Alfie Saunders reached across the small restaurant table and let his hand linger on top of Brian Epstein’s long fingers. Brian smiled at his friend briefly, then withdrew his hand and slipped it into his lap.
“You needn’t do that,” Alfie whispered. “Nobody can see us.”
“Yes they can,” Brian whispered back. “They always can.”
“You’re wrong,” Alfie said. He winked at Brian, then stood up, leaned across the table and kissed Brian on the lips.
Brian pushed him away. “Stop it!” he said nervously, struggling to keep his voice down. “You’re going to get us arrested!”
“Trust me,” said Alfie. He sat back down in his chair, then twiddled the bejeweled ring on the middle finger of his right hand and smiled. “As long as I’m wearing this, I can kiss you in public and not a soul can see us.”
“You’re daft,” Brian said. He signaled to the waiter and asked for the check, then reached into his trouser pocket for his wallet.
“I’m not daft,” Alfie insisted. “I’m magic.”
Brian rolled his eyes. “Right. And I’m Terry Thomas.”
“No, you’re not,” Alfie replied. “You’re Brian Epstein of Liverpool, England. Heir to a family-owned, retail furnishing empire. Promising student at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts, with more talent in your little finger than Terry Thomas has in his entire body. You’re Jewish. You’re queer. And you are the love of my life. At least for this weekend.”
“Will you please shut up?” Brian whispered through clenched teeth. He stood up as soon as the waiter approached, settled the bill, and started walking out of the restaurant. Alfie lingered for a few moments at the table to finish his glass of wine, then joined his friend on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.
“Come on and kiss me, you fool,” Alfie teased.
Brian noticed a policeman walking towards them and blanched.
Alfie threw his arms around Brian and kissed him full on the mouth. The policeman walked right past them, paying no mind to Alfie and Brian’s passionate embrace, then tipped his hat to a well-dressed elderly woman approaching from the opposite street corner.
“Good day, ma’am,” said the policeman.
She nodded at him and smiled politely.
“Love your frock,” Alfie said as the woman passed in front of him. “Shows off your tits real nice!”
The woman and the policeman walked off in separate directions, each ignoring Alfie’s remark.
Brian turned towards his friend and furrowed his brow. “How the hell did you do that?”
Alfie laughed. “I just told you, silly, I’m magic. And I’m wearing a magic ring.” He held up his right hand and wiggled his fingers at Brian, then turned around and took off at a jog. Brian hurried to catch up with him. Alfie ran into a nearby park and sat down on a wooden bench underneath a large oak tree. Brian followed at his heels, then took a seat by his side.
Alfie stared blankly into the distance for a long moment, then sighed and turned towards Brian with a wistful expression. “Listen, I’m going to tell you something just now that you probably don’t want to believe. But it’s true. And you’ve just witnessed the power of this ring, so perhaps you’ll be willing to hear me out.”
He stretched out his arms and clasped both of Brian’s hands. Brian flinched and looked to the right and left with a squirrely expression.
“Look at me,” Alfie commanded him. “Don’t worry about anyone seeing us. Just hear me out.”
Brian swallowed hard, then held his friend’s gaze.
“I am a wizard,” Alfie said.
Brian’s worried expression melted into a grin. He started to giggle.
“Shut up and listen to me,” Alfie pleaded.
“What, or you’ll turn me into a toad?” Brian challenged, his eyes twinkling.
“No, I can’t do that at the moment,” Alfie replied. “I’m holding your hands, not my wand.”
Brian rolled his eyes and tried to slip away from Alfie’s grasp.
Alfie tightened his grip on Brian’s hands, cleared his throat and resumed his explanation. “I was born to a family of Muggles, just like you were. That’s what wizards and witches call the world’s unmagical folk – Muggles. But on my eleventh birthday, I received an invitation to attend a school in Scotland that caters to students who have – how shall I put this? – to students who have an innate propensity to perform magic. Most of my classmates were born into magical families, so they expected to be educated at the same school which their parents and grandparents attended. But some of the kids were like me. Just regular British children who were born to regular British parents, but who had inborn magical abilities, that the wizarding world was aware of. So they invited us to study there too.”
