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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Prologue

       Last updated: Friday, July 4, 2008 12:56 EDT



August 1634
United States of Europe

    Don Francisco Nasi, spymaster for the United States of Europe, pushed his glasses up his nose. “Michel Ducos moved on quickly, even before Peter Appel notified the Frankfurt authorities. He’d been gone a couple of days before they got the news to me. We can’t just move in and arrest his lieutenant Guillaume Locquifier. Partly because then we’d lose the trail, but jurisdictionally because the crime didn’t happen on USE soil and we don’t have an ‘arrest on sight and extradite’ from the Papal States. It’s better just to keep Locquifier under surveillance. Frankfurt says that he isn’t doing anything active right now—just huddling in the back parlor of an inn with a few other men.”

    Ed Piazza scowled. Once a high school principal in Grantville, he was now the president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia. The SoTF, whose capital was Grantville, was one of the largest and most populous provinces of the United States of Europe. Ed was in Magdeburg for a few days consulting with Mike Stearns, the Prime Minister of the USE. “It’s your call, I guess. Personally, I’d be happier if they were in jail, considering that mess at the Galileo hearing.”

    Sitting behind his desk not far away, Mike Stearns shrugged. “Mazarini cleaned up the mess around the assassination attempt on the pope very efficiently. Politically speaking, I mean—he didn’t wash the blood off the floor of the church or dig the bullets out of the plaster himself, of course. Frank, Ron and Gerry Stone were all in big trouble right after the assassination attempt and things could have turned out a lot worse if he hadn’t put in the fix.”

    “Nevertheless,” said Nasi, “once they realized that Ducos was not really a member of the Committees of Correspondence, but had been using them for his own purposes, the Stone boys acted decisively. The assassination might very well have succeeded had it not been for them. Therefore they interest me.”

    “Tom Stone told me that his son Frank and his new wife Giovanna are staying in Venice,” added Mike. “Frank’s going to keep working with the Committee of Correspondence there. Maybe try to develop some in other places in Italy. In the Italies, I should say. It’s as bad as ‘the Germanies.’ A patchwork of little duchies and principalities, the Papal States in the middle and the Spanish in the south in Naples.”

    Piazza shook his head. “Where’s Garibaldi when we need him?”

    “Not born yet. Never will be, in this universe,” Nasi said practically.

    “Tom and Magda are staying in Italy, too. His lectures at the Padua medical school are really catching on, and she’s done very well negotiating the purchase of a lot of things we need for industrial development in the USE. But Tom’s other two sons, Ron and Gerry, are coming back to Grantville when Simon Jones does. They’re traveling with him and with the mother of Jabe McDougal’s girlfriend. The painter. Artemisia Gentileschi. The mother, I mean—not the girlfriend.”

    Nasi smiled and looked at Ed. “I would appreciate an opportunity to speak with Signora Gentileschi, should one arise. She has been living in Naples, working for the Spanish. Her father is in England. She has ties to both the Barberini and the Tuscan court in Florence. Let me know when they get to Grantville. If she isn’t coming to Magdeburg, I believe such a conversation would be worth my while, even if I need to make the trip to Grantville to have it. Jabe goes back and forth, I believe.”

    “Will do. I’ll radio you as soon as she shows up. What about the boys?”

    “How old are they, exactly?”

    “Ron graduated from high school in 1633 on the accelerated program, right before they all left for Venice. He’d turned seventeen in December, so that would make him eighteen, now. Eighteen and a half. Gerry…” Piazza stopped and thought a minute. “He should be turning sixteen this month. Gus Heinzerling was supposed to be tutoring him while they were in Venice, so he didn’t fall behind. But I’m told that he’s not coming back to high school in Grantville. He’s decided to finish up at the boys’ school in Rudolstadt. I’m not sure why. But if they’re willing to admit him over there, it means that Gus really did keep his nose to the grindstone, at least as far as Latin was concerned.”

    “Too young for my work, and he will be too busy. Gerry, that is,” Nasi said. “Would the older one have anything to contribute?”

    “You can debrief him, of course. If he’s willing to talk to you. He’s a legal adult, so he can make his own decision on that. Tom Stone’s always been a little… anti-authoritarian. More than a little. Magda’s a straight arrow, though, and she has that incredible Lutheran sense of duty. Well, she grew up in Jena, with all those theology professors in the town. She’s been their stepmother for close to three years now, and they like her. So maybe… I can’t make any promises on his behalf.”

