November 5th, 1974. 6:15 PM
I would have expected Celia to have acted differently than most people when being pulled over. After all, I’d seen her remain calm and collected in stickier situations. If I were to believe anything she’s told me about her profession I’m sure she’s been through things that would boggle my mind. But for some reason, being stopped seemed to have quite an effect on her.
“Everything was fine, why were you speeding?” I asked her.
“I wasn’t speeding,” she whispered harshly, staring straight ahead.
“Then why are we being pulled over?”
“I guess we’ll find out in a second, won’t we?”
As we heard the crunching of gravel under heavy boots Celia rolled down the window and adopted that completely phony smile that police officers must get sick of seeing – a humorless, false one that is supposed to trick the officer into thinking such a nice person wouldn’t ever do anything wrong, and the whole incident must be his misunderstanding. It never works, but people always have hope that it will for them.
“I’m sorry, officer,” Celia said in a coquettish voice that seemed even less genuine coming from her. “What was it I did wrong?”
I only got a quick look at the policeman’s generous beer gut before he bent down to the window and turned on his flashlight. After that, he became nothing more than a disembodied, southern-accented voice behind a blinding white-hot ball of light.
“Here’s my license,” Celia said taking it from her purse, along with some folded papers. “And the car is a rental. Here’s the documentation. I must admit, I am truly bewildered as to why we were stopped. I’m willing to take a sobriety….”
“Who’s that?” The officer was shining his light straight into my eyes, and there was no doubt he was getting some sadistic pleasure out of watching me both squint and try to smile politely as if I wasn’t bothered.
“I’m Sam. Sam Louviere,” I said.
“I didn’t ask you,” he spit.
“That’s Sam, Sam Louviere,” Celia parroted back to the officer. For some reason, when she said it he seemed less suspicious.
“He got any ID?”
“Of course. Sam, please show the officer your license.”
“Why? I wasn’t driving.” Common sense was telling me to play along and do whatever he asked, but somehow the disrespectful kid in me – who, long before I became an upstanding member of society had one or two unpleasant run-ins with the police – was refusing to stay quiet.
“Samuel.” Though she was smiling at me, there was nothing but venom in Celia’s voice.
“Sure.” I took out my license and handed it over.
“Mr. Louviere,” the policeman read. He pronounced it Loo-Ver-Ey, though both Celia and I had given him the correct pronunciation only seconds before. “Says here you’re from Seattle, Washington.”
“That I am.”
“Uh-huh. And what, pray tell, brings you all the way out to this end of the country to grace our little burgh with your presence?” His words were slow and deliberate. Though I had relaxed a little and was now letting him control the conversation, I had already let him know I could be trouble, and he was egging me on.
“I’m a salesman.” My smile was now officially as fake as Celia’s.
“Mm hmm. And what is it that folks around here don’t need nor want that you talk ‘em into buying?”
“Beads.” Right away I realized my mistake. With guys like him I usually stick to my ‘turbines or combines rule.’
“Beets?” I’ve mentioned previously that I’m not always heard correctly the first time, but it wasn’t enough to save me. I knew I couldn’t say, Not beets, combines. So I opted to tell the truth.
“Beads,” I said, drawing the word out and putting so much emphasis on the “D” sound that I thought for sure he was going to arrest me for being a smart-ass.
“Yeah, you know, things to make jewelry out of. Necklaces, bracelets, what have you.” He didn’t appear to grasp the concept, so I went on. “Gemstones, silver and gold baubles, charms, pendants, chains.”
“Oh, beads,” he finally said. “I guess not everybody actually works for a living.”
He wanted to get my ire up, and I didn’t want to disappoint him. When I say I bit my tongue, I’m not speaking figuratively. As a matter of fact, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to hold back, that I would have risked a night in jail, if he hadn’t swung the flashlight around to the back seat.
Though I couldn’t actually see Celia psychologically shrink into nothingness, (I couldn’t see anything after the harsh white light in my eyes was suddenly taken away,) I could sense it. And I was right there with her.
“And who do we have back here?” the officer asked with a sense of routine in his voice that quickly evaporated. “Oh, sweet heaven above.”
For a bored cop in a slow town on a Tuesday night, when even the good ol’ boys aren’t wreaking havoc on mailboxes after too many 3.2 beers, Sage alone would have been enough to put the dial of this cop’s suspicion meter into the red zone. But for this particular policeman, at this particular time, Lenny K. was nothing short of Christmas arriving early.
