Day One – Nils Vindhler, the Forrester’s Butler

Nils stood at the window overlooking the front yard, which afforded him a long view of Mount Curve.

He watched a convertible approach the house from blocks away, spotting it just as soon as the car began its ascent of the ridge.

This would be Johnny Holiday, he said to himself, the first and only appointment for Colonel Forrester today.

He watched as the young man came to a stop along the street in front of the house.

He is early, Nils remarked to himself.

The young man allowed the engine to idle as if he was not sure that he would stay.

Nils watched as he sat in the car, smoking a cigarette.

The Colonel told him that he was from the newspaper and had given Nils instructions to prepare a room for him, along with several other things. Nils took care of that business and gave instructions to the staff regarding him.

From the corner of his eye he observed the dogs watching the car as well. They were good boys, silent and steady as Nils had trained them to be.

He watched as the young man finished his cigarette and got out of his car, observing his manners as he straightened his belt and tie, smoothed the front of his shirt with his hands, while brushing the stray ash away. Then he adjusted the tilt of his hat.

His cloth was poor, but his manners told him that the boy cared about his appearance.

That speaks well of him, Nils thought.

He displayed a steady gait and sure footedness as he came to the door, moving beyond Nils’ line of sight.

Nils listened while he knocked, three short taps, forceful so as to be heard, but not demanding.

He was polite with the maid who came to the door. Nils listened while he waited in the hall.

He went to a vestibule where he could observe Johnny Holiday further.

Nils watched as he examined the furnishing, while giving none of his thoughts away.

He has a placid, observant disposition, Nils thought.

Just as he about to enter the hallway and greet the young man, Celene, the Colonels daughter, came into the hallway. Nils stopped to watch their encounter.

It was unexpected, Celene was not herself; she had not been of sound mind for some months, staying out late, dancing and drinking with irreputable people.

That fact disturbed Nils, but there was little he could do about it. The Colonel’s daughters were not his responsibility.

Once again, the young man was polite, while Celene was playful, intrusive and silly, in her spoiled-childish way.

He played along with her games, he seemed to be enjoying himself while at the same time attempting to keep his composure, and to control the situation.

This speaks well of him too, Nils thought.

Just as Celene was taking her games a little farther than Nils liked, pretending to faint and fall into the young man’s arms, Nils entered the room and broke up the play.  

Day One – Colonel Albert “Guy” Forrester

He listened as the young man walked away, escorted by Nils. There was a stiffness to his gait, an unsteadiness that made the Colonel wonder if he was slightly drunk, or merely hungover, though it was possible that he was simply nervous.

The Colonel followed their progress with his ears, standing at his work bench, still as a statue.  His hearing was sensitive enough to discern the difference between their footsteps as they went through the grass. He listened as they crossed the drive and reached the house, where Nils opened the door to the guest suite for him, once again, leading from behind and inviting him inside.

Johnny Holiday, an absurd name, the Colonel thought; it was a name that lacked gravitas. People would be inclined to take him lightly.

When the door closed behind them, the Colonel turned his back to the table. With a few concise steps he neatly cleared the detritus from both the table and his tools; he was as efficient as a waiter decrumbing a table.

He returned everything to the work bench and resumed tending to his flowers.

He examined the contents boiling in the cauldron, stirring the aromatic brew with a long handled wooden spoon.

It was hot outside, but he enjoyed the scent of herbs, and flowers with undertones of pine wafting from the pot in steaming waves, adding to the humidity in the garden.

He watched the dark clouds gathering in the Western sky, considering the day ahead, and that it would soon be raining; he would driving right into the storm on his way to the Chalet in Kensington, on the banks of Lake Roland.

The Colonel had enjoyed his conversation with Holiday, though he kept it to himself. He found the young man to be both honest and insightful, and though nervous, as most men were in his presence, Holiday did not wilt under pressure.

There is promise in him, the Colonel thought, as a cool stream of air blew across his face carrying with it the scent of flint.

Day One – Denys Saint Claire, The Forrester Chauffeur

Denys took his breakfast in the kitchen with the staff at the Forrester mansion.

            Six days a week he was expected to join them at the long board in the kitchen; the housekeeping staff, the kitchen staff, the groundskeeper and Nils Samuelson, the ever present butler and leader of their coterie.

            Denys was not hungry in the morning.

He would sip a cup of black coffee, eat a soft roll made from white flour, smeared with butter and sprinkled with cocoa powder.

He listed as the cooks and the maids chattered among themselves, he waited attentively for Nils to give them the plan of the day.

The Forrester household was organized like a military unit, and Nils was there captain.

This morning was like any other that had come and gone in the two years that he had been employed at the mansion.

He woke up before dawn, opened the windows in the small room above the garage, and listened to the sound of the early morning, as he looked out over the railroad yards north of the  the long ridge that stretched across the West side of Saint Anthony, on top of which the Forrester mansion was built and held the most prominent position.

            He did his daily calisthenics.

            He washed himself, smoothed out his livery, polished the buttons on his uniform, his belt buckle and boots. He brushed his black cap and oiled the bill.

            He was ready to begin his day.

            Nils informed the staff the Colonel would be interviewing a young man for a position in his organization later in the morning.

            He listened while the household staff were given instructions to make up the guest room for him, with the expectation that he might be staying with household for a length of time.

            Nils locked eyes with Denys as he gave the staff the details of what the room would require; a blotter and pens, a typewriter and paper, miscellaneous items to outfit an office, some for comfort, some for utility.

            Denys could not help but have a feeling of jealousy as he listened to Nils issue his instructions.

            Who was this young man? He thought to himself. Just who was this guy we were rolling out the carpet for?