Brian struggled to maintain his composure. He offered his friend a small smile. “And here I was, just happy to learn I had passed my Eleven-Plus. I had no idea another path was open to me.”
“I had no idea either,” Alfie insisted. “Not until the owl flew down my – oh, never mind that! Let’s just agree it was a huge surprise to both my parents and me when I received the invitation. But then again, it wasn’t an entire shock. I’d always had an uncanny ability to move objects without touching them. And when I was an infant I sometimes used to levitate over my cot. Or so says my mum. I don’t remember doing that.”
Brian managed his pull his hands away from Alfie and immediately slipped them into his pockets. “Right. So if you’re a wizard, then make something come to you.”
“Sure,” agreed Alfie. He pulled a thin, wooden wand out of his coat pocket, glanced around him, and noticed an old, tartan scarf crumpled in a pile of dead leaves beside the tree. He pointed the wand at the scarf and said, “Accio!” The scarf lifted itself off the ground and gently flew into Alfie’s lap.
Brian gazed at his friend in wide-eyed wonder.
Alfie slipped his wand back in his pocket, tossed the tartan scarf behind Brian’s neck, then pulled the scarf’s ends forward so that Brian’s face was only inches from his own. “Now, kiss me you fool,” Alfie commanded.
Brian did nothing, so Alfie leaned forward and kissed Brian on the lips. Then he slowly slipped the scarf off his friend’s neck and leaned back against the bench. “Impressed?” he asked.
“I’m more confused,” Brian answered. “Why didn’t you just make me come to you, like you did the scarf? Why did you ask me to kiss you?”
“Because I can’t force you to do my bidding,” Alfie replied. “That would require me to use an Imperius curse, which is considered both forbidden and unforgivable in my world. And as much as I fancy you, Brian, I don’t want to be locked up in Azkaban for the rest of my life, just for the sake of one small kiss.”
“Azkaban,” Brian muttered under his breath, looking away from Alfie and staring dumbly into space. “That’s a prison in the North Sea, isn’t it?”
Alfie blanched. “Bullocks, how did you know that?”
“My uncle mentioned it once,” Brian replied. He focused his gaze on the grass in front of him and refused to meet Alfie’s eye. “He was babysitting my brother Clive and me once, and we were misbehaving, so he threatened to send us there. He claimed it was an impenetrable fortress built on a remote island in the most treacherous part of the ocean, guarded by ghoul-like creatures who could suck out your soul.” Brian turned back towards his friend and laughed. “Clive and I assumed he was joking, of course. You know how grown-ups will threaten naughty children with stories of the bogey man or Black Peter.”
Alfie continued to stare at Brian in wide-eyed disbelief.
“He wasn’t joking?” Brian asked.
Alfie looked down at the tartan scarf in his hands. “How did your uncle know about Azkaban?”
Brian shrugged. “My Uncle Joe was a real character. He used to tell Clive and me all sorts of strange stories when we were little. But we never believed him. We just figured he was a bit tetched, since he was so old.”
Alfie looked back at Brian. “Your uncle’s name was Joe? Joe what?”
“Actually, his real name was Yusef Zemaitis,” Brian replied. “Though he started calling himself Joe as soon as he immigrated to England from Lithuania. God only knows how many years ago that was. My grandfather Isaac fled Lithuania in the late 1890’s to escape the pogroms. Uncle Joe was already living in Britain. He taught at some boarding school in Scotland, but he kept a home in Liverpool, and he let all of his relatives stay there as they got settled into the new country.”
Brian stopped speaking for a long moment and furrowed his brow. “Scotland…my Uncle Joe taught at a boarding school in Scotland. You don’t suppose it was…”
Alfie laughed. “Professor Zemaitis was a legend at Hogwarts! He oversaw the library when I was a student there, though before that he taught many different subjects. He was even the Dark Arts teacher for a few years, or so I’ve heard.”
Brian laughed. “You’re pulling my leg now, aren’t you? You’re trying to tell me my Uncle Joe was a wizard?”
Alfie’s expression grew serious. “Yes, Brian, I am. And a damn near immortal wizard he was too! My mates and I once did some snooping in the library’s archives and discovered he’d been working at Hogwarts since the very early nineteen century. We even found an enchanted daguerreotype of him posing with a very young Queen Victoria. And he was already a distinguished-looking, grey-haired gent in that picture.”
