TITLE: Chapter 1: The Mail Order Bride
By Donna Boddy
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This is the first chapter of my second novel,
Griselda Albers stood by the window watching the rain pelt against the windowpane. The grey, dismal autumn sky and the crashing sound of thunder reflected her mood. She was often in dark spirits since she learned the details of Fredric’s Will. Even though it had been almost five years since Fredric had succumbed to the influenza, she was still miserable.
No, she was not mourning the loss of her “beloved” husband. She was mourning the loss of his total assets. Griselda had ice water running through her veins. She had no concept of love. She was void of compassion.
She expected to inherit virtually everything and to have a greater part in his business after his death. She was shocked to see that Katharina was even a consideration. She expected Martina would inherit some of his estate, but she surmised it would be an insignificant amount. Nor had she expected the Great War to take such a toll on Germany’s economy. Her greed and ambition blotted out any possibility of contentment. In the standards of the day, she was still a wealthy woman, but it was not enough. She worried about the economic disaster that was plaguing Germany. After its surrender in 1918, and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to make reparations of billions of British pounds for causing the war.
Hyperinflation also dealt a major blow. The incredible devaluation of the mark affected every aspect of Germany’s social, economic and cultural life. Had it not been for the impeccable business practices Fredric’s lawyer and his trusted assistant, Deiter Zimmermann, whom he had named as his general manager to run his factories in the event of his death, Frederic’s companies might have gone under during all of this. Griselda was not a bit grateful for this fact.
Fredric, how could you have done this to me? You deliberately betrayed me and turned to that—that charlatan Katharina. She and her insolent daughter can take care of themselves. They didn’t need your money. Somehow, someway, I have to reclaim what is rightfully mine. I am practically destitute. This house is falling apart around me, and I am in dire need of a new wardrobe. Deiter, that bumbling assistant of yours, whom you left in charge, has no compassion. He sympathizes with Katharina and tells me to be patient. I have been too patient.
Matilde, her first floor maid, entered the parlor and interrupted her thoughts. “Pardon me, Frau Albers, but you have a visitor.”
“Who is it for goodness sake?” Griselda said in an impatient tone.
“I. . . I don’t know, Madam. He would not give his name, but said you would want to see him if I gave you this. . .” She handed Griselda a document. Her face turned pale. It was a copy of the forged reference her uncle had made for her years ago when she applied for the position of housekeeper for Katharina and Fredric. Who could possibly have gotten hold of this? Only she and her uncle knew about it and her uncle passed away a few years ago.
“Show him in,” she said, trying to sound calm.
A well-dressed young gentleman in his late twenties walked in the room. “Hello, Cousin,” he said with a great deal of confidence.
“What the devil are you doing here, Derrik? And where did you get this paper?” Her face was red with anger as she shook the document in front of him.
He broke out in a sly grin, took off his overcoat and made himself at home on her divan. “Why Cousin, I thought you would be happy if I retrieved such an important paper and brought it to you so you could ‘dispose’ of it yourself.”
“Well, thank you for your consideration, but you could have easily have done so without coming here. So, my intuition tells me there’s more to it. Especially since you handed it to me. I know you wouldn’t have done so, knowing if I destroyed it that would be the end of the discussion. So, answer my question. Where did you get it, and why did you bring it here?”
He chuckled and continued to toy with her. “First, tell me why it bothers you. I have a feeling that there is quite a bit more to that document than you care to let on, and by the way, I have a few more ‘documents’ that my father carelessly left around after his death that proved very interesting.”
Griselda was not about to let him get the upper hand. She was well acquainted with her cousin’s antics. He was unscrupulous. He was a gambler, a womanizer and a con artist. Her uncle had tried hard to keep him out of trouble, often covering up for his ‘indiscretions’ with women of the upper class. Derrik was a very handsome man and exuded charm. He preyed on wealthy widow women, charming his way into their hearts and their pocketbooks, then when he had conned them out of most of their wealth, he would suddenly disappear out of their lives. On one or two occasions, his lady friend would discover what he was up to and threaten to expose his scheme. His father would come to the rescue, pay the poor victim off, then Derrik would leave town for a while and lie low. After his father died, however, he no longer had anyone to help him out of a jam.
Now here he was at his cousin Griselda’s for a visit? She was not buying that for one moment. Something was awry. She and Derrik were alike in more ways than she dared to admit, so she knew he was there for more than merely giving her this document. She also knew she had to turn the tables on him somehow.
“Get to the point, Derrik. Tell me what it is you want,” she said firmly. “Just what trouble are you in now, and how do you expect me to help you get out of it?”
Derrik feigned ignorance. “I have no idea what you are talking about. I told you, I am merely delivering a paper to you that I thought might be of importance.”
“Then you might as well leave now, because I have no need of that or any other paper you might have, and I am not going to help you with whatever trouble you are in now.” Griselda tore the paper up and gestured for him to leave.
“Very well, then. I will leave, but I guess it won’t be a surprise to you that my father kept a little journal. And he had some very interesting things to say about you. The way you conned him into writing ‘false references’ for you, and how you had plotted to deceive a poor, unsuspecting Herr Albers, and steal his fortune. Why I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear that you might have been responsible in some way for his death.”
“Stop right there. First, a madman’s diary means nothing to me. Second, I am not sure how you think you are going to prove all of this, and even if you could, what could anyone possibly do about it now?” She cocked her head to one side and folded her arms.
“Well, for one thing, if it got out in the right circles, that would certainly put a damper on any social life you could possibly have, and there could even be an . . . investigation of some sort, perhaps to see if you had come by the estate in a fraudulent manner?”
Griselda bristled. She wasn’t sure to what lengths he might go to ruin her, but she knew there had to be a strong motive for his coming to her. Then an idea of her own suddenly entered her mind. She would play his game for a while, and perhaps even turn it around to her favor. . . yes, of course. She could actually have him playing into her own scheme. If he was in some sort of trouble, why not make a deal with him? She needed some help with her predicament, after all. Who better to help her but ‘Cousin Derrik’?
“All right,” she said with a look of resignation. “What is it that you need, and how is it that I can be of help?”
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