Marie Beguine (A Forrester Maid)

Marie returned to the maid’s chamber, leaving Amelie alone once again with the young man the Colonel had brought into the house.

She wasn’t sure if she liked this Johnny Holiday, though she had to admit that he was a handsome fellow, tall and strong with a smooth complexion.

He was just the sort of young man that Amelie was fond of, and Marie thought it was dangerous to have him living in the house, even if he was in the guest quarters.

Amelie had already asked her for the key to his room, and she would have to give it to her even though Nils, the head butler would be upset with her if he found out.

Marie would much rather face Nils’ anger than Amelie’s.

Marie was worried for the Colonel’s older daughter. She had not been herself for months, neither of the girls had, but Amelie seemed particularly unpredictable, she even seemed to be surprising herself. There were times in the past few months when she had come to Marie to ask her what time she had come home, who she had gone out with, what if anything had she said about the things she was doing.

Amelie had become paranoid, and she drank strong liquor throughout the day. This troubled Marie.

The other servants had noticed as well, but none of them were as close to Amelie as Marie was. They enjoyed their gossip, but Marie thought of the girl as a daughter. She wanted her to be happy.

The common wisdom was that she had driven her husband, Bjorn Elmquist away, but Marie believed that something terrible had happened to him, though she did not know what it might be.

Amelie had begun to behave strangely shortly after the two of them were married, and it had been a short engagement. Bjorn was a gregarious and fascinating man, Marie loved to eavesdrop on him when he was regaling an audience with his stories, mostly the Colonel, who ardently admired him.

This new young man, this Johnny-boy, he had been hard on Amelie, and Marie did not like that. He had exacerbated her nerves causing her to spill her drink. Marie was happy to come in and clean things up, but she could tell that Amelie was deeply embarrassed by the mishap.

And it would not have happened at all if Johnny Holiday had simply been more polite. He must be something extra special to the Colonel to think that he could get away with that kind of behavior in the Forrester Mansion, Marie thought. And if that were the case all of the staff should know to let the boy have plenty of space.

It would be best if Nils handled his needs while he was a guest at the mansion, Marie said to herself.

She wanted nothing to do with him.

Karl Thorrson

Karl Thorrson was a giant, nearly seven feet tall with bones as dense as granite. His hands were as big as bear paws and his shoulders as broad as a draft horse, and yet despite his size he was graceful, light of foot like a dancer and as nimble fingered as a seamstress, and he only had one eye.

There was a large black stone in his other socket, studded with diamonds set in jagged line like a lightning bolt, when the diamonds caught the light just right rainbows jumped from his gaze.

The word on the street was that he could see with that rock in his head, that he could see even better than with the eye he was born with. People also said that he could see into the world beyond, they said that he had gouged his own eye out with a red hot iron to gain the power; they said he could see and talk to spirits and that he was haunted by them, ghosts were drawn to him like moths to a flame.

At the same time it was known that animals shunned him; people said he could command the lightning, they also said he was cursed by it, and the rain followed him relentlessly.

Karl Thorrson liked to believe the things people said about him, he encouraged such stories, he embellished them whenever he could, adding luster to their grandiosity.

The stories were only partially true.

On this day it was threatening rain. Heavy drops were in the air when he left Ingrid’s Magnusson’s bookstore on Lake Street. She had gone North to see her sister, his wife Helga, and Karl wasn’t happy about that, but he couldn’t stop her.

Karl was angry when he was at the reading room, he had an appointment to keep on Ingrid’s behalf, and he was impatient for it to be over. He was waiting for a professor from one of the local colleges, a Dr. Peirce Johnson who was a scholar of antiquities who was coming for a very precious book, the Albigensian Grimoire.

There were some passages that Ingrid had not yet been able to translate, and Johnson promised to be of help.

With his help he might raise the dead.

Karl Thorrson didn’t like the skinny little man when he met him, and he didn’t like hearing his name spoken out loud by some stranger in the reading room, a young man who had come in separately, asking for him. The giant did not intend to bother himself with making an introduction at that moment, but there was something about the young man’s voice that gave him an uncomfortable feeling almost from the moment he heard it.

Ms. Angela Guthrie, who was Ingrid’s assistant, dismissed the boy, and he left right on the heels of Dr. Johnson as if he were a highway man stalking his mark.

Karl didn’t like anything about the day, especially the heat and the oncoming rain that he was powerless to stop, despite what the people were fond of believing about him, that he actually had control of the weather.