“Oh, come on!” Brian chuckled. “You really expect me to believe that my Uncle Joe was almost two hundred years old when he died last fall?”
“Ah,” Alfie said, offering Brian a sad smile. “So the seemingly immortal Professor Zemaitis is finally dead?”
“Yes,” Brian replied. “My uncle was visiting my parents for the High Holidays, and he was struck by a bolt of lightning during a freak thunderstorm. Caught my whole family by surprise, I’ll have you know. We all assumed he would live forever!”
Alfie put his hand on Brian’s knee. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Brian shrugged. “Don’t be. I mean, that’s awfully nice of you to say. But I wasn’t particularly close to him. I only ever saw him here and there. And I was always more interested in playing with his collection of Egyptian scarabs than I was in speaking to the man. Like I said, he was a little barmy. Senile, I suspect. Though he was kind enough to remember me in his will. He left me a few of the scarabs.”
Alfie threw back his head and laughed. “Bullocks, Brian, those scarabs are probably magical objects! If your uncle’s amulets were somehow enchanted with a longevity charm, well – let’s just say they’d be worth a damn fortune in the wizarding world! That bloke at Borgin & Burkes who sold me my ring would no doubt give you a pretty penny for those little beetles. Or, should I say, he’d give you a chest full of galleons!”
Brian closed his eyes and shook his head. “You’ve lost me, Alfie. I hardly understood a word you just said.”
Alfie sighed. “Right. I’ll try to be a bit more lucid. This ring of mine,” he said, holding up his right hand for Brian’s inspection, “has been enchanted with a very particular combination of invisibility and Confundus spells, so that its wearer can engage freely in public buggery without attracting attention. Tom Riddle, the clerk at the shop who sold it to me, was rather disparaging of the ring’s powers. He made several snide remarks about pooftas being even lower than mudbloods in the grand scheme of the world. Though he pocketed my money and gave me the ring, nevertheless.”
“What the hell is a ‘mudblood’?” Brian asked.
Alfie winced at the sound of Brian’s voice repeating the slur. “It’s a derogatory word for a wizard or witch born to non-magical parents,” he answered in an embarrassed voice.
“So it’s another name for a man like you,” Brian surmised.
“No,” Alfie explained, his voice growing stronger. “It’s a very nasty insult. Worse than nigger or coolie or…” He abruptly closed his mouth.
Brian offered his friend a weak smile. “Thank you for not adding any anti-Semitic insults to your list,” he replied. “I understand now. I promise to never call you a mud – sorry. I shall never again speak that word.”
“Thanks,” Alfie sighed. He fell silent for a long moment, then looked back up at Brian. “Do you have any of those scarabs with you here in London, or did you leave them all behind in Liverpool?”
“I brought one along,” Brian admitted. “I hoped it might serve as a sort of good luck talisman, to protect me in the big city. The last time I came to London I was…robbed.” His voice trailed off.
“Right, you told me that earlier,” Alfie said gently. He gave Brian’s knee a sympathetic squeeze. “So, I have an idea. Why don’t we go back to your flat and fetch your scarab. Then I’ll see if I can somehow slip you into Diagon Alley so we can look up that chap at Borgin & Burkes. He might have another charmed, poofta-protecting object that he’d be willing to trade for your uncle’s amulet. I know he’s very interested in life-lengthening magic. That is, of course, if you’d be willing to part with your beetle.”
Brian sighed. “If I could have a ring like yours, that allowed me to just be myself in public for once, well…” His face lit up with hope. “Hell, I would trade everything I own for such an object!”
Alfie smiled and stood up from the bench. “Great. But don’t say that to Mr. Riddle, my friend. If you do, he’ll be sure to take it all. Let’s see if we can negotiate a one-on-one exchange instead.”
* * *
Brian stepped into the dark interior of Borgin & Burkes and immediately wrinkled his nose in distaste. “What is that smell?” he whispered into Alfie’s ear.
“Best not ask,” Alfie whispered back. “Let’s just stay on task and get out of here as soon as we possibly can.” He put his hand on Brian’s back and gently guided him towards the store’s counter.
