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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Nineteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 19:22 EDT



Grafenwöhr, the Upper Palatinate

    Karl Hanf, who was not as young as he used to be, came huffing down the path from the cooperage after his men.

    “What happened?”

    “Two guys from Bastl’s were already out on the barge. They yelled that there had been a fight.”

    Hanf took in the scene.

    Two of his men, holding a very wet one. Who was Hermann Richter.

    One of his men standing over another, who was injured. Seen him hanging around town lately.

    Two more, rolling a very dead one from his face to his back. Familiar. Oh, God. That beast Johann Rothwild, the brother of Bastl’s first wife.

    “Go up the path. Bar it and don’t let Bastl’s men from the barge-yard come down here.” That was to the two men who had turned Rothwild over.

    He wished he had more men. It was taking two to hang on to Hermann. He’d have to risk the third man staying down. “Run up and get some rope, as fast as you can. We’re going to have to truss that one. Hurry.”

    Hanf moved; he would stand over the third man himself. And just in case . . .

    He picked up a walking stick that was lying near the corpse. Veronica’s walking stick?

    He looked around. In the lock, floating next to the empty barge, which had kept it from going downstream when the lock opened. He fished it out, grabbing the handles with the crook. Veronica’s tote bag.

    And, on the grass, the remains of a picnic lunch.

    He stood over the injured man, thinking. All they could get him for would be systematic overcharging on the barrels-pegging his costs at what they would have been if he were buying lumber at the set prices rather than stolen lumber. It was Bastl who was directly involved in the timber thefts, which was why he was behind deadline on Troeschler’s barges-his main supplier had recently been arrested. And Bastl’s former brother-in-law was lying here dead.

    All they could get him for was overcharging. That would just be a fine. A stiff fine, hard to pay in bad times, but still just a fine. And he had an obligation of hospitality; Veronica had been staying at his own house.

    The guy came back with the rope.

    Hanf came to a decision.

    “Tie them both up. The one with the bad arm, just tie it to his body; then tie his feet. When that’s done you two go up and help keep Bastl’s men from coming down the path and trampling everything. And you,” he pointed to the man who had gotten the rope, “get into town as fast as you can and notify the authorities. I’ll watch here.”



    The proper authorities, consisting of the bailiff, one Thomas von Wenzin, and two of his men, came in a hurry. As did Boecler, Marc Cavriani, Rastetter, and Brechbuhl. The proper authorities had not been enthusiastic about this. However, it did make a significant difference to von Wenzin’s thought processes that Boecler had a letter signed by the regent, with all appropriate formalities.

    Boecler had drafted it himself. It said exactly what the regent had directed. He was fully authorized to investigate, in the regent’s name, “whatever is going on.” Boecler had already internalized one of the fundamental rules of the successful bureaucrat. Unless there is some compelling reason to be specific, be vague. He hadn’t expected this, of course. But he was fully authorized to investigate it, now that it had happened. Before they left town, he had sent a courier to Hand. Now....

    Marc picked up a piece of metal, half-buried in the grass. “This is an up-time pistol. I don’t think that pistol is the right word for it, precisely. But it is a gun to hold in the hand. Easy to handle, for a small woman like Mrs. Simpson. Also, easy to hide.”

    Boecler nodded. He had seen a similar one. The up-timers had given it to Duke Ernst, who kept it inside his doublet. Always.



    The Grafenwöhr bailiff looked dubious. The “handgun” was very small. It was hard to believe that it would shoot anything, but there had, indubitably, been shots.

    Karl Hanf was singing a song about timber theft. Von Wenzin thought that its verses would tie Wilhelm Bastl to a man who had been recently arrested in Weiden-he would have to write the Pfleggerichter there. He didn’t think that it probably had anything to do with what had been going on here.

    The injured man was swearing that he didn’t know a thing. Rothwild had hired him and he didn’t know who had hired Rothwild. Von Wenzin thought that might possibly be true.

    That left Kilian Richter’s son. They’d better take him back to town.

    Boecler and the bailiff agreed that they had probably seen everything that was to be seen here. Von Wenzin sent a couple of his men up to arrest Bastl; he’d worry about the paperwork when he got back to town. If he gave the man time, he would start destroying records as soon as he heard what had happened.



    Hermann Richter, upon being interviewed under some duress, admitted that he, Rothwild, and the third man had attacked Frau Dreeson and Frau Simpson. He even admitted that his father had put them up to it.