“You probably want to see my ID, Officer…I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.” Sage easily slipped into damage control mode. Speaking in a voice that was just on the safe side of being flirtatious, she was doing whatever it took to get the police officer to swing his blinding flashlight back onto her. It wasn’t working.
“I’ll get to you in a second, missy,” he said. “I just can’t wait to find out what this guy’s story is, and I am so looking forward to hearing the list of excuses you folks have for traveling with him. So, if you could all stay put for a moment, I’m going to call for a little backup.
The wait couldn’t have been more than a minute, though it seemed like an hour. Every few seconds Celia shot daggers at me from the corner of her eye, as if somehow this was all my fault. Well, I guess having Sage and Lenny K. along for the ride was my fault, but there was nothing we could do about it now.
“Now, if you would, kindly step out of the car.” The officer was back, and the sentence was directed at all of us.
November 5th, 1974. 6:30 PM
Sage, Lenny K. and I were standing at the back of the Lincoln Continental with our hands on the trunk and our feet just far enough apart to make us extremely uncomfortable.
Officer Ebeling – he hadn’t offered that information to us, but I’d been able to read his nametag in the red glow of the taillights – was several paces away questioning Celia I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but since I’d already been through my interrogation, I could guess.
It wasn’t good.
He was undoubtedly asking where we’d been, where we were headed, and what the hell was up with Lenny K. When he had asked me the same questions, my lies had made perfect sense; and I’m sure Celia’s version of the truth – and afterwards, Sage’s – were equally well crafted. The obvious problem facing us was we didn’t have time to discuss these untruths in committee beforehand, so as air tight as they were individually, there was no way they’d match up.
Knowing this, I had cause for alarm. But my biggest fear was that when he got around to questioning Lenny K. the kid would tell the truth. Not that I was afraid Officer Ebeling would believe him – after all, who would? But stories that don’t match up are cause only for suspicion. The truth, in this case, was so strange the mere telling of it would no doubt end with our waiting patiently in a cell for a meeting with the local judge.
While Celia was being questioned, Sage and I shared a couple of nervous smiles. When Sage was talking to the policeman, however, Celia refused to look in my direction. I couldn’t tell if it was because the sight of me disgusted her too much, of if she was too preoccupied trying to use her cunning and intelligence to map our way out of this mess. I chose to believe the latter. When Sage was eventually brought back to the car, Ebeling waved his flashlight at Lenny K.
“You, Mr. Fancy-Pants, get your beaded butt over here.”
The collective “gulp” between Sage, Celia and myself was almost audible. But before Lenny K. could even take his hands from the car another vehicle pulled up.
“I’ll take it from here,Ebeling.” I wanted so badly to turn and see just who the new arrival was, but was smart enough to know not to. From the way the muscles in Celia’s jaw were working, I could tell she felt the same.
“I’ve got statements from all but one of ‘em, Sheriff.”
My question was answered. We were important enough to warrant the boss’ attention.
“That won’t be necessary. But stick around in case they decide to get brave on me.”
“Oh, yes, sir.” Ebeling’s tone shifted from the one in authority to low man on the totem pole.
“Alright, Blondie, step to the front of the vehicle.” Celia did what she was told. “Did you search ‘em?” He then asked Ebeling.
“Just patted down the men, didn’t find any drugs or weapons.”
“Do you have a purse, ma’am?” he asked Celia.
“It’s on the driver’s seat,” she answered.
The Sheriff moved as slowly as Ebeling had. It must have been some sort of psychological trick to frustrate whomever they wanted to show they had control over. After he had retrieved her purse, he told Celia to get back with the rest of us. When she had assumed the position once again, the sheriff dumped the purse’s contents onto the hood. We couldn’t see what he was doing, and I think this was the time I was most afraid. I hadn’t seen Celia with a weapon, and she hadn’t told me she carried one, but considering her line of work, I’d just assumed she had. This stop of speeding – or whatever the stop was really for – was about to take a bad turn.
Then, to my total amazement, the sheriff brought the purse back to Celia and told us we were free to go. As surprised as we were, it paled in comparison to Officer Ebeling’s response.
“But Sheriff, we got ‘em. I’d bet a week’s pay if we search that car we’re going to come up with some wacky weed at least. Probably something a heck of a lot worse.”
“You’d best be on your way, too, Ebeling,” he said.
