Monday, November 21, 2011

HtV Character Backstories Marshall Bowen Forest III


  • Marshall Bowen Forest III has a particular dislike for his given name. Perhaps it was the fact that his father always introduced him using every syllable as if it added additional weight and lineage to what was essentially a “new money” family. Or perhaps it was the fact that while his father was named Marshall Forest, there was no grandfather who held either of those names. In fact, there was no grandfather on either side, as Marshall Forest II was an orphan. A bastard child, most likely of a young prostitute, too poor or too uncaring to keep the child fathered on her by a nameless sailor or travelling salesman. But most likely, it was the fact that while his father had worked for the small fortune he’s amassed, he had never actually gotten to know his son.

    The elder Forest had made shrewd investments in hand-held power tools, first supplying the American Army Corps of Engineers during the fighting, and then major public works projects in during the reconstruction, in addition to the thousands of “craftsmen” and “do-it-yourselfers” that sprang up during the post-war boom. This created a life of luxury for the Forest family, providing maids and servants for the peasant-looking Maude Forest, a row of factories accountants to increase the wealth, and the ability for both parents to relegate their only child into the care of professionals. Professionals who, at best, could claim to be fond of their charge, but no more so than the child of any given neighbor.

    As a consequence of both his father’s money and his father’s influence, the only child and heir to the not-insubstantial fortune, was able to leave distant parents, professional tutors, and his pretentious-sounding name behind when he went first to preparatory school and then to university. He made a point of never identifying himself by anything but his middle name, and so those who didn’t know him well enough, which was nearly everyone, were at a loss as to whether Bowen was his first or last name. This slight air of mystery and confusion pleased Bowen, though he could not have said why, and he was too lazy to delve deeper into the emotion.

    Laziness was practically the defining term for Bowen’s life, and permeated nearly everything he did. His father’s money had allowed him to develop his talents in any arena he desired, and to date he had little desire whatsoever. He had proficiency for the use of pistols and revolvers, and under the tutelage of Swedish champion Torsten Ullman, he had shown great promise. But that promise was never fulfilled. Ullman found the boy more than capable, but unwilling to actually compete and hone his craft to perfection.

    He was too young to even consider joining the services when Germany and Japan declared war across the world, and his father would never have risked the heir apparent to his growing empire. As such, he was too young to know better while he was in school, and when he did know better, the war was already rounding out. Bowen did not particularly regret being caught in the middle of not-quite-but-almost as some of his schoolmates. Their lust for glory on the distant battlefields held no infectious joy for him.
  • Shortly before his graduation with mediocre standing from preparatory school, Bowen’s mother died. There was nothing overly dramatic or traumatic about her passing, but while he stood next to his father at the gravesite, remarking on how the warmth of the sun caused a bead of sweat to run down the middle of his back every few minutes, he realized that he had no love for either parent. They were blood-related only by chance and social structure. What little emotional impact he felt for his mother’s passing was based on the realization that he, too, someday would be planted into the ground. Bowen saw that life was short, and resolved to see just how far his father’s money could take him.

    His father, ever the businessman, had practically called a meeting shortly after the conclusion of his wife’s funeral. Bowen had sad in a hard, leather-bound chair while his father laid out the groundwork for their future association. Bowen could attend the college of his choice, and would be granted living expenses, tuition, and an entertainment stipend provided he maintained a degree path and showed results. The elder Forest didn’t so much care what his son studied, only that the university be a recognized institution, and that degree be socially respectable. Something he could mention over cocktails and boardroom meetings. Quarterly reports (he actually used the term reports, rather than letters or correspondence) would be submitted, and funding would be contingent upon success. In order to further Bowen’s understanding of economics, the funds would be placed into a private bank account.

    Bowen couldn’t have been more pleased by the arrangement.

    For the first time in his life he would be free of tutors, professionals, hirelings, and headmasters. Much to his surprise, he found university life greatly to his liking. He could select classes based on his own schedule and lifestyle, he could attend lectures that caught his fancy, and he could make his own living arrangements in any fashion he liked. He quickly sought out what he thought was the easiest path to maintaining this arrangement and pursued a liberal arts degree in Medieval history.

    Unconsciously, or perhaps subconsciously, Bowen filled his social life with individuals who similar to those he had from his youth: professionals and associates paid for their time. His “group” was greatly interested in the joys of the night, and his dalliances with women were distractions that never lasted from one season to the next. He frequented jazz clubs, danced and drank through the twilight hours, and staggered through his classes with as little effort as he could manage, and still maintain his revenue stream.

    This, then, was the good life. It was also a course for disaster.

    Bowen enjoyed drinking and buying drinks. He enjoyed smoking, and the process which surrounded tobacco. He was then introduced to “harder” elements of distraction, starting with marijuana and other assorted narcotics and leading up to the hydrocodone-based Vicodin.

    Vicodin was not a harsh mistress by any means. It was a tender embrace of warmth and distance that Bowen found suited him. He could much more easily enjoy the slowing of time and of cares after a tablet or two, whether he was out at a jazz club, or self-imposed into a lecture hall. But as weeks and semesters passed, he found his tolerance for the drug increased and the inevitable decline into addiction began. He managed to receive an unremarkable degree, and eked into a graduate study program, but nipping at his heels, and catching quickly, was the greater and greater dependence on his drug of choice. If not for the sudden death of his father, Vicodin might have spelled disaster for Bowen.

    Bowen discovered that his father had died not via telegram from the company, the board or anyone else. Instead, he found out when he attempted to make a withdrawal from his bank account and found it bone dry. The bank manager, happy to oblige such an esteemed customer, made inquiries and discovered that Marshall Forest II had died of a stress-induced heart attack nearly six weeks prior.

    Uncharacteristically, no will or other legal documents regarding the various businesses, fortunes, or properties of the elder Forest were found. Instead, the impressive empire the orphan-child had built over his lifetime seemed to disintegrate over night. Telegrams and wire messages were unanswered. Phone calls dead-ended with disconnections and unknown numbers. Travel home was well out of Bowen’s financial ability, and he was effectively trapped.

    That’s when the package arrived. It was addressed to Bowen in a harsh, heavy script that at first Bowen didn’t recognize. As he unwrapped the plain brown paper, he found a note addressed to him from his mother. His mother, who had been dead for more years than he could remember, and yet there was no yellowing of the paper, or signs of years of wear. Inside, he found a first edition copy of Johannes Nider’s “Formicarius”. The note was note was signed, but not addressed, and cryptically said, “They know me. They know him. This might save you.”

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