    He denied that the three of them had attacked the women with the intent of killing them. Von Wenzin thought that the judge could take that for what it was worth.

    The utter absurdity was that Hermann insisted that, while he was in the water, two men whom he had never seen before, with whom he was in no way acquainted, and of whom he had no knowledge whatsoever had shown up in the middle of the attack, picked up the two women, dropped them into barrels on the barge, and taken them away.

    It was ridiculous on the face of it. Von Wenzin said so emphatically.

    On the other hand, the two women were not to be found. And, by Hanf’s statement, not much time had passed between when the first two shots were fired and the men from the cooperage arrived on the scene. Plus, Hanf’s men said that there had been a barge in the lock.

    The absurdity was that Hermann Richter denied knowing anything about the other two. Questioning, duly authorized by the Pfleggerichter, resumed.



    Kilian Richter, hauled before the forces of justice on the basis of his son’s statement, reluctantly-very reluctantly-admitted to hiring Rothwild and his henchman to attack Veronica, and to having sent his son with Rothwild. He swore that he had no intention of any kind to cause damage to Frau Simpson. He also swore that he knew nothing at all about any other men or any barge.

    The bailiff didn’t believe a word of it.



    The third man, re-interviewed rather emphatically, insisted that he didn’t know anything at all about what Kilian Richter may have told Rothwild. He insisted that he had never seen Richter before in his life, did not even know his name, and had been recruited for the job down near Amberg by Rothwild only. He only knew that there was someone in the background who held the purse.

    He did say that originally, when they started out in the morning, they had only expected to attack Frau Dreeson and not necessarily that very day. They had attacked when the second woman was there only because it was such a conveniently isolated spot. Upon being pressed, he said, “well, there was so much hammering and sawing upstream, no one would be likely to hear screams. Rothwild thought it was just sort of convenient to do it there.”

    The bailiff, fingering his beard, asked just why they had expected screams.

    “Well, it was just in case. Actually, once we took a look, we hoped we could stab the old ladies in their backs while they were sitting down eating their lunch, without any trouble.”

    On the basis of that, the bailiff started re-interviewing Hermann. It was a long night in the Grafenwöhr city hall basement.



    The only consistent theme between Hermann’s version and the henchman’s story was that they absolutely did not know anything about the barge or the bargemen.

    Wilhelm Bastl, questioned without duress, knew a little about both, none of it involving any plans to kidnap women and put them on the barge. The two men were just casual laborers, he said-boatmen when they were younger, on their way home. They had only been at the yard a short time.

    The bailiff did ask for the pecise date when Bastl hired them. He didn’t immediately identify as significant that it it was a few days after Veronica Dreeson had arrived in Grafenwöhr.

    Did Bastl know where they were going?

    Not exactly, but he had heard one of them mention that he had been born in Pfreimd and had a cousin who worked as a chambermaid in Amberg.

    That meant nothing to von Wenzin, either.



    Boecler, Marc, and Brechbuhl were upstairs with Herr Rastetter. They had all courteously declined von Wenzin’s invitation to be present at the interrogations. As soon as they got back to Grafenwöhr, Rastetter had sent his clerk to Hanf’s house to collect all the papers Veronica had there. The oldest niece, a mulish look on her face, had come back to the city hall with him, demanding to be given an itemized receipt on her aunt’s behalf; staying until she got one; standing behind the clerk as he went through each item to make sure that he didn’t leave anything out. Marc thought that Frau Dreeson must have looked a lot like that when she was thirty years younger.

    Rastetter had gone through the papers from the house, sorting them into several piles. He found about what he expected, but nothing really exciting. At the moment, he was systematically investigating the contents of Veronica’s tote bag. Most of it was damp. Not wet, because the canvas was sufficiently waterproof to have floated for some time, but damp. He spread the various papers out to dry; then turned to the more protected contents of the blue plastic envelope. Wondered how she had gotten hold of Kilian Richter’s private papers from years ago. Dealings with the lawyer Arndt. Not particularly flattering to Arndt’s professional ethics, but now the man was dead.



    Two things happened the next morning. Beyond, of course, the fact that most of the residents of Grafenwöhr ate breakfast and started work. And talked to one another; the whole town was buzzing with excitement about Veronica again.

