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.

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.  

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.