    Nasi dug into his briefcase and drew out a sheaf of papers. “He submitted a written report to me. Voluntarily, sent in the diplomatic pouch from Venice. Detailing all of their contacts with Michel Ducos while he was posing as a member of the Venice Committee of Correspondence. It’s retrospective, of course. Written with all the benefits of hindsight. He does not spare himself or his brothers. Perhaps, he is even too harsh in his judgment of them. We sent them out with very little training and with no expectation that they would encounter the developments that occurred. Bedmar, d’Avaux, Ducos. The boys were, as your baseball commentators would say, ‘way out of their league.’ But, the self-condemnation aside, his analysis of what happened is certainly competent. More than competent.”

    “Tom and Magda seem to agree with you,” said Mike. “On the competence issue, that is. Karl Juergen Edelman will stay available for consultation—Magda’s father has a keenly honed sense about the importance of following the money—but he has his own businesses to run and he’s tired of being on the train between Jena and Grantville every week and sometimes twice a week. So Ron’s going to be managing Lothlorien for them when he gets back. Not just the Farbenwerke, but the pharmaceuticals end of it, too.”

    Piazza nodded. “I’ll keep an eye on him.”




    “Signora Gentileschi and her daughter arrived from Rome last night,” the doorman reported. “They send a message that they are prepared to leave for Grantville as soon as the rest of you can pack up. Unless there is some delay here, they do not plan to unpack more than they will need for a night or two.”

    Simon Jones stood up, taking the note from the porter’s hand. “Please let them know that all I still have to do is put the clothes I wore yesterday into my saddlebags. The rest of the stuff is ready for the men to put on the pack horses any time.”

    Magda smiled. “I think the boys are ready, too. More than ready.”

    The doorman bowed slightly and backed out of the room. They’d never been able to break him of that habit.

    Simon looked at the note again and frowned. “Sometimes I wish that Larry and Gus hadn’t had to stay in Rome. Who’s Joachim Sandrart, and why is he with the Gentileschis? Why is he traveling with us, that is?”

    Magda shrugged.

    “Who would know?” Simon frowned. “If he’s someone who could be a problem, I should warn Ron and Gerry to keep their lips zipped when he’s around.”

    “Signora Gentileschi is an artist. Perhaps he is another one. An… associate?”

    Simon had no trouble interpreting Magda’s disapproving tone. Cardinal Antonio Barberini, by way of Mazzare, had warned them. By the standards of a respectable Lutheran from Jena, Artemisia Gentileschi’s past was as colorful as her canvases. It was by no means certain that her younger daughter, the one she was bringing with her, was the child of her husband.

    “Not a lover, probably, if you’re worried about bad influences on the boys. This,” Simon waved the note in the air, “says he’s in his twenties. She’s fortyish and the little girl she has with her is only ten or eleven, I think. Probably some ambitious young artist who’s finished putting in his practically mandatory time in Italy and is ready to go home and launch himself into a hopefully lucrative career of putting paint on canvas.”

    Magda snorted. “I will ask someone. I do have responsibilities, after all.”




    Duke Henri de Rohan put down his pen. He had finished today’s letter to his brother Benjamin in England, but hadn’t signed it yet, in case something else came to mind. He re-read. After his assassination attempt on the Pope was foiled, Michel Ducos was last seen escaping by boat down the Tiber, presumably to take ship from Ostia. I predict that he will not go back to d’Avaux. In any case, Mazarini is ensuring that d’Avaux will have only minimal chances to foment mischief in the future. I am afraid that Ducos has become the head of a small group of unpredictable fanatics. Keep an eye out in England for any sign of him and his followers. Though, of course, he may be headed for Holland. Or Scotland. Or….

    He picked up the pen again. I am also writing to our agent in Frankfurt am Main. If necessary, please be prepared to make a rapid trip to Frankfurt. You should find the burden of this bearable, since to a considerable extent our associates there are also members of a network of international wine merchants. He paused a moment, then signed his name.

    The duke moved on, to finish his outgoing correspondence for the day. Happily, his new assignment from Venice, attempting to reconcile the feuding Swiss cantons, significantly reduced the time it took for his letters to reach their destinations. Instructions for his wife in France; a shorter note to his father-in-law, also in France; one to his brother Benjamin, in care of Isaac de Ron in Frankfurt; a letter to Hugo Grotius, another to the mathematician Descartes. One to the city council of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, which was dithering about whether or not to renew his employment contract.

