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.

Day One – Colonel Albert “Guy” Forrester

He listened as the young man walked away, escorted by Nils. There was a stiffness to his gait, an unsteadiness that made the Colonel wonder if he was slightly drunk, or merely hungover, though it was possible that he was simply nervous.

The Colonel followed their progress with his ears, standing at his work bench, still as a statue.  His hearing was sensitive enough to discern the difference between their footsteps as they went through the grass. He listened as they crossed the drive and reached the house, where Nils opened the door to the guest suite for him, once again, leading from behind and inviting him inside.

Johnny Holiday, an absurd name, the Colonel thought; it was a name that lacked gravitas. People would be inclined to take him lightly.

When the door closed behind them, the Colonel turned his back to the table. With a few concise steps he neatly cleared the detritus from both the table and his tools; he was as efficient as a waiter decrumbing a table.

He returned everything to the work bench and resumed tending to his flowers.

He examined the contents boiling in the cauldron, stirring the aromatic brew with a long handled wooden spoon.

It was hot outside, but he enjoyed the scent of herbs, and flowers with undertones of pine wafting from the pot in steaming waves, adding to the humidity in the garden.

He watched the dark clouds gathering in the Western sky, considering the day ahead, and that it would soon be raining; he would driving right into the storm on his way to the Chalet in Kensington, on the banks of Lake Roland.

The Colonel had enjoyed his conversation with Holiday, though he kept it to himself. He found the young man to be both honest and insightful, and though nervous, as most men were in his presence, Holiday did not wilt under pressure.

There is promise in him, the Colonel thought, as a cool stream of air blew across his face carrying with it the scent of flint.