Gallagher wasn’t an overly tall man, so storing his swords and épées in a stone pot that reached past his waist seemed impractical. He would be unable to cleanly draw any of his weapons should the need arise.
Funny, that my first thought was of the readiness of his arsenal, and not that he possessed such an eclectic array of blades.
He had invited me to dine with him, a request that I was wont to decline, despite his reputation for mercurial outbursts and a weakness for Amontillado sherry. Gallagher was also quite an enigma, a living legend whose life story grew more extraordinary with each telling.
Being a writer, I had hoped to convince him to favor me with tales from his arcane adventures. Many of the rumors I had heard were beyond belief, but I also knew that all tall-tales had some element of truth. I wanted to pick through the minutiae to find that kernel of his truth.
I thought there was no better place to start than to ask him about the swords.
With a wave of his hand, he dismissed my inquiry, nearly spilling his fourth glass of sherry. When I gently insisted, playing to his vanity, and his near-constant need for approval and attention, he gave in.
With an air of complacency, he claimed the swords were mere trinkets he had picked up during his travels. Some local curiosity that held no real value which he only kept for sentimental reasons.
From the condition of the blades, I could believe they were merely items sold to unsuspecting tourists looking for some exotic souvenir to bring home.
Gallagher placed his now empty glass on the mantel and peered into the urn, carefully selecting the first sword.
“This one I found lodged in an anvil in the courtyard of an abandoned church in Old London,” Gallagher hefted the sword with surprising dexterity. He fingered the ricasso before settling into a supinated position. Then just as quickly sheathed the weapon back into the pot.
The second sword he presented he said was from a small bazaar in Acra.
“I took it from a grubby, street urchin, “ he said. “He met his match when he tried to best me at Nard.“
And it continued, Gallagher exhibiting a sword and recounting its colorful past, each telling adding to my heightened sense of déjà vu.
The last sword he pulled was a swashbuckling cutlass, pitted and dull from exposure to salt and sand.
With a dazzling flourish, Gallagher brandished the blade in an intricate pattern, dueling with an imaginary combatant.
“The story attached to this sword is a sad one,” he said, holding the cutlass horizontally across his upturned palms. “A Breton nobleman, Baron Bleue, was slain by the brothers of his foreign, mail order bride in a plot to steal his substantial wealth. Their conspiracy was discovered, but not before the hapless Baron was murdered. His villainous brothers-in-law and his treacherous wife were all convicted and sit languishing in some French prison.”
He replaced this one into the urn with affected reverence.
“I bought that blade at an estate sale in Rennes,” he said with unabashed nonchalance.
Now, here I sit, back home at my keyboard, fingers poised and ready to transcribe the events of the evening, yet unable to decipher fact from fiction, and wishing I had an uncorked bottle of Gallagher’s Amontillado.