In a small outdoor café he sat, nursing the remains of coffee and brioche. Seated across was his aged father who rarely went out these days; he was that infirm and feeble. Yet, Papa insisted to go out for breakfast, one simple pleasure to enjoy before he died. The son merely obliged the old man's request, but there was something about this morning that didn't seem right. Call it a hunch, but the son kept getting a nagging feeling of impending doom, and the son suddenly realized the reason.
"Papa," he said, "do you want another coffee? Perhaps more bread?"
The old man just shook his gray head, replying, "No, Yves. I've had enough." Then, as if he read his son's mind, asked, "Did you find that score? I must have it."
"No, Papa, I didn't. I don't understand. It was in the vault right where you left it. When I went to retrieve it, it wasn't there. No one knows a thing. I believe it has been stolen."
The old man sighed, saying, "You are getting older, Yves. When will you take a wife and have children? You and I are the last of our family. When I die, you will be the very last of a long lineage, going back to before the days of Charlemagne. Alas, most of our family died out during the Revolution. So, have you found a nice lady to marry?"
Yves, a middle-aged gentleman, average height and build, with graying dark hair, neatly trimmed goatee, and gray eyes, replied, "Papa, when will you stop asking foolish questions? I've decided long ago never to marry. I just haven't found a suitable lady. Now, back to that missing score..."
"It's the only thing that ensures our existence," said the old man. "You must find it or all is lost."
Yves sighed, saying, "I will try to locate it, Papa. Now, we must leave. Your doctors expect us precisely in an hour."
"Doctors!," the old man spat out. "I'm old, too old, and I feel death upon me any time. Why can't they see that? Just take me home so I can die in peace."
"But without that score..."
"Find it, Yves. If you have to turn every inch of Paris upside down."
After paying the bill, the men prepared to leave, with Yves helping his father out of his chair. Leaning on his son, the old man hobbled in an unsteady gait. He was tall, frail, gaunt, with thin white hair that came to his shoulders. He never bothered to visit his barber as he did in more vital days. From the corner of his eye, as he and his son made their way down the street, he could see a pretty middle-aged woman coming towards them as if wanting to converse. Did he know this woman? Perhaps in the distant past he met her, but his failing memory could not exactly recall.
"Gustave Duclos," she said without introduction. "Are you he?"
He replied, "Yes. Do I know you?"
"No, sir, but you knew my grandparents. Mendel was the name."
"I don't recall anyone named Mendel, madame."
"Yes you do!," she replied vehemently. "It was during the war. You were with the Vichy government. You sent countless Jews to the death camps, my grandparents included."
More people approached from behind, two men who flanked the woman. One said, "Sarah, is he the one? Does he have the score?"
In an instant, she slapped the old man, screaming, "Nazi! Murderer! You sent Eli and Zelda Mendel to their deaths. And you stole it! You stole my family's...It was in the family for nearly a century. It was composed especially for..."
So overcome with emotion she could speak no more. She broke down in tears, comforted by her male companion.
Yves Duclos, shocked at this outrage, hustled his father into a nearby taxi. Without looking back, as the taxi sped away, he asked, "Papa, they won't let up, never will."
"Which is why, Yves, you must find that score. It holds secrets to the Mendels' true fate, and a link to another family with whom ours feuded for centuries."
Back in Oz, at Lindens End...
Madeline Tasou unwrapped the velvet bag, taking out the curious item. It looked like a long tube, about ten inches in length, and there was a bright red button at the base. She examined this item then asked, "James, what is it?"
Her cousin, between sips of his second cup of tea, replied, "Push that button, Maddie."
She did just that, and instantly a shaft of pure purple light appeared. It hummed and glistened. In awe, and somewhat confused, she asked, "What is it? What does it do? Looks sort of like a sword of sorts."
James Fairburn, who wished Charlie or the Wizard was here now to help explain, said, "It is a lightsaber – Marbile Beauchamps' née Marbe Tasou's Jedi weapon. It was the only thing she brought with her after–"
"After what?," asked an ever curious Madeline. "Come on, James. You don't have to worry about shocking me. I've spent the last several days experiencing visitations from various Jedi Knights. I know, James, I know about Marbe Tasou."
