in my day,” she said.  “But I have to say, Samuel, I’ve never met anyone quite like you.”
            “I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said as I held the door open for her.
            “You shouldn’t,” she said as I followed her into Saul’s store.

November 5th, 1974. 2:20  PM 

My first thought as I entered the plumbing supply shop was that I was glad my great-aunt decided to go into the bead business.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of plumbing, and I admire anyone who has taken the time to understand it.  But all I saw were pipes, fittings, valves, and things I could make neither heads nor tails of.  What on earth would make Saul decide to go into this business? I thought.  Did he get a thrill when a new product came in?  Though I personally am not much of a beader, at least I can look at new merchandise and say, “Now there’s a pretty pendant,” or be amazed at the way a small chunk of onyx has been cut and polished.  But then again, I admitted to myself, my off hours are a bit more mundane than Saul’s.  Maybe there is some cosmic balance after all.
            Unlike when I had been here the previous day, the store was actually pretty busy.  Either the people of Sardinia had suddenly realized they’d been starving for plumbing equipment, or Saul’s cheesy, poorly-made television commercial was starting to grow on them.  The layout of Saul’s Plumbing & Supply was quite the labyrinth.  Even though I had been in the store just the day before, it took several minutes to find the cash register.  When I did, standing behind it, looking more disheveled than usual, was the young man I was looking for: Lenny K.
            I waved, but Lenny K. was too preoccupied with a line of customers to notice me.  He looked flustered, overworked, and worried.  So I just stood behind an anxious-looking man holding a plunger and waited our turn.  Celia sighed loudly, again looking at her watch.  Then she rolled her eyes.

November 5th, 1974. 2:35 PM

The line moved slowly.  Lenny K. did his best to check out the customers and answer their questions, which – from the ones I heard – forced me to give him a little more respect when it came to the brains department.  When we were almost at the counter I became very annoyed at the man with the plunger, for though he didn’t have much to ring up, and had no questions that pertained to plumbing or the hardware involved, he appeared to be starving for conversation and said anything to keep the dialogue going with Lenny K.  I finally interrupted when he started reliving the time his dog stepped on a bumblebee some years back.
            “If you don’t mind, sir,” I told him.  “We’re in a bit of a hurry.”
            I was given a sour look, but he eventually took the plunger from the counter and huffed out.
            “Welcome to Saul’s Plumbing & Supply, did you find everything alright today?”  Lenny K. was rearranging the bills in the cash drawer, and hadn’t yet looked up to see me.  When he finally did, a bright smile flashed across his face, but it only lasted for a moment.  It was soon replaced by a look of suspicion and a step backward.  “Oh, it’s you,” he said.
            I can’t say I blamed the poor kid for questioning what my latest appearance in the store actually meant.  Things always got a little weird for him when I was around, and right now he had a store full of people to deal with, not to mention the recent disappearance of his boss/friend/mentor.
            “I’m sorry, Lenny.  I can tell you’re a little shorthanded here, but I really need to talk to you.”
            “Is it about Saul?”  He asked.  For a moment a look of hope flitted across his eyes.
            “Sort of, yeah, I guess you could say that.”
            “Do you know where he is?” he asked.
            “Again, sort of,” was all I could tell him.
            “Is he okay?”
            “Probably.”  My answer wasn’t very encouraging, but at least it was honest.
            “Look, I’m real busy here right now.  Saul would kill me if he lost customers ‘cause I wasn’t doing my job.  ‘The store comes first,’ he always says.  So if you could come back at closing….”
            “That would be too late.” Celia was leaning across the counter and staring at Lenny K. with a ferocity that surprised even me.  “It would be too late for me, too late for Mr. Louviere, here, and most importantly, it would be late for your wizard friend, or whatever he is.  So, if you could just point us to a nice quiet place where we could talk, we can get this show on the road.”
            The young man’s eyes went wide, and he reached underneath the counter.  I half expected him to pull out a baseball bat or a shotgun and send Celia and me on our way without his assistance.
            “C’mon, already!”  An irate voice from behind us began to groan.  “First the guy with the dog and the bumblebee, and now whatever confounded nonsense this is!  I need to get home and get my damned toilet fixed, if you freaks don’t mind.”
            I turned, ready to tell the man to keep his mouth shut, that my business was much more important than his toilet, and he’d better not start anything he couldn’t finish.  When I saw what a mountain of a human being he was, however, I simply apologized for causing his delay and promised we’d be out of his way shortly.  Then, turning back to Lenny K., I was relieved to see it was only the microphone to the PA system that he’d retrieved from underneath the checkout counter.
            “Attention Saul’s Plumbing & Supply customers.  We regret to inform you that due to a family emergency, the store will be closing in 15 minutes.  Please bring your purchases to the checkout counter at this time.  Thank you.  And remember, with a little help from Saul’s you’ll be able to flush anything down your commode, except your hard-earned money, that is.”
            “Lenny,” I said, deadly serious.  “That is the worst slogan I’ve ever heard.”
            “For once today I agree with you, Mr. Louviere,” Celia chimed in.
            “Well I didn’t make it up, I just have to say it.  Now, go back to the office,” he said, pointing behind us.  “I’ll meet you back there in a few minutes.

