Rebecca reached into the porcelain bowl the table where her clients left her fee.
She had not given the proper reading to the young man who had just left her corner of the bookstore, but he had asked enough questions and taken a sufficient amount of her time to charge him.
They had not discussed her rates, and she had not checked to see if he had left her the right amount, but he had dropped something heavy into the dish, and she was curious to know if he was a cheapskate or a fair player.
She found the round metal object without looking, she felt satisfaction in knowing that it was some kind of coin, and not a stone.
It was heavier than a dollar, or even a five-dollar piece; as soon as she caught sight of it she knew that it was solid gold, her heart skipped a beat and sped-up rapidly, she brought it near to her face and adjusted her glasses for a closer inspection.
She saw that it was minted as a twenty-dollar coin, but she knew immediately that it was something special and worth much more than that, she could tell that it was old and there was nothing impure about it, it was worth more than twenty-dollars written on its face simply based on the fact that the price of gold had risen considerably since the coin was struck, but she also recognized it for what it was, a token of the notorious Colonel Forrester…the most powerful man in the city.
She had seen one like it once before, when she was a girl sitting in her uncle’s shop. He was a gun-smith specializing in custom firearms, and a tall-thin-blonde man with the most brilliant blue eyes came through the door to make a requisition. Her uncle told him that the order would take months to fill, but the tall man did not accept the answer.
He produced a gold coin and said in his lilting Scandinavian accent: “The Colonel” required the rifles with greater haste, it was urgent, he must have priority.
Rebecca had never heard of this colonel before but her uncle knew exactly who he was, and his manner of dealing with the man changed suddenly.
As he agreed to do what the man was asking she detected a dirty mix of chagrin and resentment in his voice, what Rebecca would now call a false obsequiousness, mixed with anger, resolve and a dash of helplessness.
He made only one demand of the man. He told him that he would have to leave the coin, that he would melt it down for use in the fulfilment of the order.
The man considered the demand, he appeared calculating and thoughtful. He didn’t say a word to her uncle while he reflected on the demand, after a few moments he merely nodded his head and left.
Her uncle turned to Rebecca and showed her the gold-coin.
“Look at this,” he said in his thick Yiddish accent. “This belongs to a power we cannot stand against, power that can never be refused…you should know this.” He handed it to her. “Study it, and never forget it.”
Rebecca studied the marking on the coin, committing them to memory, the same marking she was looking at now.
She wasn’t quite sure what her uncle was talking about way back then, when she was just a girl, but now she was well aware of the powers Colonel Forrester used to run Saint Anthony, not all of which were of this world.