Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Eighteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, April 13, 2005 18:30 EDT



Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

    They had collectively kicked themselves. Mary had been so tired when she got back to the Schloss the night after Veronica left that she hadn’t brushed her hair – just washed her face, brushed her teeth and then collapsed into bed. So she hadn’t found the note until the next morning. It had been an object lesson on the dire consequences of sloppiness.

    The other Grantvillers, Duke Ernst, Erik Haakonson Hand, her lawyer Rastetter-any of them or, if necessary, all of them combined-would normally have managed to stop her from taking off on her own, but they had been too distracted by the epidemic. Those who knew her personally were not really surprised that she had gone. She just wasn’t accustomed to thinking of herself as a person of national, much less international, significance, even if the rest of them realized her importance. Her symbolic importance, at least. To some extent, as the wife of the mayor of Grantville, she even had actual importance.

    Spilt milk. And, according to the report that the mayor of Grafenwöhr had provided to Duke Ernst, she was having an enjoyable visit with her family. So, as Keith said, they might as well relax a little. At least, there were no reports that the diphtheria had spread to Grafenwöhr.



    The epidemic in Amberg was definitely tapering off. Balde made his entries. Only two deaths yesterday. One a child. The other, Afra Forst, a chambermaid from Pfreimd who had worked at the Schloss. Catholic. No family in Amberg, poor girl. Mrs. Simpson, although not Catholic herself, had generously provided a stipend for a funeral mass. She said that the maid had cleaned her rooms, and those of Mrs. Dreeson.


Grafenwöhr, the Upper Palatinate

    Kilian Richter and his son Hermann came back to Grafenwöhr together. Johann Rothwild came separately, bringing an associate remarkably like himself. Kilian had to find them a place to stay in a cottage outside the town. Johann was, unfortunately, persona non grata with the Amberg authorities.

    That didn’t mean, of course, that the two men couldn’t enter the town during the day. Johann’s face wasn’t that well-known after several years of absence. Day laborers, looking for a bit of work; transients, perhaps. Those were common enough sights in any town. If they didn’t stay too long, it shouldn’t be a problem, Kilian thought.

    What he did think was a problem was the disappearance of quite a few of his business papers from his chest. The last ones that he would want anyone else looking at. The old ones that he had pulled out to refresh his memory about just how much pressure he could put on Arndt.

    So, not even papers he could explode about. Not shout and slap his wife. She was scarcely the model of the frugal and prudent housewife; the odds were high that she had been so drunk that a military company could have marched through the house playing their fife and drum and she wouldn’t have noticed them. Not scream at his daughter. Why hadn’t she been home?

    He did ask her where she had been. She answered that she had gone to her godmother’s house at mid-morning and remained there the rest of the day. So much for the possibility that she might have noticed someone lurking around. Who in hell might have known about those papers?

    Dorothea’s reply had the advantage of being perfectly true. No matter that Tante Veronica had told her to go home, she hadn’t wanted to spend the rest of the day hearing her mother snore. When she left the city hall, she had gone to her godmother’s and had stayed there until it began to get dark. Kilian hadn’t thought anything about it. Dorothea had spent a lot of time at her godmother’s these past few years.

    It had been a relief to Dorothea, although a little undermining to her general sense of self-importance, that apparently no one in town had taken any notice of her visit to the city hall. Not even the mayor and aldermen who, naturally, had offices in the building. And she spent so much time thinking of Nicol and their planned elopement that she forgot entirely that she had left her father’s papers there.

    If Dorothea had grown up in Grantville, her classmates would have been of the opinion that her head wasn’t screwed on too tight. Or that she was a ditz. There were a lot of ways a person might describe Dorothea Richter, such as “sort of cute.” No one would have included, “Really, really smart.”



    Nicholas Moser was working really, really, hard at not paying any attention to Dorothea Richter in public. This was in order not to arouse suspicion. He certainly did not want her father to guess about their planned elopement. This meant that whenever she was in sight, on the streets or in the marketplace of the town, he carefully looked somewhere else.

    He had no idea who Johann Rothwild was; Rothwild had been banned from Grafenwöhr years before Moser was hired. He naturally had no idea who Rothwild’s companion was, since the man had never been in town before. However, when he looked at places where Dorothea wasn’t, he kept seeing them.

    Seeing them, sometimes, in places where a couple of casual laborers had no business being. Sometimes near Dorothea.

