Chapter 55


Oliver and Jeanne sat across from one another at the dinner table on their private verandah. Two apparently empty chairs were drawn up to the sides of the table and out of the corner of his eye Oliver could just see the shimmering outline of the man and woman who had accompanied them out of the cavern. The remnants of dinner had been pushed to one side, leaving the center of the table free for the five gems that now rested in a tight group half way between Jeanne and Oliver.

There were, of course, the three glittering blue diamonds that had been the centerpiece of their shared adventure. These included the one which Jeanne had worn around her next for much of her adult life, the one which Oliver had helped her to retrieve from the bottom of a flooded salt mine in Louisiana, and the final diamond that he had captured from the library of the Société de la tête de mort beneath the streets of Paris. The diamonds glittered in the fading light of the day, occasionally sparking with a faint glow from within that traversed the gap between them with crackling discharge of blue lightning, as if the three gems that had once been one were sharing a secret conversation spelled out in energy and light. Joining these three sister diamonds were a large uncut ruby and a smaller, delicately facetted emerald. These also flickered occasionally, the light of their inner glow sparking out into the evening air and evanescing into the forms of the two ghosts who sat at that table with Oliver and Jeanne.

“I would rather that we travel together,” Oliver said, for at least the third time that evening.

Jeanne gave him a sad smile and shook her head. “You have something more important you need to do, Oliver. You can’t waste the next year playing tour guide to a couple of ghosts.”

“Do you hear this disrespect?” Oliver quipped, glancing from one etherial figure to the other. As he looked directly at them, each vanished in a cloud of black and yellow haze, like a figment drifting across his retina. “She rescues you from over three thousand years of imprisonment in your temple and complains that she’s nothing more than a tour guide.”

The ghosts looked to Jeanne, as if they were foreign visitors waiting for their translator to finish processing a particularly complicated sentence. Jeanne sighed and her eyes took on a faraway look as she concentrated on explaining the nuances of Oliver’s joking complaint. After a moment the two ghosts flickered and the tracery of a smile appeared on their faces.

“They understand that you are making a joke, but offer their apologies anyway,” Jeanne said.

Oliver smirked and picked up his champagne glass, grimaced at finding it empty, then set it back down on the table again. He looked fixedly at Jeanne, waiting for her to relent. There was no point in arguing with her, he knew.