November 5th, 1974. 3:15 PM

“I still don’t know why we’re wasting our time here and waiting for that weird kid.”  Celia was mad.  I could tell she was relishing the thought of getting this job over with and never having to see me again.
            “It’s simple,” I told her, trying to make my voice as calm as possible.  “If Moondagger was able to sense the other beads, then maybe Lenny K. can also.  If we can get a line on where the beads are, then we’ll also know where the people who have them – who have Sarah – are.”
            “But if this Moondagger fellow can hone in on the missing bead, then that’s where they’ll all be, right?  And since you already know where that bead is, shouldn’t we have headed there hours ago instead of wasting time with this douser, or whatever he is?  And that’s assuming he can detect those beads, which I doubt he can.”
            “Listen, Miss “I-Can-Find-Anything-Or-Anybody”, you have the car keys.  If you don’t like the way I’m handling things you’re free to leave.  But if you can have just a little faith, and wait a few more minutes, we’ll be on our way.  If I’m right, it’ll be because of Lenny K’s help, and we’ll be glad to have had it.  If I’m wrong, it’ll just be the two of us again and I’ll be eating crow from now ‘til you bid me adieu.  But either way, we’ll be heading for the last bead in just a short time.”
            Celia just huffed and started leafing through a copy of Pipes & Conduits Magazine.  She barely had time to settle on an article to pretend to read when Lenny K. entered the office.  The poor kid was flustered and confused, and I had the sinking feeling I was about to make him feel even more so.    I offered my hand, and he shook it after wiping the sweat from his palms onto his jeans.
            “Lenny, thank you so much for taking the time to listen to us,” I said.  Then, noticing the uncomfortable stare he giving to, and getting from, Celia, I thought it was a good time to introduce them.  “Lenny K., this is Celia, she’s a friend of mine.”
            “Nice to meet you,” he said without meaning it.  He then looked at me with scared, round eyes.  “So?”
            “Take a seat, Lenny,” I said.  “I used to be pretty skeptical when it came to all things psychic, I’ll have to admit that.  But after having met Moondagger, I’m leaning towards being a full-fledged believer now.”
            “Moondagger’s the real deal, man,” he replied.
            “I know, I know he is.”  I was trying to keep Lenny K’s gaze on me, for if he looked over to Celia, her expression would erase all doubt as to whethert there was a nonbeliever in the room.  “And I’m curious, Lenny, how long have you worked with Moondagger?”
            “In the spiritual sense, or the plumbing sense?”  He asked.
            “In the spiritual sense.”  I heard Celia stifle a laugh, and hoped Lenny hadn’t.
            “About three years, give or take.”
            “Okay, that’s a while, I’d say.  And in that time, would you guess you’ve learned anything?”
            “Oh, man, yeah, totally.”
            “Like, for instance?” I asked.  Lenny’s eyes went totally wide, his posture relaxed.  With this conversation, he was finally back in his element, and enjoying it.
            “I’ve learned that the universe is like a suitcase.”  I had to hold up a restraining finger towards Celia to keep her from saying something smarmy that would cause me to lose Lenny K’s trust.  “Like, you look at a piece of luggage, and you don’t know what’s inside, right?”
