November 5th, 1974. 3:45 PM

The embrace between Sage and me ended with a little help from a rather loud throat clearing courtesy of Celia.
“I’m so glad you’re okay, Sam,” Sage said.
            “Me?  You were worried about me?  I’ve been fine Sage.”  Of course, I had to amend that statement after thinking about it for a moment.  “Other than getting a pretty bad knock on the head, and being in a car accident that still has two people in the hospital in pretty bad shape.  Besides those minor incidents, however, there’s been nothing to worry about.  But please, just tell me that you’re okay.”
            “I’m fine, really I am,” she said before turning to Celia.  “I’m Sage, by the way.  I guess we can excuse Sam’s lack of manners in not introducing us.  It’s been a wild couple of days.”
            “I’m Celia Andrews.  Your friend Sam is assisting me in some work that, apparently, you’ve found yourself involved in.  Temporarily at least.”
            “That’s a pretty necklace,” Sage said, pointing to the simple silver strand with two faux pearls that Celia wore.  “It’s simple, sure, but elegant.”
            “Thanks,” she responded.  “I made it myself.”
            “With a little help from yours truly.”  I knew by interrupting I was showing a lack of etiquette for the second time in less than a minute, but I thought the pleasantries had gone on long enough.  “Now, Sage, I’ve a million questions, but I’ll start with, how’d you get here?”
            “It was in the middle of the night, I’m not sure exactly what time it was,” she said, taking a seat next to Celia.  “There was a loud knocking.  Of course, being a female that lives alone, I’m not the type to just open the door for anyone.  But it wasn’t just anyone, Sam, it was your friend Sarah.”  When Sage said this, she had a look of deep sorrow in her eyes, but it was unnecessary.  I figured it was Sarah who had pulled Sage into this, but that still didn’t prove Sarah was doing anything wrong.  I had no doubt that whatever her part in this was, she acted under duress from those who had abducted her.
            “Go on,” was all I said.
            “She was frantic, going on and on about how ‘they’ have you, and they’re probably going to hurt you.  That Moondagger was your only hope, but she had no way to find him. I thought that was rather strange, considering she knew where Moondagger’s store was, but she insisted they didn’t have time to wait for the store to open, that they had to get to Moondagger as soon as possible.  I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, Sam.  I was worried sick.”
            “You didn’t do anything wrong, Sage,” I reassured her.
            “They were driving a van.  A blue van….”
            “She was with two men.  They each had cold eyes.  It makes me shiver to think of them.”
            I wanted to ask her how these men treated Sarah, if she seemed to be in good health, but I knew no matter what her answer, there was nothing I could do about it right then so perhaps it was best if I didn’t know.
            “Then what happened?”
            “We drove to Moondagger’s.  When we got there one of the men went to the door, and the other took me by the arm and lead me down the block.  I’m not sure what happened after that.  I woke up on a park bench in the morning.  At first I had no idea where I was, or what had happened, but once I got my bearings I was able to find my way here.  Lenny K. brought me to the back room where he has a cot, and I fell asleep.  When I heard your voice a few seconds ago, I thought I was dreaming.”
            Celia stood and checked her watch for the umpteenth time that afternoon.  “Well, Sage, it was a pleasure to meet you, and I’m certainly glad you’re alright.  Unfortunately, your friends and I need to be on our way.  I might suggest after we’re gone you take a cab to the  nearest hospital and get yourself checked out.  I would guess you were drugged by that man, and you can never to too sure about after effects.  Sam, Lenny, are you two ready to go?”
            After hearing Sage’s tale, Lenny K.  seemed to be having second thoughts about undertaking this adventure.
            “It’ll be fine, Lenny,” I said.  “Besides, we need you to find Moondagger.  I promise, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure nothing happens to him, or to you.”
            “Well I want to go,” Sage chimed in.
            “I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Celia said.  At first I agreed, but another look at Lenny K.’s frightened puppy dog expression made me change my mind.  I took Celia by the arm, and turning our backs to the others, whispered.  “She’ll be good for Lenny.  She’s familiar to him.  We need the kid as calm as possible if he’s to be any help to us whatsoever.”
            “Fine,” she said, after glancing over her shoulder and getting a good look at Lenny K.’s mental state.  “But let’s get the show on the road, alright?”
            “Alright,” I said.  And then, after turning back around, “It’ll be a pleasure to have you with us, Sage.  And Lenny, if there’s anything you need you’d better get it together.”
            “Sure thing,” he said, and disappeared into the back room.

