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.

Captain Royce Bivens, University of Saint Thomas, ROTC

Royce Bivens was preparing for his senior year at the University of Saint Thomas. He was from an up and coming family in Pig’s Eye, Minnesota’s capitol city. His mother and father lived about a mile away from campus in a small home on Summit Avenue. His father owned a hardware store, and his mother was a parish leader at Saint Thomas Moore cathedral.

The Bivens were not a wealthy family, but they were squarely positioned in what would come to be known as the middle class. They parents were teetotlers, with a moral and ethical view of the world that was practically Calvinist despite their deeply Catholic roots; they were puritans.

Royce took pride in his training. Prior to his admission to Saint Thomas he had attended Cretin-Derham Hall, and participated in the Junior ROTC. He had dreamed of attending West Point, believing in his heart that he was better than his peers at everything their training called them to do; drills and marches, physical fitness and following orders.

He exemplified his duty.

Royce excelled at everything that entered the martial sphere of his studies, when it came to everything else he was a B student, at best. He consistently failed to understand his academic limitations, perhaps on account of the fact that he had a limited capacity for creative thinking.

Captain Royce Bivens was ardently disciplined, in his heart he believed that following orders, following procedures to the letter, was the signal mark of a good soldier.

He may have been right about that, and for his efforts he was promoted to Captain, but he was wrong about one very important thing: The ROTC program at the university was not training him to be a soldier, he was being groomed for leadership, for a commission in the Army, and command called for something more than the simple motivation to do as you are told.

Royce had been told this many times, such statements had appeared with regularity on his periodic evaluations, and he consistently failed to recognize their importance or how he could change in response to them.

On this night he had been convinced by some of the fellows from ROTC squad to take a trip down Lake Street this evening. They all wanted to see the night life and have a drink. Royce was reluctant, but he was loathe to set himself apart from the group. He thought about the constant critique of his character that his superiors were inclined to level at him and he decided that he should have some fun, join his friends, experience something of the world, do the unexpected.

Once Royce made up his mind he would not be deterred, and so when the rain began to fall in heavy sheets and some of the boys wanted to stay on campus. Royce decided to push them forward. He would have gone alone that night, and his boldness encouraged the squad to follow.

They crossed the Mississippi over the Marshall Avenue Bridge, entering Saint Anthony where Mashall became Lake Street, and they drove its length, stopping at a bar close to baseball field where the Miller’s played. The bar was called the Round-Up, and the brother of one of the boys in his squad worked there, and so they were being treated like family.

They were all gathered at the bar by the door, drinking beer and whiskey when a fight ensued.

They were laughing and talking about the girls they had seen on the corner, wondering out loud how much it would cost to spend an hour with one of them, blushing and guffawing at the thought of it when a sudden commotion started up. A group of men, including the Owner of the bar and Lieutenant Kaplan’s brother were pushing a man of gargantuan stature out the door.

Royce understood instinctively who was in the right, it was the owner of the establishment, and though it chilled him to the core to join the mayhem, he mastered his fear and together with his squad they helped push the man out of the door.

Without them they other men in the bar would not have succeeded.

He stood in the doorway and watched as the man stumbled and fell against a parked car, appearing to cut his jaw, though after a second look Royce thought he imagined it.

He watched the giant recover, and watched Tom Kaplan go outside in his rubber apron to return his hat to him. He watched as the gargantuan looked toward the sky and with maniacal laughter appeared to call the lightning down; he watched the rainbows dance in his glass eye, striking Tom Kaplan dead.

A wave of horror passed through the crowd, a midget brushed past Royce’s leg. The huge man began to run down the street, police following after him; then he saw something that surprised him. He saw Johnny Holiday, a guy that Royce had drummed out of the ROTC, and from the University, he saw Johnny following behind the huge man, ahead of the police, giving chase like had reason to.

Royce Bivens scratched his chin confused, Lieutenant Kaplan ran to his brother, sobbing and screaming. The rest of his crew was standing around in shock, looking to Royce, their Captain for a signal.