    Horrible visions crept into his mind. He was, after all, a Calvinist. Could Dorothea’s father have guessed, in spite of all his precautions? The man was Catholic. Was he going to have Moser’s beloved kidnapped and Immured in a Convent? Being Immured in a Convent was, in Moser’s mind, roughly equivalent to being Chained in a Dungeon. Or worse than being chained in a run-of-the-mill dungeon, since it would involve Papist Plots.

    The two men disappeared from the streets of Grafenwöhr for a couple of days. Moser relaxed a little. They must have moved on.

    Then they came back. All of Moser’s fears returned. They must have been making arrangements with a Wicked Abbess to deliver Dorothea as a prisoner.

    Unlike Dorothea, Moser was “really, really smart” in the sense of book learning. Clever, conscientious, and competent in his work, just as Rastetter had said to Veronica. Cooperative and helpful to the people who came to city hall needing to receive or file documents. He was, however, somewhat deficient in the “ordinary common sense” department. Not to mention being, in this matter, a victim of his upbringing, complicated by a bad case of hormones.

    In any case, he sat down and wrote a letter to Herr Hieronymus Rastetter, the Amberg lawyer who was working for Dorothea’s terrifying aunt, expressing all his fears. He was a little doubtful about the wisdom of this. The aunt was, as she had admitted, Catholic herself. She might be in on the Papist Plot, however improbable that seemed on the face of it.

    The lawyer, however, was not Catholic. He was a Calvinist, and a friend of Moser’s father. He would be fully reliable. Moser told him everything he knew of the matter, without reservation.


Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

    Rastetter had just reopened his office the day Moser’s letter arrived. His family, thankfully, were all recovering. He had a huge backlog, so he put the letter on the bottom of his correspondence pile. When he did read it, ignoring all the nonsense about Immuring in Convents, the words Frau Dreeson, Kilian Richter, and “two dangerous-looking men” practically shouted off the page at him. He grabbed his hat and headed for the Schloss.

    Mrs. Simpson was there. He gave it to her. She took it to Duke Ernst. Or, more precisely, to Boecler, who took it to Duke Ernst. That didn’t matter; the delay was approximately five minutes by her watch.

    While they were waiting, Rastetter asked her if she had heard the news about Augustin Arndt-the lawyer representing Frau Dreeson’s opponent in the lawsuit.

    Mary shook her head. She had never even known the man’s name.

    “He was found dead two days ago.”

    “Will this epidemic never end?” she asked. “I had thought that it was pretty much over. I hope that a new chain of infection isn’t starting up.”

    “He didn’t die of diphtheria, Frau Simpson. He was found by a man who works for him, more or less regularly, as an agent and had come to the city to consult with him about some matter of business he had been handling on his behalf in Grafenwöhr. Arndt’s throat was cut.”

    Mary looked at him. “Grafenwöhr?”

    Rastetter never utilized profane or blasphemous expressions. He wished, right now, that he did.

    After they had presented their concerns to the regent, Duke Ernst also commented, “I do wish that General Banér were here this very instant. He could say what I am thinking.”

    Hand did question Arndt’s agent, Valentin Forst, the one who had found the body. However, there seemed to be no connection. The man was quite forthcoming about the matter he had been working on, involving ore barrels and barges, disputed payments and delayed deadlines-the ordinary routine work of a practicing lawyer. So Hand let him go back to Grafenwöhr.

    Forst had, of course, omitted any reference to the landgrave of Leuchtenberg from his narrative. They hadn’t asked him about Leuchtenberg. There was certainly no reason for him to volunteer the information.



    Mary Simpson had been right. The epidemic was almost over, at least the part of it on which she had been working. There had been no new infections yesterday or today. There were still people sick in the hospital, of course, and numerous convalescents.

    So, she said, she was going up to Grafenwöhr herself to see what was going on. At the very least, she could keep Veronica company and then make sure that she didn’t walk back to Amberg alone. This was, Duke Ernst thought, basically a good idea. Naturally, she should not go alone.

    “I wouldn’t,” Mary assured him, “even dream of it.”

    “Take Boecler. I will give him a letter of authorization, under my own signature, to investigate whatever is going on. A personal representative of the regent. Otherwise, talk to Hand. He’ll find you someone else.”

    He turned and told Boecler to draft the letter.