            “But if you open the luggage, all you have to do is look, and you can see everything in it.  That’s just like the universe.  People say they can’t make sense of it, but if they’d just open their minds, open their souls, it’s all laid out for them.  All nice and folded, with all the great answers to the great questions in their proper places.”
            “Now, I need you to be very honest with me Lenny.  Are you able to open your mind and spirit and see what the universe has in store for us?”
            “Well, I’m not as good as Moondagger.  I mean, nobody is.”
            “I’m aware of that,” I said. “He’s the best.  But since you’ve trained under the best, can you do what he does at all?  Even a little bit?”
            “Sometimes, yeah.  Sometimes I surprise myself I’m so good.”
            “Great, I knew it,” I said. “Now, Lenny, we need your help badly.  Unfortunately things have gone a bit awry for me lately so I don’t have anything to offer.  But at the home office we just got in some great stuff, and I can have it sent to you in a couple of days.  I’m talking about some of the most beautiful sterling silver toggles you’ve ever seen.  Not to mention some pewter bead caps and links that you and Moondagger would just love.  So if you help us out, I’ll not only be generous with those, but I’ll throw in some Thai silver beads that they don’t even make anymore.  So what do you say?”
            “Well, I can try,” he said.  “I mean, if this will help Moondagger, I’d do it for nothing.  But as he always says, the powers may not even come one’s way unless they’ve been given an offering.  So if you’re offering, I’ll try.”
            “Great.”  I was as excited as Celia was frustrated.
            “Just one thing though,” he said.
            “Anything, Lenny.”
            “I need to know what you want me to do.”
            “Oh, right, of course.  Celia, could you hand me those beads we found this afternoon?”
            With a huff, Celia opened her purse and removed the leather satchel.  After taking out the silk pouch, she handed it to me.  I spilled the three beads into the palm of my hand and showed them to Lenny K.
            The immediacy of his reaction surprised me.  The moment he gazed upon the beads his eyes turned into circles and his jaw fell slack.  It was all he could do to move his lips to utter, “Oh my God.”
            I looked at Celia and even she seemed shocked at how instantly the beads effected him.
            “What is it Lenny?  What do you see?”
            “Those….those are the ugliest freakin’ beads I’ve ever seen in my life.  I mean, they’re hideous.  Those aren’t what you’re trying to push off on me, are they?  I don’t think Moondagger would want me to contact the universe for anything so ugly, even if it could get him out of whatever mess he’s in.”
            Celia laughed.  More at me than at Lenny K., but he didn’t know that.  He shot her a dirty look. 
            “Take it easy, Lenny, she just doesn’t understand.  Now, first off, these aren’t what I’m offering.  I know they don’t look like much, but I was wondering if you could get some kind of reading from them.”
            “Like what kind of reading?” He asked.
            “I’m not sure.  Anything.  You’ll know it if you feel it.”
            Lenny shrugged.  “I can give it a try.”
            “That’s all I’m asking, Lenny.  That’s all I’m asking.”
            Lenny looked at the beads for a few more moments and gave another expression of distaste.  Then he stood.  “Alright, give me a second, I’ll be right back.”  He then disappeared into a back room.
            Celia shook her head, and went back to the magazine.

