"Here is an item that might interest you Mr. Russell," Homer Parducci, the short, bald owner of the antique shop said to the man standing before him on the other side of the display case. The shopkeeper reached into the case and withdrew a strange looking necklace. "This is a talisman from Africa. I have hung in on this gold necklace, but let me assure you the item is genuine. I will provide you with papers certifying its authenticity if you think you might want to purchase it."
"It looks like a tiny shrunken head," the man who had been addressed as Mr. Russell replied.
"Yes, but as you can see it is carved from ivory. Circling its head is hair taken from an actual lion's mane, while the rings through its ears are made of gold. It is a representation of a witchdoctor who lived in eastern Africa during the mid-nineteenth century. The documentation, which accompanied the talisman, says that the witchdoctor was noted for his extraordinary powers, especially the power to invoke sexual lust. It is said that he was able to have any woman he desired and sold this power to anyone who could meet his price. His dalliance with the women of his tribe invoked the wrath of many of the women's husbands. One night the angry men caught the witchdoctor asleep and killed him. Yet, it is said, that before his death the witchdoctor foresaw his ending, and he created this talisman into which he pour the essence of his being. The band, which circles the face and covers the mouth, is rumored to have been carved there to keep the power of the witchdoctor within the talisman. All and all, the thing is a rare and most unusual item."
"It is indeed interesting," the customer replied. "As you know, my wife is intrigued by the extraordinary and bizarre. She has fairly good sized collection of uncommon artifacts from around the world. I am certain that she would be interested in this talisman. You have provided us with many items in the past and have proved yourself to be trustworthy. If you can provide me with suitable documentation of this thing's authenticity, I will purchase the talisman."
"Very good," Homer replied. "Wait but a moment and I will return with proof you desire."
The bald man turned and went into the backroom of the shop and returned a few minutes later with a handful of papers. He grinned at the taller man before him as he handed his customer the documents. The shopkeeper watched as the man read over the certified records and noted that his customer smiled at what he read.
"It appears that this talisman is everything you have represented it as being and a bit more. You neglected to tell me about the things checkered past. Particularly the history of the amulet's previous owners," the tall man said to the shop owner. "It seems that few of the people that owned the talisman kept it for long and several of those owners were involved in murder."
"Well, yes that is true," the bald man said nervously. "That is the reason I have lowered the price on this item to a bargain. To be frank with you, many people are reluctant to buy the talisman once its past has come to light. People seem to believe that the thing is cursed. As you can see, from those papers, there have been several murders involving previous owners. You have been a good customer and it is only fair I tell you what I have heard that isn't in the documentation.
"Mind you what I have heard is only second hand and comes only from the woman that sold me the talisman. She knew something about the things past, which was never written down on paper. I am sure that it is a lot of superstitious nonsense, but she said that the amulet had incited strange sexual desires. Many of the artifacts owners fell into a life of debauchery, which included orgies and adultery. Indeed, the murders, which you have mentioned are said to have been the result of jealousy spawned when someone was caught straying by loved one. She told me that she had caught her husband in such a circumstance after she had given him the amulet. She ended up divorcing him and the talisman came into her possession, but she seemed to think the amulet gave her bad dreams so she sold it to me. Other potential buyers of the talisman have found out about the item's past and have passed up on buying it."
"So this is a cursed talisman?" The taller man smiled as he held the thing in his hand. "That in itself makes it even more unusual. I am sure that this is something that my wife would be very interested in owning. She and I are not superstitious. I think such things are for the undereducated and unenlightened. Your price is fair and your documentation appears to be authentic. I will purchase this dreaded talisman gladly."
"Thank you sir," the shopkeeper grinned, "I am sure your wife will find the talisman to be a most interesting part of her collection. You are indeed lucky that all this superstitious nonsense has driven down the price of this fine item."
The bald man quickly placed the talisman in a small box, while his customer wrote out a check. The shopkeeper smiled as he watched the other man pick up the box and leave his shop. The shop owner sighed with relief that the thing was no longer in his possession. It had been playing on his mind for too long a time and thoughts about it had been seeping into his dreams.
The buyer of the talisman was Carl Russell. He was a distinguished middle-aged man who was wealthy enough to indulge his wife's fancy for offbeat collectables. He and his wife had been together for over twenty-five years and their house was filled with many strange items from around the world. However, nowhere in his wife's collection could be found anything, which was rumored to be cursed. Carl knew that his wife would be thrilled with the talisman and would find a place of honor in her collection for it.
"I'm home," Carl cried out as he entered his house, "and I have a surprise for you."
"I'm upstairs," he heard his wife reply, "bring yourself and the surprise up here."
The house was decorated with many strange and exotic curios, which were displayed on a variety of shelves and in antique cabinets. The man paid no attention to his wife's collection, as he eagerly climbed the stairs to show his wife his new acquisition. He found her in their bedroom putting clothes into the closet. She turned smiling as she heard her husband enter the room and rushed into his arms quickly giving him a kiss. Norma Russell was a good looking woman who was almost twenty years younger than her husband. Her light brown hair was kept moderately short and was accented by her bright blue eyes. Carl considered Norma to be a perfect armful, and he loved her with all his heart.
"Guess what I have for you?" asked Carl as a smile spread across his face. "I'll give you a hint. I bought if at Homer Parducci's shop."
"Then it is no good for me to guess. Homer has too wide a selection of things for me to randomly pick one out of the air."
"Well, my love," Carl said as he drew the small box out of his coat pocket, "then I'll just have to give it to you without any further fanfare."
"Oh, Carl you really shouldn't buy all these things for me. Why anyone would think I am just plain spoiled," Norma said as she took the container from her husband, "and that just isn't true."
"Nonsense, I love giving you things. Now are you going to see what is inside that little box or am I going to have to take it back to poor old Homer?"
"Oh, don't take it back!" she replied. "You know how Homer likes to make a sale. I'm sure if you took it back he would have a stroke or something. Now, let's see what you brought me this time."
As Norma lifted the lid off the box and looked at the amulet, which lay inside, her eyes grew wide with wonder. Her husband's gift was strange, even bizarre. Something so unique that it fired her fancy for the unusual. In other words, the gift was perfect. She lifted the talisman from its container, feeling a slight shock of wonder as she did so, and turned it around and around in her hand to examine all the things details.
"Carl, this is magnificent! I don't have anything that can compare to it. How much did you pay for it?"
"It is real ivory, and the headdress is made from real lion's mane. It comes with these papers of authenticity," Carl said as he handed her the papers, which the shopkeeper had given him. "It really didn't cost all that much. Homer seemed more than glad to get rid of the talisman for a bargain price. He said that most people thought that the thing was cursed and would not buy it."
"Curse?" his wife gasped as she took the papers from her husband's hands and sat on the bed to read through them. After a few minutes of reading she looked up at Carl, "Wow, it seems this is the real deal, complete with curse and all. Darling, this will be the highlight of my collection. I'm sure the girls will just die when they see this and read over its history. To think that I own a talisman, which contains the spirit of an African witchdoctor who specialized is sexual magic, is just too much! I just know my friends will turn all colors of the rainbow with envy."
"Well, I am glad you like it," Carl told her. "Just don't get too carried away with the sexual part of things. Remember, you are my faithful and loving wife."
"As if I ever could forget that," Norma stood to kiss and hug her husband, "but the sexual aspect will chill and thrill my friends. Some of them are more than a little superstitious and this will really get them excited. You are the best thing that ever happened to me, and I love you with all my heart. Thank you, not only for this present but for everything you have given to me."
.... There is more of this story ...