    Mary thanked him and went looking for Hand. Who, in turn, was talking to the Cavrianis.

    Marc Cavriani knew perfectly well that he should stay in Amberg. Herr Pilcher had returned to the inn; the epidemic was tapering off; the negotiations were resuming. But at the thought of getting to go on a trip to Grafenwöhr with Mrs. Simpson and Boecler, he started to look wistful. Marc did “wistful” very well. He had, ever since he was three or four years old. Which his father knew perfectly well, but still found it hard to resist. So Marc didn’t have to progress to “wheedle.” Leopold actually suggested that his son be included. Marc went off to talk to Boecler about it.

    Unlike a lot of people, Marc did not find Boecler boring. They were on first-name terms by now. Or second-name terms, or nickname terms, to be precise, since Boecler was named Johann Heinrich. Marc called him Heinz. Or, if he deliberately wanted to be annoying, when Boecler was being just a tad too meticulous, Heinzerl. It really annoyed a Franconian to have someone stick a Bavarian diminutive on the end of his name.

    Who else? Well, Herr Rastetter, of course. And his clerk. And Elias Brechbuhl. Anyone else? No, that was enough.

    Hand didn’t see any reason why they shouldn’t go ahead and leave tomorrow morning. He thought that he would come himself, as soon as he worked through some of the things on his desk. Let him know if they actually found anything behind this–send a messenger and get a company of Grenzjaeger in return. It would be that simple.



    It was a little awkward that Veronica was staying with family. She apologized that the Hanf house really was not large enough to receive six more guests. Nor could she, really, extend hospitality in someone else’s home, even if it was.

    Mary said that was fine-they would take rooms at the inn. Could Veronica recommend the best one in town?

    The best was not by any means first class. Except, perhaps, from the perspective of the fleas.

    Veronica joined them for supper. The inn’s food was not gourmet. That was why she brought a basket with her in a laudable effort to ward off the danger that her friends might come down with food poisoning. The residents of the town were well-acquainted with the facilities available at their local inns. She recommended that they buy food at the market and live on sandwiches and fruit. Bread for breakfast at the inn should be all right; however, the butter was often found to be rancid.

    All in all, the five down-time men concluded, Grafenwöhr offered fairly typical small-town lodgings for travelers-nothing comparable to the well-appointed establishments in cities such as Amberg and Nürnberg.

    Two men watched them from a corner table at the back of the little dining room. One of them stayed.

    The other went out after he had eaten, to see Kilian Richter, who was not happy to have Johann Rothwild show up at his house. If someone saw the two of them together, it might trigger memories about just who Rothwild was and why he wasn’t supposed to be in Grafenwöhr. That would completely ruin his usefulness from his Uncle Kilian’s point of view. Since he was already here, however... He called Hermann in to his Stube as well and began to explain his views on the best way to eliminate the nuisance that his sister-in-law Veronica had made of herself by coming to town.

    By the time Kilian had finished talking to them, it was well after dark, which meant that the city gates were closed. Rothwild had to spend the night in town. Since he had told his companion to wait for him at the inn, that man had to stay the night in town, also. He begrudged the money for a straw mattress on the floor of the inn’s common sleeping room, even if it would be covered by the expense money Rothwild had gotten from someone. “Blame it on the old lady,” Rothwild said. “The guy holding the purse says that she’s been making a nuisance of herself for quite a while.”



    In the morning, Rastetter and his clerk, Brechbuhl, and Boecler headed for city hall to talk to the town officials. And, just in passing, while they were there anyway, to the town clerk. Marc went to talk to a shipping company about the sources of the iron ore they sent out.

    The basket that Veronica had taken to the inn the night before had given her an idea during supper. She had decided to show Mary some of the places where she and her brothers and sisters had played when they were children. She wouldn’t bother with a basket, though; a basket would be stiff and awkward to carry around all day. She stuffed their lunch into her trustworthy tote bag and they headed out into the country.

    Veronica had her walking stick. Mary declined her offer to stop by the Hanf house on their way out of town and borrow another one. She was mildly embarrassed by her own refusal but, well, she had always prided herself on staying in shape. At her age, canes would become a fact of life soon enough; no sense in hurrying the inevitable.



    Johannes Rothwild, his associate, and Hermann Kilian followed the two women out the gate. Rothwild was rather looking forward to the day. He liked being paid to follow his natural inclinations.