    Boecler, on the assumption that Hand would soon be arriving with a company of troops and could take charge, left at dawn follow the barge down the river. There were, after all, only so many places that a barge could go. It was unlikely to grow feet and walk. He had a letter from the regent authorizing him to investigate “whatever is going on,” which would be of great use in getting information from possibly reluctant local authorities. Being more or less local himself, even though most of the residents of the Upper Palatinate would certainly have defined Cornheim in Franconia as a strange town in a foreign country, he had the ability to both understand the people who were answering his questions and to move about comparatively inconspicuously. The last thing they wanted to do was start a panic. The mining and metallurgical communities of the Upper Palatinate were accustomed to having officious and comparatively youthful apprentice electoral bureaucrats with the seventeenth-century equivalent of clipboards wandering around the locks and tollbooths, poking their noses into everybody else's business and counting things. One more would not even rise to the level of, “what's he doing here?” One more customs official would just be a part of the scenery. Especially since they were all busy filling out Duke Ernst’s Fragebogen.

    Unlike any of the up-timers; unlike, even, Hand himself. Extremely tall Swedish colonels with obvious war injuries rarely manifested an interest in ore barges; nosy customs officials often did.

    The other event was that Nicholas Moser and Dorothea Richter eloped. They had, after all, only promised to delay until after Veronica left town, and Moser, by virtue of his job, had gained a pretty clear awareness that she had now left town. After all, he has spent the night in the basement recording the protocol of the questioning under torture. Thea’s aunt had not specified how she was to have left town when she instructed them not to elope until after that. Moser didn’t want to stay for the next stage, when von Wenzin took the evidence he already had and set out to get a confession from Thea’s father. That could get sort of grisly.

    Moser shuddered. Von Wenzin was just so matter of fact about it. He looked at the executioner and asked, “Wilhelm, are the tongs ready,” in the same dry as dust tone of voice as he usually asked, “Nicolas, have you finished the record copy of that affidavit?”

    The elopement threw a red herring of major and distracting dimensions into the deliberations of everyone else, since none of them knew that it was one. Owing to his paranoia about Immuring in Convents, Moser had insisted that they not leave notes that might aid in a pursuit, so the Grafenwöhr officials wasted a great deal of time discussing the possible implications and potential ramifications of the disappearances of the town clerk and Richter’s daughter. Rastetter finally made the connection, but it took a while. He was not inside the city government loop.

    It slipped the lovers’ minds, as they fled, that upon leaving Grafenwöhr, they were supposed to meet Dorothea’s Tante Veronica in Amberg, where she would furnish them with a bank draft, because they didn’t have enough money to get to Grantville. Because they spent most of their time along the way discussing such things as Thea’s noble effort to break their non-existent engagement because of her family’s appalling disgrace compounded by Nicol’s equally noble determination to permit no such action, they didn’t realize that they were running out of money until they got to Nürnberg.



    Several things also happened that afternoon. Or didn’t happen that afternoon, depending upon how one looked at it.

    Leopold Cavriani, having left Amberg at first light, arrived. He didn’t stay; just hired a couple of fresh horses, collected Marc, and started down-river, following the path that Boecler had taken.

    Hand, who was supposed to be two hours behind them, didn’t arrive at all. He hadn’t even tried to get a company of regulars for this; Banér had almost all of them over around Ingolstadt and there was no way he was going to strip the rest out of Amberg, leaving the regent himself with no decent security. He was bringing a company of Grenzjaeger, boatmen, and other competent trackers. They came up the road just in time to run into a party of foreign soldiers near Freihung and, not surprisingly, became distracted from their original aim. A rather lively time was had by all. Hand sent a messenger to Grafenwöhr to let Boecler know that he was turning back to Amberg because of an unexpected emergency.

    Kilian Richter’s wife appeared at the city hall. She was feeling terribly hung over, but she was sober. Once the first clerk ascertained that she hadn’t shown up to try to bail her husband out, she was shunted from room to room. She couldn’t find anyone in authority to talk to. Finally, she stood in the corridor and shouted, “I want to tell someone what happened.”

    Hieronymus Rastetter came out of the back room of the city clerk’s office. He looked very official in his standard bureaucrat’s robe and hat. He was followed by his clerk. She started to talk.

    The clerk started to take notes.

    That was how come they were the first to learn that Kilian had been terribly angry when Anton decided that his family would convert to Catholicism. With Anton’s sisters gone, only his nephew had been standing between Kilian and Johann Stephan’s share of their father’s property. He had been biding his time, waiting for Anton to go into exile also. When he heard that Anton had conformed, he had sworn; oh, how he had cursed and blasphemed.