"But, Maddie, not all her history. She and her brother had to flee their home planet, Coruscant. This was during the Empire period, and the emperor ordered each and every Jedi slain. Marbe and Kirel, with their mother, hid with a working class family. There they spent their entire childhood, but still they trained in ways of the Force. You do know what the Force is, do you?"
Maddie nodded. It was those visitations from Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi which gave her some insight to the Force and how to use it properly. She still held the lightsaber and swooshed it through the air, and she surprised herself at how easily she manipulated the weapon.
She said, "I guess I'll have to learn how to use this thing. Never did take up fencing, so I have no knowledge of swordplay."
James chuckled, saying, "I suppose you could employ those bowing techniques. It's almost the same."
She laughed at her cousin's odd suggestion, but she did just that, swooshing the lightsaber around as if bowing her instrument. Again, she was amazed how she handled the lightsaber so well. With a lucky guess, she depressed the button, bringing the shaft back into its sheath.
Still, Maddie was puzzled. If Marbe Tasou came to Earth long ago, and she hung onto her lightsaber, how did she manage to hide her true identity? There was another question: Why give Marbe's weapon to her? If this stayed within the family for generations, why didn't Marbe's children receive it? Better yet, why not Lavinia? She certainly could've used it on Robert whenever he struck her. Sure would've been easier to kill him than put up with his battering all those years, and Lavinia and Maddie wouldn't have had to be on the run. This she voiced to James who tried to explain best he could.
"Madeline, all this is still very new to me as it is to you. All Charlie could tell me was the lightsaber should never be used in anger, or to exact revenge. It is not that kind of weapon. Marbe left a letter to be opened the moment her weapon found its rightful owner – You, Maddie."
Then, he added, "I know this is all so new to you. Here, why don't you take a nice long rest, perhaps a leisurely practice. You will need your rest as I'm treating my favorite cousin to dinner tonight."
Maddie laughingly said, "I am your only cousin, Jimmy." Her hand flew to her mouth as if to catch a word which had already escaped. She knew perfectly well James hated to be called "Jimmy," let alone that loathsome nickname of his namesake: "Jumbo."
"I'm sorry, James. I guess all the mystery surrounding this vacation place, and receiving Marbe's lightsaber, is messing with my mind. So, you're treating me to dinner. Where?"
"In town. There's a formal, fashionable dinner party tonight, and I've been invited. I've already told the hosts that you've just arrived, so they asked me to bring you along. I think you'll like these people. Very interesting, all music lovers. So, can I count on you to gussy up in your finest and make a splashing entrance?"
She smiled, returned the lightsaber to its velvet bag, then said, "Well, I could use a night out. I've always loved an elegant dinner party."
James smiled in a self-satisfactory manner and replied, "Good! Now, I understand Charlie and Lenore may show up here some time this week. He has Marbe's letters and journal, plus those of Jean-Paul Beauchamps. This is one reason he suggested you get away from it all, to take your time digesting your ancestors' memoirs."
Again, Madeline flashed a bright smile and said, "Well, if they really don't mind my tagging along...But let me get in a good couple hours practice. I hadn't the time this morning, and my instruments went into the baggage car, so I couldn't use the travel time – Hey, how did my third cello end up here? I thought I left it at home."
With a sheepish grin, and the thought of hedging the truth becoming more reprehensible, James merely explained, "Oh, Charlie must have forgotten to tell you. Lenore called Anthony last night. He has a key to your apartment, so he gladly did you a favor by clearing out your refrigerator, water the plants, bring in the mail. Just routine tasks. My guess is he thought you might need the other instrument, so he sent it along by special courier."
She giggled again, saying, "Well, I guess I can excuse Tony this once," Then, while helping herself to more plum cake, she added, "If I want to save room for dinner, I better stop eating this cake. It's so good–"
Maddie suddenly stopped in mid-sentence; she stopped eating. An eerie feeling came over her as sensing a disturbance from far away. She stared out into space, her eyes glazing over.
"What's wrong, Maddie?"
"I don't know. You ever get a feeling something is about to happen, or is happening, but you can't tell what is? Sort of a premonition, a weird sensation."
"Yes, I do."