    Forst and Becker were long out of the gate. Arndt might be dead, but they still hadn’t used up all the expense money he had advanced them. Even without Arndt, they could get the information to Landgrave Wilhelm Georg. When they got back to Amberg, they would just drop it in the mail.

    It wasn’t a problem that Bavaria was “enemy territory.” The mail went out from the Upper Palatinate to Bavaria just as easily as the Jesuits in Amberg received communications from those in Munich. A person rather had to admire the House of Thurn und Taxis. Wars might come and wars might go, but the imperial postal system kept right on going. “Public, Regular, Reliable, and Rapid,”as its advertising broadsheets read. Now that the USE had its own postal system, the bags just changed hands at the borders. The USE was, after all, using the same routes and methods, not to mention a lot of the same personnel. The Thurn und Taxis postmaster in Frankfurt am Main, feeling that he had been ill-treated by the Habsburgs because he was a Protestant, had defected to Gustavus Adolphus and was still running the postal system.

    But there had also been Herr Arndt’s job for Herr Troeschler. Which had led them to some rather interesting information about graft, corruption, and kickbacks in the timber business. Arndt might be dead, but Troeschler would pay. They had both been boatmen in their younger days, which wasn’t unusal. They had hired on with Bastl’s barge-yard, representing themselves as casual laborers on their return from a seasonal job, happy to work for a few days and then punt a barge down the river in order to make some money on their way back home.



    Mary and Veronica were thinking about having lunch in a pretty clearing by a big creek. At least, Mary thought it was a creek. It would have been a creek, up-time.

    Veronica said that it was a river. The tiny stream that ran by Grafenwoehr itself was a brook, but they had followed the road about three miles south from the town and now they were looking at the river.

    Just downstream, there was sawing and hammering.

    “That’s Wilhelm Bastl’s barge-yard. His first wife was Johann Stephan’s niece. Just below it is Karl Hanf’s cooperage-that’s where I’m staying, you know at his house. He makes ore barrels. Or made them, exclusively, back when iron production was higher. Now he’ll make any kind of keg that anybody wants. Business is really off for both of them since mining collapsed.”

    Veronica turned around. “That’s why there’s a clearing here. They build the shallow-draft barges and rafts here, upstream, to float ore and pig iron downstream. They don’t bother to bring them back–just sell them when they get to Regensburg or wherever they are headed. It was far busier when I was a girl.” She pointed at the creek. “Look, you can see for yourself. The water is running practically clear. When I was a child, it was red-orange with the rust from the mines and slag piles.”

    “I really would not have imagined,” Mary said, “that a creek this small could be used for navigation.”

    “This is the river,” Veronica answered stubbornly. “There is an elaborate system of locks and dams, all the way down the river. There had to be, since the water was also used to power the trip-hammers, which meant that the barges had to navigate past the mill wheels and mill ponds. If you don’t want to stop and eat right now, we can go further down, below the cooperage, I can show you the first lock that takes the barges over the rapids. It must still be working, since they’re still building barges here.”

    It had been a lot easier for a child of ten or eleven years old to get out to the lock than it was for a woman of fifty-nine. It wasn’t the fairly well prepared path that the workmen used. It was the back way that kids had used when she was growing up. Veronica was starting to wonder if this had been a good idea. After all, they would have to climb back up.

    They did make it down, at which time they decided by consensus to sit with their feet dangling over the water and eat lunch before they climbed back up. Alas, they weren’t as young as they used to be.

    The lock was filling up, gradually. A barge loaded with full barrels was tied up at the side of the stream, ready to go. Next to it, waiting for cargo, was an empty one. Thirty or forty years ago, Veronica said, the lock would have been crowded. They wouldn’t have even bothered to open the gates for one barge.

    They couldn’t stay to watch the gates open, though. Veronica suggested rather firmly that when the lock got filled to three fourths, they should start to climb back up. Men would be coming down to untie the barge and punt it out. She remembered very well from her childhood that people at the barge-yard got really mad if they caught unauthorized people sitting down here dangling their feet over the water on a fine summer day. It would be rather embarrassing for the wife of Admiral Simpson and the wife of Mayor Dreeson to be hauled into court for trespassing on private property.