    Augustin Arndt? Oh, yes, she had heard the name. He had hired most of the bullies for Kilian, that was all; she didn’t think that he had been there. Been where? Why at Anton’s shop, that night. The night that Amberg had been plundered, Kilian had sent a party of men disguised as mercenaries to Anton’s shop. They were going to kill him, and his whole family, and make it look like the soldiers did it. They would have killed all of Anton’s family. Him and his wife; Veronica; the three children. Except that they were interrupted by a group of real mercenaries and had to run away. They took Anton’s wife with them when they ran.

    It was the real mercenaries who had taken Veronica and the children, she guessed.

    No, she didn’t know who all was involved. That Johann Rothwild had been there, she did know; Kilian had promised him a share of the Johann Stephan’s property, since he was Sara’s son; later, Kilian somehow kept it all. She wasn’t sure how that happened, but she thought that it had to do with the case that caused him to be permanently exiled from Grafenwöhr. They could look it up. Magdalena and Wilhelm Bastl should have gotten part of it, too, since Magdalena was a niece. But they didn’t get any, either. Maybe they decided that they would rather be alive and didn’t push it.

    In any case, the men disguised as mercenaries had gone back to Arndt’s office, where Kilian was waiting. It may not have been Johann Rothwild who had killed Anton Richter. But it was Johann who killed Anton’s wife. She was sure of that. How come? Oh, because Kilian told her so. That was after the men had all come back to Grafenwöhr. Kilian told her that Anton’s wife had been struggling and threatening Johann while he dragged her through the streets. How did Kilian know that, if he had been waiting in Arndt’s office? She wasn’t sure; she had never thought about that. But after they got to Arndt’s office, Johann did kill her, right there. Arndt hid the body for a couple of days. Then, when the worst was over, he just brought it out and added it to the others that the cart was taking to the mass grave.

    She sat there long enough to initial the rough copy of the notes that Rastetter’s clerk had taken. She initialed every page. Then she said, “I guess I feel better now.” Then, “Are you really sure that they aren’t going to let Kilian out?”

    Rastetter, looking at her statement, said that he was quite confident that they weren’t going to let Kilian out.

    “All right,” she said. “I guess, then, that I will go home.”

    “I think,” Rastetter said, “that you had better stay until I can find the bailiff.” Boecler had gone; Hand had not arrived. It was all back in the Grafenwöhr bailiff’s lap. Business as usual. He strode out.

    Richter’s wife was still sitting on the bench, her hands in her lap, rotating her thumbs around each other, when they came back with von Wenzin.



Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

    By the time Hand wiped up the mess resulting from the skirmish by Freihung, he determined that these were a detachment of Holk’s men, who claimed to be making a diversionary move through the Upper Palatinate on their way to cause some trouble in Leuchtenberg.

    It only made sense for him to take his captives back to Amberg; it would have made no sense at all to take them to Grafenwöhr. He turned back, sending a messenger to tell Boecler that he would be delayed. In the ensuing discussions over the next couple of days, he and Duke Ernst reached the not particularly surprising conclusion that the second set of villains in the kidnapping, the ones who disposed of Kilian Richter’s thugs, were probably employed by Holk in the service of John George of Saxony. It would only make sense, after all, that John George might be looking for hostages to hold against the USE.

    The captured soldiers denied entirely any connection with ore barges or kidnapped women, but that was only to be expected. So Hand and the regent devoted extensive analysis to a mistaken premise and sent quite a number of their Grenzjaeger and other scouts to the north and east rather than to the south.

    The whole episode left Duke Ernst, after he had interviewed a couple of the captured officers, feeling decidedly miffed with John George of Saxony. Which, in fact, John George deserved, even though he didn’t have anything at all to do with the kidnapping.

    On the Naab River, Upper Palatinate

    Boecler thought that he had a good identification of the barge. He would have loved to have it stopped, but, unfortunately, it was well ahead of him and nobody else could catch up to it any faster than he could. He was gaining a little, but not much, and was beginning to wonder if the damned barge was ever going to stop. It passed through every lock it came to. Where could it possibly be going?



    Forst and Becker were feeling increasingly out of their depth. They didn’t want the old ladies to die. They took the lids of the barrels every now and then, so they could get air. Once they came to, they dropped water into their mouths with a spoon. But when they came to locks and populated areas, they had to stuff up their mouths and put the lids back on or they’d scream. They’d tried that, several times.