November 5th, 1974. 3:35 PM

After a few minutes, Lenny K. emerged from the back room wearing the bathrobe I was now familiar with.  The only problem was, Celia wasn’t familiar with any of this, and I was afraid when she rolled her eyes Lenny would take offense and stop right there.  Luckily, it didn’t seem to bother him.
            Lenny put a few candles out on the floor, pushed a couple of folding chairs out of the way, and knelt.  After lighting the candles, he motioned towards the light switch.  I reached over and turned out the lights.  Lenny was bathed in an eerie flickering of oranges and yellows.  He raised his palms towards the ceiling, and began to hum.
            “Oh, great everythingness,” he wailed louder than I was expecting.  “I am a part of you, yet there is still so much you are keeping from me.  Humbly, I ask from you what you needn’t give me, but that would be…”  he paused, searching for the correct words.  “….much appreciated.”  I doubted those were the right ones, but who was I to say? 
            After a long pause, he held out his hands and whispered out of the side of his mouth.  “Give me the beads.”
            I handed them over and he clutched them near his chest, humming some more, and then whistling.
            “There is a secret to what I hold in my hand,” he said eventually.  “I ask of you, since you’re everything, everywhere, all the time, that you reveal it to me.  Tell me something, anything, to make me wiser than I am right now.”
            I wasn’t feeling too good at that moment.  As clumsy as I thought Moondagger’s chanting was the first time I’d heard it, he was downright eloquent compared to his apprentice. 
            Lenny K. then held the beads in one hand so tightly his knuckles went white, and threw his clenched fist upwards.  He leaned forward and put the other hand on my chest.  He stared directly at me – into my very soul, it felt – with wild, feral eyes.  Celia leaned forward, as curious as I as to what would happen next.
            “Lenny, what is it?”
            His mouth fell open and he gasped slightly.  It was just as if he was on the verge of telling me every single secret the universe had kept locked up until now.  Then he deflated.
            “Nothing.  I’m sorry, I’m getting nothing.”  He stood and turned the lights back on.  “I don’t know why, I felt I was in touch, but I just didn’t get anything that could help you…or Moondagger.”
            Celia scoffed.  “Can we go now, Mr. Louviere?”
            Apparently they didn’t realize the importance of what had just taken place.  I stood immediately, clapping my hands and hooting in excitement.  “I knew it, I knew it!”  I grabbed Lenny K’s hand and pumped it vigorously. “You did it, kid.  You did everything right!  You can help us, and more importantly, you can help Moondagger.”
            “I don’t think I quite understand what’s going on here, Samuel.”  Celia said, placing a hand on her hip and looking rather perturbed.
            “I have to admit, neither do I,” said Lenny K.
            “Don’t you get it Celia?  I didn’t tell Lenny that those beads were fakes.  If he was pulling some scam on us, he would have given us some gibberish and expected payment.  The fact that he felt nothing proves that his feelings were correct!”
            “Wait just a minute,” Celia said.  “You’re trying to tell me that because a kid who may not even be psychic, didn’t get any kind of reading off beads that aren’t magical, that’s supposed to prove he has a ‘gift?’”
            “Now you got it!”  I told her.
            “That’s rather backwards logic, wouldn’t you say?”  she asked.
            “Not at all,” I said.
            “But even I could have not gotten a reading off those beads, Mr. Louviere.  What would that prove?”
            “Nothing, because you’re not psychic.  Lenny here is.”  Then I turned to him.  “So, will you come along and help us?”
            “Um, I don’t really know what’s going on here,” he said.
            “Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in.  Just get some things together, we’ll probably be gone overnight,” I said. Then to Celia:  “Well, you got your wish.  We’ll be on our way in a few seconds.”
            “I still don’t understand what you think you’ve proven, Mr. Louviere,” she said.
            “I’ve shown that Lenny here has powers just like Moondagger, and he can lead us to the other beads, and more importantly, to Sarah.”
            “And give me one reason, just one, why I should believe you.”

           “Because he’s Sam Louviere, and that should be good enough.”  The woman who spoke those words had just come out of the back room.  I gave her a second to finish a yawn and wipe the sleep from her eyes before I was hugging Sage Parker tighter than I’d ever hugged anyone in my life.




 be continued


2006 Brightlings Beads and M. Robert Todd