"Well, ever since Charlie talked me into this trip...No, it goes back even further, when Mom died. I've been experiencing these odd dreams, and visitations from two men – Jedi Knights. They've told me about Marbe Tasou, her brother and father. There is something called the dark side, and I'm never to go there. Oh, James, I saw it, when Anakin Skywalker shared his journey to the dark side. It was so horrible...The things he did out of fear and anger. Yet his son saved him, saw the good in him and brought Anakin back to the light. Now, I keep getting this feeling I'm here for more than just rest and relaxation. Something's coming, James; I can feel it, almost touch it, but I don't know what it is, and I'm scared."
Meanwhile, in Emerald City, in an elegant house on Carefree Avenue, just a few blocks from the Royal Palace, preparations for a gala evening are underway...Yet, as Madeline sensed, something is coming...
This was not the time for another cup of tea; he needed something harder. So he poured for himself a glass of sherry. Glancing about the drawing room, he could sense the crackling energy of this house. What would she say, how would she react, once it is learned she owns not one house but two. Moreover, she still doesn't know just where she is, and that will be rectified this evening. It was a matter of breaking the news gently that had him worried.
With sherry in hand, he stood by the massive fireplace, stared into the mirror, brooding. Perhaps this was all a mistake, but it had to be done, for her safety.
Nevertheless, once he received news of a very recent altercation on the streets of Paris, he knew he did right.
"Charlie," said Lenore as she sorted through the afternoon post, "will you stop brooding. You know you did the right thing by bringing Maddie to Oz. It was for her very safety, and ever since you told me of what happened in Paris...Well, do you think she'll run into them?"
He replied, "Once she comes here, to Emerald City, takes in the sights and all the place has to offer, there is a good chance she will encounter the Mendels. Eli and Zelda's family is very old, goes back to the early Middle Ages, and, to my surprise, has ties to the Beauchamps."
A shocked Lenore Purcell almost said something if the maid hadn't come in to clear the tea things and deliver another message.
"A note from the Wizard, madam," said the pretty maid who handed Lenore the note on a silver tray. She said nothing more then quietly and efficiently went about her task.
"Thank you, Joan," said Lenore as she unfolded the heavy ivory parchment embellished with the Wizard's official seal of Oz and his neat handwriting. Once the maid left, she read the note then looked at Charlie.
"Well, looks as if Albus and Glinda have come through for us. They finally pieced together that baby dinosaur's kidnapping. And get this: There were two witnesses to the crime. One we know was the girl's best friend."
Now Charlie's curiosity piqued. Why, during his own research, hadn't he come across this incredible information? He asked, "Who was the second eyewitness?"
"Someone named Neo Govin. Albus suspects Govin came to Earth via that time slip, far earlier than Ricar Tasou. Glinda has the full record on Govin, what became of him. And, Charlie, you won't believe this!"
She read the note aloud, in its entirety. The last paragraph pointed to Govin's apparent involvement with Jean-Paul Beauchamps' forebears and another family with whom the former bitterly feuded for centuries. Odd that Lenore echoed this same line as Gustave Duclos.
"The plot thickens", said Lenore, "but what does this have to do with Madeline and Marbe Tasou?"
Charlie Lavigne thought it over. So, there is another connection between the Beauchamps and Marbe Tasou, but how? Didn't the Wizard, in an earlier conference, mention a missing music score? It had been in the Mendel family for nearly a century before the second World War. When the Mendel family's property was confiscated by the Nazis, that score ended up in the hands of Gustave Duclos, an official in the Vichy government who sent hundreds of Jews to the death camps.
However, there were several oddities: Both Eli and Zelda avoided the dreaded trip to Auschwitz and somehow found their way to Oz; and that score, which up until now, sat in a Paris vault for nearly six decades, was en route to Oz, too. How did that happen? That was a mystery yet to be solved.
"What is the deal with the music score, Charlie?," asked an ever curious Lenore.
He replied, "It is coded, Lenore. Every note, every key change is really a hidden message. It tells the story of how a handful of Jedi came to Earth, the Tasous included. It was composed especially for the Mendels and commissioned by Jean-Paul Beauchamps himself."
Charlie, his mind reeling from this new information, said, "This is not the time to saddle Madeline with all this. Let her get settled, make some friends. The only things she'll receive tonight are Marbe's letters and journal; she already has the lightsaber. Then she'll have to visit the valley. Only there will she begin the path to become a Jedi – and take the first step in resolving the true issue which has brought her, so many times, to the brink of the dark side."
Copyright©2007 by PRP