The shopkeeper put down the silver chalice he was polishing and looked up at his customers. “Ah, Mr. Saunders,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You’ve brought along a handsome young friend. I take it that ring we sold you is working properly.”
Alfie nodded. “Indeed it is, Mr. Borgin. And my friend here, Mr. Brian Epstein of Liverpool, was wondering if you perhaps had another such ring or charmed object that he might be able to purchase.”
“Epstein, Epstein…” Borgin murmured under his breath. “I don’t recall any wizarding families by the name of Epstein.”
“Perhaps you knew his uncle, Yusif Zemaitis,” Alfie said, struggling to maintain his composure in front of the haughty tradesman.
Borgin tilted his head and examined Brian’s face carefully. “I was unaware that Professor Zemaitis had any nephews,” he noted dryly.
Brian laughed awkwardly. “Ah, well, my Uncle Joe was a rather distant relation. I’m not exactly sure how he fits in my family tree. Though he sponsored my grandfather when he immigrated to England, and he always took a keen interest in my brother and me.”
“Indeed,” Borgin said. He turned his face towards Alfie and scowled. “How dare you bring a Muggle into my shop, Mr. Saunders?”
Alfie puffed out his chest while he considered his response. Then a tall, thin man stepped into the shop room from the storage area in the back.
“If you please, Mr. Borgin, let me handle these customers,” stated Tom Riddle. He stretched out his long arms and leaned over the counter so he could see Alfie and Brian better in the dim lighting. “I would be interested in doing business with any family member of the illustrious Professor Zemaitis.” He held Brian in a steely gaze, his eyes boring into his unsuspecting customer like a cobra staring down its prey.
Brian put his hand to his neck and unconsciously loosened his tightly buttoned collar. “Thank you,” he replied, his voice shaking unaccountably. He cleared his throat and attempted to look away from Tom Riddle’s penetrating stare. “Actually, I work in a shop myself. My parents run a department store in Liverpool, and I’m always delighted to meet another retail clerk to discuss…”
“I am a purchasing agent for this business, not a shop clerk!” Tom Riddle interrupted. “I specialize in procuring dark artifacts. But I am curious, Mr. Epstein, does your ‘Uncle Joe’ still live?”
“Sadly, no,” Brian answered. He closed his eyes and slowly counted to five. Before he opened his eyes and resumed speaking, he turned his head towards Alfie to break away from Tom Riddle’s pointed gaze. “I was just telling my friend Alfie here that my uncle died last October, from a lightning strike of all things. Ghastly bad luck, wouldn’t you say?”
“Ghastly indeed,” agreed Tom Riddle. The right half of his lips curled into a twisted smile. “So it was a bolt of lightning that finally did him in. I should have thought the good professor would have always kept an object with a protective enchantment on his person to ward off such dangerous…possibilities. Tell me, Mr. Epstein, do you know what happened to your uncle’s collection of ancient Egyptian scarabs after his…electrifying death?”
“Ah, funny you should mention that,” Alfie piped in. “Brian brought one of them along with him. He was hoping to trade it for a ring like the one you sold me. But if you haven’t got any in stock, then we’ll be on our way.” He clapped Brian on the shoulder and motioned to the door.
“Not so hasty, Mister Saunders,” Tom Riddle insisted. “I may have another item in stock which might interest your friend. But first, might I examine Mr. Epstein’s scarab?”
Brian sighed, then slipped his hand into the pocket of his suitcoat. He pulled out the amulet and rested it on the counter.
Tom Riddle and his manager both raised their eyebrows, struggling to hide their obvious excitement from their customers.
“Might I examine it?” asked Borgin.
“Of course,” Brian said, happy to direct the conversation away from Tom Riddle. “This was one of Uncle Joe’s favorite scarabs. He used to let my brother and me play with some of his smaller amulets, but this one was very special to him. He used to wear it around his neck like a pendant. There’s a small notch in the back where he’d slip in a filigree chain.” Brian turned the scarab over and showed off its underside.