    And one to Cardinal Richelieu, assuring him, with the monotonous regularity he brought to such reassurances, that he remained a loyal and faithful subject of the French monarchy.

    The duke missed his long and faithful correspondence with his mother, who had died three years earlier. If he was not concentrating, Rohan often still found himself thinking that he should mention something to her.

    Now, a letter to his daughter Marguerite, in France with her mother. Marguerite had been born almost fifteen years after the wedding and was now seventeen years old. Of the nine children of his marriage, only she had survived. When he finished it, he started to put down his pen and then picked it up again.

    One to Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. After Bernhard’s successes this summer, it was time to consider the possibility that he might make a suitable son-in-law. He was thirty. It was time for him to be getting married. Marguerite had the splendid advantage that she was already old enough to bear children and still young enough to bear a lot of children, God willing.

    The Austrians would probably try to pick Bernhard off with some minor Habsburg bride, of course, to protect their interests in Vorarlberg and the other territories dotted across southern Swabia to the Breisgau. But it would be a terrible pity, in Rohan’s opinion, to waste a successful Protestant prince on a Catholic wife.

    True, Bernhard was Lutheran, not Calvinist as was the duke himself. But Lutherans counted as Protestants, at least from the political perspective, the same way that members of the Church of England did. If not, quite, theologically. After all, the Lion of the North himself was a Lutheran. German-language Catholic popular pamphleteers, an imprecise group of people sadly lacking in perception where the nuances of doctrinal distinction among their opponents were concerned, tended to refer even to Calvinists and Anabaptists as Lutheraner.

    Even the city council of Venice had been known to refer to Duke Henri de Rohan himself as a “Lutheran.” The most prominent Huguenot in contemporary France shuddered slightly at such a lack of theological precision.

    A match between Marguerite and Bernhard would not make King Louis XIII of France and Cardinal Richelieu at all happy, of course. But then neither would a match between Marguerite and young Turenne, which was also an attractive possibility. The only thing that would make Louis and Richelieu happy would be for Marguerite to convert to Catholicism and marry one of Richelieu’s relatives.

    Which wasn’t going to happen. At least not as long as Henri de Rohan was alive.

    Then he wrote directly to Isaac de Ron in Frankfurt, telling him to expect the arrival of Henri’s brother Benjamin (letter to him enclosed) from England any day now.

    Please take out a lease on a suitable town house and have it furnished and staffed with reliable people by the time he arrives, charging the cost to my account with the banker Milkau.

    Benjamin liked his comforts. He accomplished more when he was comfortable.

    Now for the inbox. On top of it, the latest report from Leopold Cavriani. A delightful man. He’d had a really fascinating summer. Leopold did not suffer from the constraints that were an inevitable part of having been born into the high nobility.

    Occasionally, Henri de Rohan envied him.

    But only occasionally.




Somewhere in Switzerland

    “If he pontificates at me one more time,” Ron Stone said, “I think I’ll gag. I don’t see how Gerry can stand to listen. Hour after hour, after hour.”

    “Your brother isn’t listening, really. He’s just… not bothering to avoid Joachim.” Artemisia Gentileschi smiled patiently.

    “How much more do we need to know about him? Hell, we already know more than enough.” Ron grabbed onto the reins with one hand and waved the other in the air. “Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, jabber, pontificate, talk some more. We’ve already heard that he was born in Frankfurt, that his family are Calvinists who fled from the Spanish Netherlands because of religious persecution, that he apprenticed with Soreau and Stoskopff in Hanau and can’t face a future limited to still-lifes so he’ll probably have to work for Catholic patrons mostly, that he learned print making in Nürnberg, that the engraver he worked for in Prague advised him to specialize in painting, that he learned to paint from Gerard van Honthorst in Utrecht, that he toured Holland with Pieter Paul Rubens, that he worked at the English court for a while with Honthorst, that he has not only seen Florence, Rome, and Naples, but also Messina and Malta, that he thinks the war has ruined the career prospects of most German artists, that…” He stopped. “If I hear one more word about the trials, troubles, and travails of the ‘Frankenthal exiles,’ I think I’ll spit. What’s worse, the guy talks in capital letters.” He groaned with disgust.

    Simon Jones, riding on his other side, laughed out loud. Joachim Sandrart did talk in capital letters. He didn’t speak, he orated.

    He was doing it now.