Royce Bivens went out to his friend who was sitting on his knees in the downpour, crying. He put his hand on his shoulder, and said to him: “Let’s go call your ma,” then there was another crack of lightening, the lights went out and the city went dark.

Father Luke Meiner (Rector, Saint Thomas, Saint Mary’s Basilica)

Father Luke walked the grounds of Saint Mary’s Basilica, the great church on Hennepin Avenue in Saint Anthony; it was the very first Basilica to be built in the United States, following the old Roman design.

It was his habit to the trim of the hedges, the flower beds and the lawns. He picked up and gathered stray bits of trash, fallen branches and other debris. There was always something out of order.    

He took what he could carry to a receptacle and informed the grounds keeper of the things he could not.

Father Luke looked over the windows and the foundations of the granite building, walking slowly as he smoked his Pall Malls. It was a kind of mediation, caretaking for the property just as Adam had been charged to care for the garden, or so he told himself.

He was late today and feeling somewhat restless in the oppressive Autumn heat.

He had been detained by one of the sisters who had become frantic about a bat that had found its way into the sanctuary, the entire staff had to come together to capture it. After it had been netted the sister insisted that they let the creature go free.

Father Luke had to come to her aid when the groundskeepers argued with her, insisting that it should destroyed because it was pest.

She had her way.

Father Luke looked up from his mediation in time to see one of his parishioners driving past the church in his convertible, with the top down, a young man who Luke had been mentoring for the past several years, a boy named Johnny Holiday who had been going through a spate of trouble recently, drinking, suspended from the University where Father Luke served as Rector.

Johnny did not appear to notice Luke as he drove past, he had his eyes on the road, and was moving straight ahead.

He followed the car with his eyes as he took a right turn past parade field and went up the winding hill of Waverly Place, Luke had to wonder what business was drawing Johnny up the Waverly Place and the ridge people called The Devil’s Spine.

Dr. Quintin Marshall – Professor of Classical Philosophy

Dr. Marshall arrived early in the morning.

The drive down Summit Avenue was beautiful, though the humidity was stifling.

There was a breeze with cool jets of air laced through, it spoke of storms and perhaps a break in the weather.

Students were returning to campus. The Freshmen were in the quad doing drills for R.O.T.C.. Dr. Marshall enjoyed watching the young men exercising, wishing that he had been afforded the benefit of such training before his own service in the Great War.

While his summer sabbatical at the University of Chicago had been illuminating. He was glad to be back in Pig’s Eye. He particularly enjoyed the conferences he had attended with eminent philosopher and physicist, Alfred Whitehead he had to confess that it made him feel small.

His work is groundbreaking, Dr. Marshall thought, even though he was forced to confront the very real limits of his imagination as he tried to comprehend Whitehead’s theory of concresence, and such things. Quintin Marshall knew this much, Whitehead was articulating a whole new cosmology, a signal change in the basic understanding of the nature of reality, one that was based on all of the groundbreaking work that was being carried out by famous men like Einstein and others.

The old world, his world would become just a footnote to theirs.

When he got to his desk in Aquinas Hall he found it much as he had left at the end of the spring term, Freshly cleaned and dusted but his work was right where he left it. There were even a couple of papers he had not graded before leaving.

There was a paper from Johnny Holiday, an exceedingly bright but functionally derelict student who Dr. Marshall had been all too happy to see dismissed, even helping to facilitate his suspension, never mind the fact that it necessitated a less than honest report on his comportment.

The boy was a bright and a gifted writer, but arrogant, and he did not belong in the university.

He looked out the window thinking about Whitehead, wondering why he felt hollow inside. He realized then that he had become a historian, a cataloger of other people’s thoughts. The world had moved on from Socrates and Plato, revolutionaries in their time, now become little more than shining tiles in the mosaic of modern thought.

He looked back at his desk and read the title of Johnny Holiday’s final essay:

Concresence and the Square of Opposition, the end of Aristotle in the Age of Uncertainty

Hubris! Dr. Marshall thought, knowing that he was jealous. He hadn’t read the paper, and he didn’t plan to, but now seeing the title again, he realized that Johnny Holiday had already progressed to the place in philosophy that he himself aspired to. He was with Whitehead, a creature of the modern world.