November 5th, 1974. 4:00  PM

Celia and I waited in the parking lot for Lenny K. and Sage.
            “Honestly, Mr. Louviere, how much trust do you put in these powers this kid claims to have?”  She asked.
            “I’ve seen his boss do some pretty incredible things.  Both before and since I’ve been in the bead business, I’ve met my share of people who claim to be in touch, or whatever you’d call it, with the spiritual world.  Some of them believe they’re powers, some of them are just con men.  But one thing they both have in common are the same tricks, the same vague responses to questions.  I’m aware of pretty much ever ploy they use.  But this Moondagger fellow, he’s different.  I have no doubt he’ll be able to track down that last bead if we don’t get to it first.  And I at least have reason to hope that Lenny K. will be able to sense the other beads so we at least have some idea where Sarah and the two men are.  And besides, even if he can’t sense the other beads, he’ll be able to get a bead on Moondagger, which is almost as good.  Here they come.”
            As strange as Celia thought Lenny K. was up to this point, it didn’t prepare her for what she saw sauntering towards us.
            Being lead by Sage, and appearing to be in a near-catatonic state, Lenny K. was dressed in the striped ex-bed sheet robe that I had last seen on Moondagger.  He also had the dozens of jade strands previously worn by his boss that still contained the small, gold beads etched with signs of the zodiac.  The crown that Moondagger had trouble balancing on his head was even more wobbly on his protégé, and matters were made worse by the fact that Lenny K. had altered this already-ostentatious outfit to suit his own needs.  Light sapphire glass beads intermittently strung with dichroic disks went from his shoulder to his hip, like some sort of spiritual bandolier; and he carried a large scepter, (the body of which was a wooden dowel that too closely resembled the handle of a toilet plunger,) that had been decorated with strands of pewter charms representing everything from a unicorn to an accordion.
            “You’ve got to be kidding,” Celia said to herself.
            “Sorry it took us so long,” Sage said, displaying an impish smile that told me she was at least partly responsible for Lenny K.’s outlandish attire.  “But once we got him dressed we had to get him into a semi-trance.  I told him you guys probably wouldn’t want him burning candles in the car, so anyplace we could get him spiritually before the trip would be for the best.”
            “Mr. Louviere,” Celia said in a deadly serious voice.  “Maybe we should rethink the plan.  You take me to the one missing bead, and I’ll take it from there.  You can be on your way after that, never having to hear from me again.  How does that sound?”
            “You forget, Celia, that I’ve more at stake in this than one ugly bead.  I need to find Sarah, and for that matter Moondagger, too.  We’ll stick with the current strategy.”  Then, as I opened the door for Lenny K, “Lenny, you look great.  And may I compliment you on the picture of a comet you’ve sewn into the back of the robe.  What is that made of?  Cherry quartz and moon stone?”  I was speaking loudly, making sure Celia could hear me.
            “Yes it is, and thank you,” Lenny K. said in an emotionless, almost-whisper.  “Moondagger did that before he….well, before he disappeared.  I helped, though.”
            When we were all in the car, I told Celia to take a left out of the parking lot, and to get onto the interstate going east.  I would have thought she’d be happy to finally be on our way, but her face showed only frustration.
            And I loved it.

November 5th, 1974. 5:30  PM

I hate it when the clocks str turned back in the fall.  Until you really get used to it, it’s as if you’re being cheated out of a major part of your day, and at that time I wasn’t used to it yet.  Since it was dark, I felt it was much later than it was, and I began to grow impatient. 
Though I have to admit, I wasn’t nearly as bad as Celia.
            “How much further do we have to go, Samuel?”  She asked, her words coming out in a rapid-fire staccato.  “Can you at least tell me where we’re going?  The name of the town?”
            “In due time, Celia.  For now, just follow the road.”  Then I turned to Sage and Lenny K. in the backseat.  “How’s it going back there?  Does he have anything?”
            Sage put a reassuring hand on Lenny K’.s arm.  “Lenny, how is everything?  Can you sense anything yet?”
            Lenny K. let out a long, low moan of some kind and placed his palms flat against the ceiling of the car.  After a few beats, he said one word.  “Yes.”
            “What do you got, Lenny K.? “ I asked.  But instead of answering, he turned to Sage and whispered in her ear.
            “He’s hungry,” Sage said.  “And I have to admit, I am, too.  Neither of us had a chance to eat anything today.”
            Celia exhaled loudly and threw me a look.  She wasn’t going to pull over for dinner right now, and she wanted me to be the one to break the news to them.
            “Look, guys,” I said.  But before I could tell them that dinner would have to wait Lenny K.’s eyes went wide, and he screamed one word.
            He began kicking the back of Celia’s seat, and she wasn’t liking it one bit.  “Can someone calm him down back there?  I try to keep the car accidents down to one per day.”
            Sage began rubbing his shoulders and speaking in a reassuring voice.  “It’s okay, Lenny.  Shhh, calm down.   What is it?  Can you sense Moondagger?  Do you know where he is?”
            “Pull over,” he told Celia.