“Fascinating,” Borgin muttered. “You wouldn’t happen to know what sort of metal your uncle’s chain was made from, would you?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t,” Brian said. “My parents talked about burying this scarab along with Uncle Joe, since it meant so much to him. But our Rabbi insisted that we remove the necklace and just wrap my uncle’s body in a simple shroud, as is customary for Jewish burials. I’m not sure what Mum did with the chain. But I got the amulet.”
“Lucky you,” sneered Tom Riddle. He picked up the scarab and looked at it from every angle, then rested it back on the counter. As he did so, he briefly brushed his fingers against Brian’s hand. An icy chill ran through Brian’s arm.
Brian grabbed the scarab and slipped it back into his pocket.
“So what might you be willing to trade my friend for his little beetle?” asked Alfie.
“What is your friend interested in?” replied Tom Riddle. He bore his eyes into Alfie as he spoke.
Alfie blanched and took a step back from the counter. “He was hoping for a ring like the one you sold me.”
“Alas, we have no other such items in stock,” said Borgin. “But tell me about yourself, Mr. Epstein. Perhaps I have something else in my back room that might fit in with your…lifestyle.”
“Um, well…” Brian began nervously. He wrapped his hand around the scarab in his pocket for good luck as he formulated his reply. “I’m studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts just now. I’m hoping to become an actor. My teachers tell me I have some talent, though I’m not so sure about that. Other students in my class seem to have more of a natural gift than I do. I’m actually considering putting aside my acting dreams and focusing on becoming an entertainment manager instead. Though I haven’t decided yet.”
“Would you like a charm that would enhance your dramatic skills?” asked Borgin. “It could make you a better mimic.”
“Perhaps,” Brian replied. “Though if I end up becoming a manager, that might not do me much good. I’d rather have…”
“A charm that would bring fame and fortune to either yourself or the artists under your wing,” Tom Riddle interrupted. “We have just such an object in our storage area. Please excuse me for a moment.”
Tom Riddle stepped into the shop’s back room, then returned moments later holding a small jewelry box. He opened it up to reveal a pair of gold cufflinks.
“These cufflinks have an interesting history,” he began. “I just traveled to California to repossess them.”
“Indeed they do,” Borgin interrupted. “My partner, Caractacus Burke, purchased them many years ago from the estate of William Kite, a very popular Victorian acrobat who was once a headliner for Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal. In 1913, Caractacus sold them to a young Italian man named Rudolfo Guglielmi who was on his way to America. Perhaps you might know Mr. Guglielmi better by the stage name he adopted – Rudolph Valentino.”
Brian and Alfie exchanged excited glances with each other, then turned back towards the counter with matching eager expressions on their faces.
“Fame did not come to Mr. Guglielmi immediately, I must confess,” Borgin continued. “He worked odd jobs in New York City for several years, then traveled out west, where he joined a theatrical company run by an entertainer named Al Jolson. However, within a few years, he found employment in the burgeoning cinema industry, and by 1921, he had become a household name after starring in a movie entitled, ‘The Shiek.’ Perhaps you have heard of this film?”
“I have,” Brian said with a broad smile.
“Guglielmi’s old friend Al Jolson visited his former protégé on the set of his film ‘Blood and Sand’,” Borgin added. “Rudolfo passed along the cufflinks to Jolson, as a gesture of gratitude for helping to launch his dramatic career. Alas, the film star died not long after that. But in 1927, Mr. Jolson appeared in a movie entitled, ‘The Jazz Singer,’ which you also may have heard of, and assumed Valentino’s mantle as the best-known actor in the world.”
Alfie slapped his friend’s back. “These cufflinks are looking pretty lucky, Brian, if you ask me.”
“Mr. Jolson remained one of the most popular entertainers in America for many years after the release of ‘The Jazz Singer,’ segueing his talents into the additional fields of radio and television,” Borgin continued. “He died in 1950, but bequeathed these cufflinks to Jack Warner, the head of the American motion picture studio Warner Brothers, to thank him for launching his film career. However, Mr. Jolson added the caveat in his will that Mr. Warner must occasionally lend out the cufflinks to some of the most promising young actors contracted to his studio. So Jack Warner lent these to James Dean.”
“Bullocks!” laughed Brian. “This story just keeps getting better!”