Sam Olson – Editor at The Star

It was late morning when Sam turned his thoughts to his protégé, Johnny Holiday, while sitting at his desk, looking out of his window over Downtown Saint Anthony, with a view of city hall with its copper spires.

He wondered how Johnny had gotten along with Colonel Forrester, thinking that the interview should be over by now, and wondering what kind of arrangements the Colonel had made for him, what kind of a deal Johnny had struck for himself.

Doing work for the Colonel could be lucrative, Sam knew it from firsthand experience, though in his heart he wondered if he should have tried harder to steer Johnny away from the old man, because the work could also be dangerous too, as anything having to do with the Colonel Forrester could be.

Sam was fond of Johnny, he had known him for the better part of the boy’s life, watched him grow up at the paper, learning every job there was to do in the newsroom.

Sam told Johnny that he had recommended him to Colonel Forrester, for a writing assignment that called for first class prose.

Johnny was young, and he wrote beautifully but the truth of the matter was that there were a half a dozen more experienced writers he would have preferred to recommend to the Colonel if the only qualification was beautiful prose.

When the Colonel came to him asking for a recommendation he asked for Johnny Holiday by name, and really the Colonel was asking Sam if there was some reason that he should not offer Johnny this assignment, then informed Sam that he would appreciate it if Johnny came to the work believing that Sam had made the recommendation on his own.

Sam starred out his window looking over the city watching the clouds approach, telling himself that no harm could come from recommending Johnny to the Colonel, and curious as to what the assignment entailed.

He sipped his coffee, turned his back on the city and returned to the stack pilling up on his desk.

Day One – Celene Marie Forrester

Celene set down the long-stemmed silver pipe, balancing it in the glass bowl on top of the end table in Peirce’s den.

A thin stream of sweet smoke curled and wavered into the light, which poured through the prisms of the leaded glass windows.

The opium made her see everything in shades of purple.

She admired herself in the mirror, and her naked body barely concealed by the thin silk of her bra and panties, garter belt and stockings, which were intended to draw attention to her figure rather than conceal it.

She wore the same lingerie as the woman lounging on chaise beside her, drinking for a tumbler of absinthe.

The green genie will be dancing soon, she thought.

In the next room Dr. Peirce Johnson was busying about the parlor, adjusting lights and preparing a roll of film for one of his cameras.

He was a professor of antiquities, not a pornographer, but the pictures he would be taking of them would be bold enough to make a sailor blush.

Celene giggled.

She sipped from her own glass of absinthe.

“Ingrid,” she said to the woman, “Will you call your girl to come over and do our make-up, and dress our hair. I want everything to be perfect for these photographs tonight.”

The woman, who was not Ingrid, but was in fact her Ingrid’s twin sister Helga, stammered an excuse regarding why she could not, and that told Celene two things.

The first thing was that Ingrid’s assistant, Miss Angela Guthrie, would not be coming over to play with them, and that made Celene angry.

The second thing it told her was that the woman calling herself Ingrid, was not who she said she was, the confirmation of which delighted her.

Something unexpected would happen tonight.

Celene had heard about Helga Magnusson, but she had never met her.

Ingrid never spoke of her, but Pierce had. More importantly her brother in law had.

Bjorn Elmquist, who was married to Celene’s older sister, Amelie, had once been in love with

Helga, who was herself married, though estranged from the most notorious gangster in Saint Anthony.

Celene was very pleased to have learned this, and it was going to make the rest of the evening very exciting for her. She loved a surprise.

Helga was up to something, she wasn’t here to fool us that she was Ingrid. There could be no good reason for that, and from what she had been told helga was not the type of woman who would be interested in playing the games that she played with Ingrid and the tall, ostrich-like Peirce Johnson.

Celene was high on her opium concoction and well on her way to drunkenness, she was having a difficult time discerning the motives, but Charlotte was glowing with the light of woman intent on something…and it looked very much like revenge.

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.