    Johann Rothwild could hardly believe his luck. Out of sight. Because of the hammering and sawing upstream, out of hearing. The one old lady had actually put her walking stick down while she ate-that had been the only thing that either of the fool women might have used as a weapon. Knife them. Take anything valuable. Toss the bodies into the lock. Everybody would put it down to beggars or vagabonds or unemployed mercenaries, which amounted to pretty much the same thing.

    Motioning his henchman and Hermann Richter to follow him, he started down the back way to the lock. Which turned out to be just as awkward for them as it had been for Mary and Veronica. It was, after all, just a deer path. One of the branches that he had grasped to keep his balance broke with a crack and he slipped a couple of feet.

    Mary heard the men first, but by the time she turned, they were already down to the bottom of the path. With their knives out. Running. She got off two shots. Both missed. Aiming at running men with what amounted to a Saturday Night Special was a chancy thing.

    It meant, though, that they were no longer out of hearing, even with all the sawing and hammering upstream.

    Rothwild cursed. Someone was bound to come and investigate. They had to get this over and get out of here fast. Damn Uncle Kilian.

    Veronica, contrary to masses of good advice and lectures delivered by Henry, Gretchen, Dan Frost, and a wide variety of other people, did not carry a gun. By this time, though, she was on foot with the walking stick in her hands. It was a long one, a shepherd’s crook. Her grip was not scientific–two hands desperately grabbing the straight end. Against someone trained to fight with a cudgel, she wouldn’t have delivered a single blow. It did, however, have a considerably longer range than knives. She got in one hard thwap against the henchman’s shoulder, which would never be quite the same again. It was, unfortunately, the man’s left shoulder; he was a brawler, used to taking blows. He didn’t drop his knife. The weight of walking stick, held out awkwardly as it was, slid it from his shoulder down to the ground. As she struggled to bring it back up, entirely by accident, she caught one of-Hermann’s, what on earth?-legs with it, dumping him into the lock.

    The other man kept coming. With a shock, she recognized him. Sara’s boy; Rothwild. The one who had gone to the bad. He had apparently stayed there, once he arrived. That was her last thought for the time being.

    Mary scrambled to her feet and looked over. The biggest man, with his left hand, grabbed the walking stick about a third of the way down, pulled it from Veronica’s grip and knocked her out.

    After those first two shots, Mary had stopped herself from shooting again. No point in wasting the bullets. At closer range, she had better luck. Not, however, good enough luck. The first two of the four remaining bullets still seemed to have missed. She accidentally bloodied one man’s hand; the bullet went on to scratch the side of his neck. The last one landed in his upper arm, breaking it just below where Veronica had smacked him on the shoulder. He stopped, bent over, looking nauseated.

    The other man kept coming. She threw her gun into his face. He lost his balance, slipping on the slick grass, and fell forward heavily against her. He was tall; his knife went over her shoulder. Both fell. Mary, closer to the edge, went over into the lock, striking her head on a piling on the way down.



    Forst and Becker, since they were supposed to float Bastl’s barge full of barrels out, had already been half-way down the good path when the shooting started. They started to run. They saw the end of the picnic and panicked. Three attackers, counting the one who was now floundering his way over toward the edge of the lock. Only one really appeared to be out of the fight. They were unarmed themselves.

    And the women. Foreign women.

    Their own connections with the landgrave of Leuchtenberg would show up if there was an investigation. What if someone had intercepted Arndt’s reports to the landgrave? They were Leuchtenberger. If they were caught at the scene, the Swedes would blame their lord for this assault on the two women. It would give the Swedes a chance to defame his character. And he hadn’t had a thing to do with it. Neither had they. It wasn’t their fault.

    They didn’t stop to talk. Becker disposed of the big man who had fallen on his face, using the henchman’s knife. Just a simple stab through the back of the neck while he was still half-stunned (after making sure he stayed half-stunned; the old woman’s walking stick was a sturdy one). Forst frantically wrestled two empty barrels from the waiting barge to the loaded one. Becker fished Mary out of the lock and dropped her into one of the barrels, bunging on the lid. Forst picked up Veronica, dropped her into the other barrel, and did the same.

    They untied the barge and punted it out into the middle of the lock, waiting for the gate.

    By the time the men from the cooperage got there, they were standing on the barge, not precisely calmly, but looking no more excited than men should who had just witnessed a fight. They waved urgently, motioning toward the two men on the bank and the one in the water.

    “Fight,” they yelled. “There was a fight.”

    At the far end of the lock, the gates opened.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image