“After Mr. Dean died last month, I traveled to California to collect the cufflinks,” Tom Riddle interrupted in a sonorous voice that abruptly brought the lighthearted conversation crashing back down to earth. “Mr. Warner was under the impression that the cufflinks brought their wearers as much bad luck as they did good. Though it is hardly my place to opine on that matter. What do you think, Mr. Epstein?”
Brian cleared his throat and examined the cufflinks in the dim overhead light of the store. “Well, I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve read a bit about those entertainers you just mentioned. I know that James Dean was in the habit of racing cars, so his death, though tragic, was hardly a surprise. And Valentino – I believe he died from complications of surgery after an appendectomy. Medical treatment was a bit spotty back then, so his death was not exactly a complete surprise either.”
“How did Al Jolson die?” Alfie asked.
“I believe he died from a heart attack,” Tom Riddle replied with a nasty smile. “At the ripe old age of sixty-four.”
Alfie and Brian exchanged thoughtful looks.
“Well, sixty-four is pretty old, if you ask me,” Alfie noted. “He’d lived a full life.”
“Will you still need me when I’m sixty-four?” Brian asked his friend.
Alfie laughed. “You’re my weekend beau,” he replied, clasping Brian’s hand in his. “I’ve already told you that.”
The two customers beamed at each other, then looked back at the two shop workers. Borgin and Tom Riddle were both scowling at them with disdainful expressions.
“I take it your ring’s magic doesn’t work in front of these wizards,” Brian whispered to his friend. “Only in front of humans. Or should I say, in front of Muggles.”
“Are you interested in making the exchange?” Tom Riddle asked, boring his snake-like eyes into Brian’s once more. “Your amulet for these cufflinks?”
Alfie summoned his courage and stepped closer to the counter. “I should have thought a man like you would want to keep these magical artifacts for yourself, Mr. Riddle.”
Tom Riddle released a wicked grunt of a laugh. “I am not interested in fame and fortune,” he declared. He leaned over the counter and looked Alfie directly in the eye. “I seek power.”
Brian tittered a nervous laugh. “Um, all right then,” he said. He pulled the scarab out of his pocket and rested it on the counter. “I’ll trade you. My uncle’s beetle for your lucky cufflinks.”
Tom Riddle immediately slapped his hand over the scarab. “A wise decision, Mr. Epstein,” he stated. He looked up at his manager and tilted his head. “I shall place this in the ebony cabinet straight away. Please excuse me.”
Borgin watched his employee step into the next room, then turned back towards Brian and Alfie. “You’d best be on your way now, Mr. Saunders. A Muggle like Mr. Epstein does not belong in Diagon Alley. I should have thought even a mudblood like yourself would know that.”
Alfie’s face flushed beet red. He reached into the pocket of his jacket, pulled out a wand and pointed it at Borgin. The shopkeeper immediately pulled a wand out of his own pocket and pointed it at Alfie.
Brian looked back and forth between the two men, then put his right hand on Alfie’s shoulder. “I don’t know what the hell you two are trying to do, but I suspect it’s not worth it. Just ignore the bloody bastard.” He reached his left hand towards the counter, picked up the cufflinks, and slipped them into his coat pocket.
Alfie held Borgin’s gaze for a long moment, then lowered his wand. “Right, let’s blow this joint.” He turned on his heels, then held the shop’s door open for Brian.
The two young men left the store.
“So,” Brian said after as they walked into the Leaky Cauldron from the hidden alleyway. “Muggles like me aren’t supposed to go into that shop then?”
“That’s right,” Alfie agreed.
“But Rudolf Valentino went in there all those years ago to do some shopping,” Brian noted. “And Jack Warner of Warner Brothers Studios contacted the shopkeeper after James Dean died and asked him to buy back the cufflinks.”
“Right again,” Alfie replied. He winked at Brian. “We wizards are living amongst you Muggles in plain sight. You just don’t know it.”
Brian leaned towards Alfie and kissed his cheek. “Well, I know you. And that’s all I need to know.”
* * *
Paul McCartney ducked his head into the small tent John Lennon was using as a dressing room. “Roll up for the mystery trip!” he called to his friend.