    “Time and again Queen Germania has seen her Palaces and Churches, decorated with splendid Painting, go up in Flames, and her Eyes are so darkened with Smoke and Weeping that she no longer has the Desire or the Strength to pay Heed to this Art: Art that now seems to want only to enter into a long and eternal Night and there to sleep. Perhaps a man may find a short Contract with one Ruler. But as the Scene of War moves, so, perforce, does he, leaving his Efforts unfinished. And so such Things fall into Oblivion, and those that make Art their Profession fall into Poverty and Contempt. They put away their Palettes and Easels. They must take up the Pike, the Sword, or the Beggar's Staff instead of the Paintbrush, while the Gently Born are ashamed to apprentice their Children to such despicable Persons.”

    Are you planning to do anything about it, man? Ron thought sourly. Like maybe try to end the war? Or do you just plan to complain and complain and complain?



    “Gently born?” Ron asked Artemisia Gentileschi. “Is the guy noble?”

    “No.” She twisted her lips. “Joachim is far more gently born than I, to be sure. The family was Walloon, certainly one of the more prominent commoner lineages in Hainaut. His father was—is, if he is still alive, but I haven’t heard recently—a merchant. Very wealthy, but still a merchant. His mother was from a merchant family, also. Joachim’s a cousin of Michel le Blon. Still, even in Frankfurt Laurentius Sandrart achieved some status. Certainly among the Walloons, if not among the native-born. Even though he was an immigrant into a city where the Lutheran council does not precisely make Calvinists welcome—they refused to grant permanent resident to Sebastian Stoskopff, which is why he went to Paris when he left Hanau.

    “However, I’m sure that Joachim would not object if, some time in the future, a ruler chose to ennoble him for his many services to the cause of Art. Services which he has yet to perform, though I don’t really doubt that he is capable of performing them. If he hadn’t decided to return with me, Count Vincenzo Giustiniani in Rome had made him a very generous offer to manage his collection. So he should do well as an art dealer and promoter, at least, even if his own canvases do not display an immense amount of promise. Merely a high level of workmanlike competence. Both of my brothers, after all, have made their way quite successfully as dealers and agents. As has Hainhofer in Augsburg. The art world needs its intermediaries.

    “Nor, I’m sure, would Joachim object if a ruler who employs him as a painter should also choose to utilize him as a diplomat, as the rulers of the Spanish Netherlands have done with Rubens. Everybody knows that his cousin le Blon—he’s an engraver and goldsmith, a good twenty years older than Joachim, I think—operates out of Amsterdam as an agent for Oxenstierna.” Artemisia frowned. “Of course, le Blon is a religious nut, too, quite taken with the writings of that Silesian, Jacob Böhme. Just because a man is successful in one field, it doesn’t necessarily that he has common sense in any other.

    “Joachim is an ambitious man. He is unlikely to become as great an artist as Rubens, but he doesn’t lack high aspirations.”





    There were several Denises in town. She kept going.

    “Denise Beasley, hey there!”

    She slowed down, then stopped her motorcycle. Someone was running after her.

    “Denise, if you’re going downtown, can you give me a lift? Drop me off at the middle school. I’m going to be late for practice.” It was Missy Jenkins, who worked in the “State Library” part of the libraries housed in the high school these days.

    “What are you practicing?”

    “I’m not. I’m coaching recreation league girls’ soccer. I don’t usually mind the run; it’s only a couple of miles and good for me. But we had a VIP tour this afternoon and I got away a half hour after I should have.”

    “Sure. Climb on behind.”

    Missy did. “There are days that I would give my eyeteeth to be able to ride one of these. If I had one, that is.”

    Denise was a little surprised. “Compared to horses?” A lot of the girls her own age were totally horse crazy. A lot of the older ones, too, for that matter.

    “Horses don’t speak to me,” Missy said.

    “I can see that. Horses don’t speak to me, either. I don’t speak to them, if I can avoid it. Do you mind if we stop at the funeral home first, for a second? I’ll take you all over and get you there on time.”

    “No problem. But why?”

    “Minnie Hugelmair garages her cycle there, behind the hearse. It’s more secure than the old shed behind Benny’s house. They had a few problems. Some vandalism and at least once somebody tried to break in and steal it, we think. At the funeral home, there’s always someone up and around, every day, all around the clock. It’s safer, and Jenny doesn’t charge much.”

    They headed down Route 250 in silence.

    Until Missy, the wind whipping through her hair since she didn’t have a helmet, asked, “Would you teach me to ride this thing? We could figure out the costs of the lessons. Your time, the fuel, wear and tear, all that.”