Today he had business down Lake Street at a bar that refused to pay him for the protection he offered, one of the last hold outs on the strip. Karl wanted to get on with it, despite the feeling of nausea that had taken a hold of him.

He planned on taking care of the matter in person, rather than send his men a third time, just to see them get nowhere with the owners.

But he was wrong.

Dr. Pierce Johnson Ph.D., (Antiquities)

Dr. Johnson cursed himself as he walked away from the lake as fast as he could, gripping his cane tightly in one hand, not even bothering to swing it.

He was rattled.

He had been followed from the Ingrid Magnusson’s bookstore by a man who looked like he could be police, or a prizefighter. A tall and broad-shouldered man who had been sitting in a chair at the reading room when he arrived.

Dr. Johnson had finally gotten permission to examine the Albigensian Grimoire, he had been waiting for more than a year for it to become available and he was eager to look into its pages, both to examine its ancient lore as well as the modern interpolations that had been made by Lord Crowley and company.

Now he had lost it and he feared Ingrid’s patron: Karl Thorrson the one-eyed giant, would not let him live it down.

Dr. Johnson was not a brave man, nor did he aspire to be one, a fear of violence reprisal had haunted him since childhood. He was graceless and physical weak, despite his height, which gave him a somewhat imposing disposition.

When he realized he was being followed he panicked and began walking toward Loon Lake.

He was hoping that he was imagining things, being paranoid as was his wont; perhaps the man was not following him after all, he thought, but then the man turned with him and matched his gait.

When Dr. Johnson got to the lake he attempted to lose him in the brushes of the steep hill that formed a ridge on the east side.

It did not work.

That is when he decided that the man must be one of the Park Police, the notorious squad of uniformed gangster that were the bane of Saint Anthony.

He did not want to be caught with the book in his hands so he decided to hide it beneath some shrubs. Then he walked away, and walked right past the man feeling as smug as could be, telling himself that he had outsmarted the sleuth, pretending that he was the better man.

The feeling did not last.

He knew the man would retrieve the book. His heart fell into his stomach as he contemplated the implications.

He would need to do something desperate if he was going to survive this blunder.

He looked out over the surface of the water as he turned away from the lake, fearing that he would be sleeping there, eighty feet below the surface before the night was through.

Amelie Elmquist (Forrester)

Amelie Elmquist stood by her window in the antechamber of the wing she occupied in the Forrester mansion. She stood there watching her father, Colonel Forrester, as he interviewed a poorly dressed young man at length in the garden below her.

It troubled her.

She couldn’t peel herself away from her perch where she concealed herself behind the long white curtains, wishing more than anything that she could hear what was being said.

The staff was preparing a room for him in the guest quarters at that very moment. Until this morning she had not heard a thing about it. Nils, their butler. had kept the information from the staff and from her until this morning, though he had probably known for some days that her father wanted to put the boy up for a term of days, possibly longer.

Amelie positively loathed these kinds of secrets, they were disruptive and she had been feeling so out-of-control lately…

She had managed to squeeze a little information from Nils about the shabby boy, and what he would be doing at the mansion.

His name was Johnny Holiday, he worked for the evening paper, an aspiring journalist and a student at the University of Saint Thomas, across the river in Pig’s Eye.

Her father had enjoined him to do some research, Nils said, concerning Amelie’s husband, Bjorn, who had gone missing a few months earlier.

Nils told her that the Colonel, on account of his fondness for her husband, wanted something tangible to remember him by, a piece of prose to capture the essence of the man and remind him of their time together.

Her father was obsessed with stories, believing that narrative had a mystical quality, the way some aboriginal tribes believed that photographing a person could steal their soul, or rob them of their essence, as the renowned anthropologist Margaret Meade had reported.

Amelie suspected what it really meant was that her father was not satisfied with the notion that Bjorn had decided to leave her without a good reason, and without saying goodbye to anyone. The Colonel wanted to find out why he had gone, and he wanted someone who was unknown to both his friends and enemies to carry out the inquiry.

This made her nervous. She didn’t want anyone asking questions about her marriage. Bjorn was gone, her father should just accept it and move on; he would never be heard from again.

She watched them drinking coffee, while she drank a tumbler full of strong liquor, to settle her nerves and prepare her for own interview with the aspiring journalist.

She was determined to discover his purpose. Nils would bring him to her when her father was done with him, then she would but his heels in the fire.