“Right, yeah, just a minute,” John replied. He rubbed his hands over the surface of his dressing table and cursed under his breath.
“Come on, John,” Paul pleaded. “We want to start filming. Everyone else is already on the bus.”
“I can’t find my goddamned cufflinks!” John exclaimed. He lifted his feathered hat off the tabletop and examined the empty spot where it had been sitting. “Christ, where can they be?”
Paul stepped into the tent and approached John. “Are you talking about Brian’s pair of lucky cufflinks?”
“One and the same,” John muttered. He crouched down and looked underneath the table. “Have you got a torch on you? Maybe they’ll reflect back the light.”
“Sorry, no,” Paul replied. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and threw John a challenging look. “So how did you end up with them? I thought Clive inherited all of Brian’s personal effects.”
“Clive didn’t want them,” John said. He stood back up and knocked his head on the edge of the table as he rose. “Fuck,” he cursed again.
Paul shook his head at John and started to laugh.
John put his hand to the top of his head and rubbed his sore spot, then turned and faced Paul. “Brian lent them to me in July for the ‘Our World’ taping. I forgot to give them back. But after Brian died, I offered them to Clive. I thought Brian might have wanted to be buried wearing them, since they meant so much to him. But Clive told me the family was just going to wrap Brian’s body in a shroud, in the Jewish tradition. He said to keep the cufflinks, to remember Brian by.”
“Brian was always lending them to you,” Paul replied, his voice turning sour. “You wore them the day we recorded our first album. And at the Royal Command Performance. And at the Ed Sullivan Show. And…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” John agreed. “And at our concert in Shea Stadium too. But he leant them to you when you recorded ‘Yesterday.’ And he let you wear them to the movie premiere of ‘The Family Way’ as well.”
Paul’s face brightened. “Top grossing British film released last year,” he stated proudly. “Brian’s lucky cufflinks worked their magic on me as well as on you!”
“That’s why I want to find them,” John sighed. “I swear they were right here on the bloody table a few minutes ago! But then some of the extras came into the tent, asking for autographs. I shooed them away and told them to wait until we wrapped up today’s filming. But now I’m wondering if one of the wankers pinched them.”
“Bloody bastards,” Paul groused.
“Right,” John agreed. He lifted a black suit jacket off the back of his chair and carefully rechecked its pockets.
“Did Brian ever tell you where he got them?” Paul asked.
John started putting on his jacket, taking care to keep his un-fastened shirt sleeves in place as he slipped his arms through the coat sleeves. “Yeah. He traded one of his uncle’s Egyptian amulets for them at some weird little antique shop off Charing Cross Road about ten years ago, back when he was studying drama at the Royal Academy. He tried to take me to the store once, but we couldn’t find it. The shop’s name wasn’t even listed in the phone book.”
“Must have gone out of business,” Paul surmised.
“Yeah,” John agreed.
Paul checked his watch. “It’s getting late. I don’t want to leave the cameraman waiting much longer. Let’s go film this scene on the bus, then I’ll come back here and help you look for them.”
“Thanks,” John sighed. “You don’t suppose the continuity girl is going to notice that I’m not wearing my cufflinks in this scene, do you?”
“John, in case you haven’t noticed, we don’t have a continuity girl on this film shoot!” Paul replied with a smile. He clapped John on the back.
“Right,” John chuckled. He buttoned up his jacket, then turned his face and met Paul’s eyes. “You know what? Maybe we should just let whoever nicked those damned cufflinks keep them. I was willing to bury them with Brian’s body, after all. They’ve done their job. We’ve reached the toppermost of the poppermost. Why not give someone else’s star a chance to rise?” He picked up his feathered hat and plopped it on his head. “Let’s go then. The magical mystery tour is waiting to take us away.”
John and Paul stepped out of the tent and jogged across the field towards the bus. They were met with a chorus of loud cheers when they joined the crowd of actors and extras assembled inside the vehicle.
Tom Riddle stepped away from the back of the dressing room tent and watched the colorfully painted bus pull away. Then he walked to the tent’s flap, help up his wand and hissed, “Accio aurea fibula! ” The cufflinks flew out of the tent and into his hand. He twisted his lips into a nasty smile, then apparated away.