    The Naab was coming to an end. They were going to have to make up their minds pretty soon. They hadn’t done anything, but nobody would believe that. The ladies had been out cold; they weren’t going to testify that the men on the barge had valiantly rescued them from an attack by bandits, even if it happened to be true. One thing was sure, though. They did know that Arndt had been collecting information about the one lady for their lord. Landgrave Wilhelm George of Leuchtenberg. If they didn’t want their heads cut off, they only had one choice. They would take the ladies to the landgrave, let him worry about it, and hope that he would provide them with Schutz und Schirm in return for their loyal service. Protection and defense; that was what a good lord owed his subjects.

    They passed through another lock. And another.



    The Cavrianis caught up with Boecler fairly quickly. They hadn’t had to stop and ask questions of tollkeepers or gate attendants. The three of them continued south as fast as the condition of the Naab’s banks allowed them to. They couldn’t go any faster on the river-if they were on a barge themselves, they would have to wait for the locks to open and close. Past Pfreimd. Why in hell, if the men were Leuchtenberger, hadn’t they stopped in Pfreimd? Past Schwandorf. Past Burglengenfeld.

    All the way to the mouth of the Naab, where it ran into the Danube. Where they found out that two idiotic bargemen, just a few hours before, had, without stopping at customs, shot their barge out of the river and crossed the Danube, beaching themselves on the right bank above Regensburg. Presumably. The barge had not appeared in Regensburg’s waters.

    All three of the pursuers, being stronger on brain cells than on biceps, sensibly refrained from doing anything really stupid, like trying to swim the Danube after it.



    Boecler entirely agreed that his first duty was to Duke Ernst. He would take the information back to Amberg.

    When he arrived, his news caused great frustration among those intelligence analysts who had been assuming that John George of Saxony was the villain in the piece. They realized now that it must have been Duke Maximilian. They start to scope out new scenarios. Scenarios that involved Ingolstadt. Did Maximilian actually think that holding Veronia Dreeson and Mary Simpson hostage would get Banér to call off the siege? If not that, then what?

    Hand called back the scouts he had sent to the north and east. Not that they hadn’t gathered quite a bit of useful information while they were out. Taking a calculated risk, he practically stripped the border facing Bohemia of Grenzjaeger, sending them north to face against Saxony. He wished that he had more soldiers. If the king sent a regular regiment, though, Banér would appropriate it. In General Banér’s world, internal security ran a very distant second to active campaigning.

    Then he asked where the Cavrianis had gone. Boecler’s mouth fell open. Somehow, Cavriani had kept him so busy discussing all the things that he needed to bring to the regent’s attention that he had forgotten to ask what the two of them planned to do next. He made a note to himself to be more thorough, next time.

    Duke Ernst shrugged. The Cavrianis were not his problem; not his officials, not his subjects, not, really, even official members of the Grantville trade delegation. They were representing whom-oh yes, one Count August von Sommersburg. He could not be held responsible for every foreign merchant who passed through the Upper Palatinate.



    Leopold and Marc followed the Danube upstream for some distance. Crossing right away, so close to Regensburg, Leopold explained, would most certainly have brought them to the attention of the Bavarian authorities, which would not have been a good idea at all. As it was, they would simply cross openly into the Pfalz-Neuburg enclave rather than into Bavaria proper, in their own names and as exactly what they were: merchants from Geneva, bringing their horses, and an appropriate amount of baggage.

    Cavriani Freres had a factor stationed in Neuburg, another in Pfaffenhofen. Herr Veit Egli was originally from Constance and was a Catholic. Considering the location of this branch, it was far easier for a Swiss Catholic to go back and forth into Bavaria more or less freely than it would have been for a either a Genevan Calvinist or a local resident. Not that local residents did not make useful employees, Leopold pointed out. The factor in Paffenhofen, a man named Brunner, had relatives in Hohenwart and Reichertshofen; the cousin in Hohenwart had a brother-in-law in Schrobenhausen.

    In any case, since they got to Neuburg first, Egli got the job of notifying a livery stable owner in Grafenwöhr that he had just de facto sold two of his horses (fair payment enclosed, see independent appraisal obtained by my employer; please send receipt). Marc had time to write to Frau Durre in Nürnberg and ask her to send him the clothes he had left in his room there, because they were taking a different route home. He included an entertaining, if rather sharply edited, version of their stay in Amberg with the request.

    Using the firm’s various resources, Leopold set his mind to two immediate projects. First, locating Mary and Veronica; second, getting them out of Bavaria. Those seemed rather obvious to him. For the time being, somebody else could worry about why they were there at all. Leopold Cavriani was a practical man.

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