Bob's guest room was bright with fresh roses, but the first thing Isabel noticed was a gold box on the nightstand. She held it up and traced her finger around the lid.
"144 circles," she said. "That's a dozen dozen, like the 12 apostles. 40 circles each on the long sides, like 40 days of flood, 40 years in the desert, 40 days in the desert. That leaves 64. 33 on this side, 31 on this. Funny it doesn't match. 33 is Christ's age when he died. 31 is my age next month." She laughed for the first time since she was nine years old. Bob thought it sounded like something breaking open. "This box is about the end of the world."
"It's a reliquary," said Bob. "St. Catherine's thumb."
Isabel looked at the top of the lid. "This wheel has 20 spokes and 20 spikes. One spike has a drop of blood on it, Christ's blood. 20 centuries from Christ to Christ again."
"That's the wheel they tried to kill Catherine on …" explained Bob.
"It's the wheel of existence, rolling itself out of itself."
It had taken Bob a year of study and research to figure out this box was about the end of the world. It was made in 1500 and stolen, along with its contents, in 1510. A great hunt for witches and Protestants ensued, but to no avail. By the time it reappeared, centuries later, St. Catherine had lost much of her respect from the Catholic hierarchy, due to the vagueness and inaccuracies of her story, so her box remained on the gray market.
"144 roses," said Isabel. "Thank you, but I know who I am."
Bob pondered her. Maybe she did know. First she's Batman and then she's Rain Man.
"Can I see your pen?" she asked.
Bob froze, as if arresting himself. His right hand was in his pants pocket, holding Sarah's gold Cross pen. This was against his training, for him not to know what his hand was doing. Hands left unattended could build things to destroy you. He handed her the pen. She lifted it up to about her chin and looked down on it.
"You love whoever gave this to you"
Ridiculous. Was she now a psychic hotline operator? But he knew she had noticed his reaction: Don't eat my pen! Don't eat Sarah's pen! He hated to have his body reveal his thoughts. Again, it was against his training.
"There was a girl Halle at the hospital," she said. "Her family took her to the shore. She told me that she spent the whole time knee-deep in ocean trying to get the waves to come in at regular intervals"
"Life's a beach," said Bob, smirking unenthusiastically.
Isabel sat cross-legged on the bed.
"Do you have any more questions for me?" he asked her.
No response. No response of any kind. He turned off the light.
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