November 5th, 1974. 5:40  PM

There were no streetlights on this part of the interstate, and if it weren’t for the car’s headlights we’d be in complete blackness.  Celia and I were leaning against the hood of the car watching Lenny K. spin around in quick circles while Sage stood next to him, prepared to catch him if dizziness took over and he fell.
            Eventually he stopped and pointed behind the car.  “That way.  We’ve passed them, and they’re on a different road, headed south.”
            “How far away are they?” Sage asked.
            “Several miles,,” Lenny K. said.  “And I think they’re headed in the opposite direction.  But I can’t be too sure about that.”
            “So, we’re sure to get there before them,” I said to Celia.  “Now maybe you’ll relax a little.”
            “Hardly,” she huffed.  “If this Moondagger guy is having trouble ‘sensing’ this bead, how can we be sure Lenny can actually sense Moondagger?  Why should I believe this kid?  Don’t tell me to relax, Mr. Louviere.  I’ll have plenty of time for that when this job is over.”
            To everyone’s surprise Lenny K. walked up to Celia, and hugged her.  “It’s okay,” he said.  “You don’t have to believe me entirely, but at least take some reassurance in what I say.”
            “Please don’t do that,” Celia said, pushing away from him.
            “I can sense Moondagger because he is a friend, a mentor, and I have a connection with him.  But him being able to feel where this bead is, that’s slightly different.  With inanimate objects, it’s like…” he paused for a moment, searching for the right words.  “It’s like seeing something out of the corner of your eye, and then when you look at it straight on, it’s no longer there.  Each time Moondagger gets a sense of where the bead is, he only has it for a second, then he’ll lose it.  It’ll take time for him to find it once again.  Since Mr. Louviere knows where we’re going, we’re bound to get there first.”
            Celia didn’t seem convinced.
            “Besides,” I said.  “What if Moondagger senses Lenny K. is with us?  Maybe he’s just buying a little time, making sure we get there first.  The guy’s probably scared, after all he has no idea what those people are going to do with him once he does locate that bead.  If you were him, wouldn’t you want a group of friends around when you finally reach your destination?”
            Celia harrumphed, but I could see in her eyes that even though what Lenny K. said sounded like so much gibberish, she could make some sense out of my argument.
            “Now,” I continued. “Let’s get back in the car.  Sage, Lenny, we’re close to where we’re going.  Once we get there, I promise we’ll get something to eat right away.   I even have a restaurant in mind.  Sound good?”
            “No problem, Sam,” Sage said.  “We can wait, right Lenny?”
            “Of course,” he said, adjusting his oversized crown.  “So what are we waiting for? Let’s go.”

November 5th, 1974. 6:10  PM

We’d been driving in silence for several minutes.  Lenny K. seemed to be all tranced-out for the time being, Sage had fallen asleep, and as much as I was enjoying Celia not talking to me, I believe she was even happier that I had nothing to say.
            “I’m a bit hungry myself,” she eventually said.  “I hope this place you have picked out has a menu that’s more appetizing than the one at the bus station.”
            “It’s better, trust me,” I said.  “Though not by much.”
            “Is that where the bead is?  At a restaurant?” She asked.
            “”Probably not now,” I admitted.  “But if not, we’ll get it tomorrow morning.”
            “So,” she said, appearing more relaxed than she had all day.  “It looks like everything is fine, and there are no worries for now.  Eh, Mr. Louviere?”
            “It’s all smooth sailing from here on out, Ms. Andrews,” I said.
            “Except for one small matter.”
            “And what would that be?” I asked.
            She didn’t even have time to answer before I realized the problem: I heard the loud, short burst of a siren at the same time the car was being bathed in the flashing blue and red lights of a police car.




 be continued


2006 Brightlings Beads and M. Robert Todd