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.

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.