“Hey, now, I was just doing what I was told, and I….”
The sheriff cut Ebeling off quickly. “I thought I saw a stopped car on my way over here, up near Snyder Avenue. Why don’t you go check that out.”
“Now listen, Sheriff, I….”
“Now, Ebeling. Right now.”
Officer Ebeling walked slump-shouldered back to his car, and a moment later was nothing more than a bad memory.
“Thank you, Sheriff.” Sage was still playing peacemaker.
“And you folks,” though it seemed he had just done us a huge favor, the sheriff didn’t seem to like anything about having to deal with us. “You get on your way and become somebody else’s problem. If I may offer some advice, try to clean up the weirdo. I can tell you folks don’t want to attract any undo attention. I don’t know why, and I don’t want to know why, but in case you weren’t aware of it, that kid is a magnet for just that sort of thing.” And with that, he walked back to his car and peeled away. The whole incident was so surreal that it took us several moments before we realized we no longer had to stand with our hands on the trunk and our legs spread.
“Personally, I don’t think that guy knew what he was talking about,” Lenny K. said as we all got back in the car.
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“I don’t think Sage would draw that much suspicion, and I certainly don’t think she looks like a weirdo.”
Celia laughed. Apparently she recovers from close calls very quickly. When we were all back in the car she turned on the dome light and went through her purse, meticulously checking each item as she performed a mental inventory.
“Maybe I’ve seen too many bad drive-in movies,” I said. “But I was sure that Ebeling fellow was going to but our taillight with his nightstick, and then cite us for it.”
“I’m surprised something like that didn’t happen, too.” Celia said. “That’s what makes the whole incident so strange.”
“Hey, maybe that sheriff was just an honest cop,” Sage chimed in. “They do exist, you know.” I was surprised to hear that coming from her of all people.
“No, there was something strange, I mean really strange about that whole thing.” Celia said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Is something missing? Did he take something from your purse?”
“No,” she said. “And that’s the weird part.” Instead of explaining, Celia took a small silver, mother-of-pearl handled Derringer pistol from her purse.
“You’d think he would have been interested in that,” I said.
“Wouldn’t you,” she responded.
“But what does it mean?” I asked.
“I have no idea.”
“Nothing else is out of place?”
“No, everything’s here.”
“Well then maybe we should just assume it was a horrible oversight on his part, and get the hell out of here,” I said.
“Sounds good to me,” Sage said from the backseat.
“Though it doesn’t happen often, Mr. Louviere,” Celia said, “I happen to agree with you.” She started the car and we pulled away.
November 5th, 1974, 7:10 PM
The car was eerily quiet for quite some time after the incident with the police, so Sage made light conversation to keep our minds off of it. She was telling me about a new line of clothing she was going to make and sell at her store, and how I was going to be an essential part of launching the new line considering it was to be beaded denim and leather.
“I think I’ll start with signs of the Zodiac on jackets,” she said. “They’re going to sort of look like biker club jackets, but more feminine. Kind of a riff off of that whole thing. What do you think, Sam?”
“Sounds like another winner of an idea, Sage,” I said.
“So I’m going to need a lot of silver and crystals from you. Also some heavy chain….not too heavy, I still want it to be feminine. But I saw a picture of this guy who had motorcycle chain hanging off his epaulettes, kind of like that military braiding, and I thought it would be kind of cool to add that look to it.”
“There’s something wrong. I can feel it.” It was the first time Lenny K. had spoken since we’d been back on the road.
“Hmm, maybe you’re right, Lenny,” Sage said. “But I’m going to try it out, anyway, see how it looks. I mean, if it seems wrong, I’ll just take the chain off.”
“No, not about your jacket idea, Sage,” Lenny K. said. “About us…here.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I’m not sure. It’s a feeling. But something’s different. If everything was right when we started today, it’s not right now.
“You’re going to have to be more specific, Lenny,” Celia said.
“I’m sorry, I can’t be. At least not right now. But mark my words, something is different.”
We all sat in silence for a few seconds, waiting for Lenny to expound on his theory. He didn’t. He just rolled down the window, and let his palm drift in the wind.
“Everything’s fine, don’t worry, I said. And it wasn’t just a way to ease everyone’s mind. I actually knew that, at least right then, everything was fine.
“What makes you so sure?” Celia asked.
“Because I smell birdseed,” I said.
..................to be continued
© 2006 Brightlings Beads
and M. Robert Todd