Rebecca Mordecai

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.

Angela Guthrie

Angela Guthrie was upset, worse than that she was terrified.

She had come to work at the bookstore like any other day only to find that her employer, Ingrid Magnusson was not there and she could not get into the store.

She waited outside.

It was hot and the air was thick with humidity, she feared her make-up would not hold out much longer if she had to continue standing in the sun.

She had never experienced this before. Ingrid had never been late; she had never not shown up.

After about fifteen minutes Angela walked up Lake Street, past the Elementary School, to Hennepin Avenue where she found a phonebooth.

She dialed Ingrid’s home.

No answer.

She dialed her studio, still no answer.

While she was at the phonebooth Angela watched a long black sedan turn onto Lake and a chill went up her spine as a wave of nausea rolled through her.

She knew the car, it belonged to Ingrid’s partner, Karl Thorrson, a notorious gangster. Ingrid swore he was more than that; she called him a sorcerer, and Angela had never been forced to deal with him before…alone

This gave Angela a deep sense of foreboding. She did not want to be near him if Ingrid was not present.

She put the handset back in its cradle and walked back to the reading room, fighting her fear, knowing that she was expected.

She watched the black sedan pull up in front and watched the giant-monster of a man get out, then she watched the car pull away, leaving him alone on the sidewalk outside the store.

As she approached him, she watched another car pull up and park. This one was gray and clean, and the engine purred smoothly as it went past her.

The man who got out of this car wore a gray suit just like his car, it was silky and shiny, he was tall and lean and good looking she thought.

The gray man was speaking to Thorrson when Angela stopped in front of them. He looked at her like he might carve her up on the spot.

She had never met him before but she knew this was Thorrson’s killer, the man people called The Wolf.

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.

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 – 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 – 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?