    Joe Pallavicino sat in the principal’s office at the middle school, cleaning his fingernails while he waited to talk to Archie Clinter about their common problems. Denise Beasley had gone on to high school this fall. There had already, less than a month into the academic year, been trouble in regard to a boy who tried to hit on her after she told him to beat it. Senior on freshman. He’d recover.

    It looked like Minnie Hugelmair would probably finish sixth grade by Thanksgiving, according to Tina Sebastian. By spring, at this rate, she would get her eighth grade diploma—earlier, if she tested out. Then, if she went to summer school and Denise didn’t, she’d finish ninth grade in August of ‘35 and they’d both be sophomores the fall of 1636. In the class of ‘38.

    There was no question that Minnie did her own school work. She wasn’t in ESOL at all any more. She seemed to regard textbooks as obstacles on a course she was running and scaled them with determination.

    There was no question that she still attracted trouble like a magnet.


    Especially given the increasing level of “anti-Kraut” muttering here and there around Grantville. Considering that she was still best friends with Denise Beasley. Considering that Denise’s uncle Ken owned the 250 Club, which was the center of most of the muttering.

    High school was one of the ages that started a lot of the trouble, with up-time and down-time boys competing for the attention of the same girls.

    Minnie was not a beauty. She probably hadn’t been before the riot in Jena. With the addition of the scar and the slightly mismatched artificial eye, she never would be.

    But Denise was. She always would be. At the age of ninety, if she lived that long. Somehow, she managed to combine her mother Christin’s delicate build and brunette vividness with Buster’s sheer vigor. Trouble also, if a different kind of trouble. With Minnie there to take her part, next year. And there were too many up-time kids who would classify any retaliation by Minnie as “Kraut trouble.”

    Minnie wasn’t likely to be as gentle as Denise herself had been. Denise never did more than was necessary to make her point.

    Of course, any boy who wasn’t a total idiot knew that she would, in a pinch, call on her father for backup. Buster Beasley was an ex-biker whose seventeen-inch biceps were only partly obscured by the tattoos that covered them. He constituted significant backup for a girl.

    Some boys, on the other hand, were total idiots.

    Joe decided he’d better talk to a few people besides Archie. Benny and Buster. Preston Richards at the police department. Lisa Dailey and Vic Saluzzo at the high school. Henry Dreeson and Enoch Wiley. Mary Ellen Jones, maybe. If they had some lead time, maybe they could arrange things so that Denise and Minnie could finish high school without triggering some kind of mudslide.



    Words and music came wafting up the high school corridor.

    “You know,” Victor Saluzzo said, leaning against the library circulation desk. “I could have lived my life a lot more happily if Benny Pierce hadn’t decided to teach Minnie Hugelmair that old turkey of a song and she hadn’t spread it to our incoming freshmen.”

    “School days, school days,
    Dear old Golden Rule days.
    Reading and writing and ‘rithmetic,
    Taught to the tune of a hickory stick…”

    Missy Jenkins giggled. She was there on temporary loan from the state library for a couple of weeks while the school went through the agonies of starting a new semester. “I hope you know that Minnie herself has every intention of finishing sixth grade the first semester and showing up on your doorstep before Christmas.”

    Pam Hardesty, also on loan from the state library, grinned. “Then you’ll have both of them, Victor. Not just Denise, but Minnie, too. They do sort of have a tendency to cut out of school on the slightest excuse, don’t they?”

    Victor shook his head. “The real problem is that they’re both bright enough to do it without really hurting their grades. But a lot of other kids aren’t that smart, so it’s a bad example.” He paused. “Maybe we should try providing them with mentors.” He pushed himself upright. “If anybody comes looking for me, I’ll be down in the guidance counseling office.”

    Pam watched him go and sighed.

    “What’s the matter.”

    “Reproaching myself, I guess. When he mentioned Minnie, what hit me first was Schadenfreude. And that’s terrible. Taking pleasure in somebody else’s troubles. But, honest to God, Missy. The great Velma Hardesty soap opera continues. Given the way Mom’s been behaving lately, hanging around with that gorgeous garbage man… You’ve seen him, haven’t you? Jacques-Pierre Dumais? I guess it’s sort of comforting to realize that other people have troubles, too.”

    “Yeah. Like Winnie the Pooh called honey. ‘Sustaining.’ You’re not alone, though. Neither is Mr. Saluzzo. Think of what Mr. Dreeson has to deal with, every single day.”

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