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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Five

       Last updated: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 19:49 EDT



State of Thuringia-Franconia

    Jacques-Pierre Dumais did not care for garbage, as such. However, the Garbage Guys did not merely collect Grantville's garbage. Even this long after the Ring of Fire, a fair number of people still tossed out things for which other people might have some conceivable use, not even going to the trouble of taking them to the recycling center themselves. So the people who worked for Garbage Guys separated the trash themselves, as soon as possible after collecting it, in order to find as many items as possible that they could resell for a profit. Very little of Grantville's garbage was sent to the incinerator.

    Objectively, Jacques-Pierre did not find the collection of garbage to be a desirable task. The separation of garbage, however, he found to be very helpful to his goals.

    He had heard someone describe a device called a paper shredder. That invention was enough to make a man shudder. It was most fortunate that few of the Grantvillers had owned such a thing at the time of the Ring of Fire. It was too bad that one of them had been owned by the Kellys, the would-be aircraft manufacturers, who still used it and thus made it unnecessarily difficult for Jacques-Pierre to access information about their technology.

    But a spy could scarcely hope for life to be full of free gifts, after all.

    Like almost every other French Huguenot descended from members of the diaspora that had spread across Europe during the Wars of Religion of the preceding century, Jacques-Pierre had found the widely circulated accounts of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes that had occurred -      

    - or would have occurred, or will occur -

    - some verb tense, in any case -

    - in the year 1685 fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. As, of course, did Duke Henri de Rohan.

    It turned out, according to the American history books, that the Edict of Nantes issued in the year 1598 by the French king Henry IV, which established many religious and civil freedoms for France's Protestants, would be revoked less than a century later by the still-unborn Louis XIV, son of the currently reigning French monarch, Louis XIII. That would happen in October of 1685, a half century in the future. Thereafter, almost all of France's Protestants - usually called Huguenots - emigrated from the country.

    So when Laurent Mauger, from a Huguenot family but now a merchant in Haarlem, had approached Jacques-Pierre about the possibility of going to Grantville to gather further information that could be used to benefit the Protestant cause in France, he had agreed with only the most perfunctory raising of difficulties. Only enough difficulties to improve the remuneration that Mauger first offered. Not to have done so would have raised Mauger's suspicions immediately.

    After the two of them had reached an agreement, of course, Jacques-Pierre immediately notified Duke Henri. The duke was Jacques-Pierre's real employer and he knew that Rohan had already, for some time, been seriously concerned about what some of the Huguenot extremists might do. In which, God only knew, he was justified, considering the information that had come from Venice during the spring in regard to the activities of Michel Ducos and his gang of fanatics. Not to mention the news that had come from the duke's Venetian contacts in Rome last month. That it was Ducos who had attempted to assassinate the pope.

    Duke Henri de Rohan did not care for assassinations. Or assassins. His father-in-law had been a close friend as well as a counselor of the late, most unfortunately assassinated, King Henri IV of France. Sully had been one of those who had advised the Huguenot Henri de Navarre that Paris was worth a mass, thus possibly contributing to the circumstances that had led the madman to storm the royal carriage with his knife. It bore on his conscience.

    Although he had so advised his friend, Sully had never brought himself to make such a… transition… in the practice of his faith. At the king's wish, he had married his daughter to Rohan who, himself, like his mother, his brother, his wife, and his father-in-law, remained a Calvinist.

    This time, perhaps, history would be different. At the parade, everyone in Grantville had been celebrating the overwhelming defeat of the forces of the League of Ostend. Jacques-Pierre smirked. Most of them didn't bother to think that they were celebrating the overwhelming defeat of the French regiments under the command of that idiot de Valois, with only the Huguenot Turenne coming out of the campaign with any glory at all. That would do a lot to undermine the position of Richelieu. Richelieu, the villain who had so strengthened the French crown at the expense of the Estates that in another half-century a French king had been able to revoke the Edict of Nantes.

    That was the first and prime goal, Mauger had assured him - to undermine Richelieu. To prevent the centralization of all political power in France in the crown, to the point that the next king could revoke the Edict of Nantes. It didn't matter much how they did it, Mauger claimed. Even that idiot, the king's brother and heir presumptive, Monsieur Gaston, could be a tool. Getting the royal forces out of La Rochelle and returning the city to its pre-1628 status as a bastion of French Protestantism would be a triumph, if they could achieve it.

    Mauger even argued that if the Huguenots, ordinary people, had some successes, it might encourage Henri de Rohan to return to a more active leadership role. It might at least allow him to return from his years of exile in Venice and the Swiss cantons.

    Wouldn't the duke be surprised to hear that?

    That had been months ago, long before Turenne's successful cavalry raid on the oil fields of the United States of Europe at Wietze. Now… Ah, if it should happen that the Protestant Turenne was the only effective military leader the king of France could rely upon, that would be superb.

    But Mauger was only an agent. He admitted that himself, when Dumais pressed him on the subject. His own contact - rather, the mysterious employer of his own contact - needed information. Must have information. So Jacques-Pierre had agreed to go to Grantville.

    Even more, Henri de Rohan needed information about Mauger's mysterious employer. So, in Grantville, Jacques-Pierre had become a garbage collector. In life, there were few free gifts.

    Madame Haggerty - now she was a free gift. To have such a woman as the mother of one of his employers was far more than he could have reasonably hoped for, he reflected, as he jogged along next to the garbage wagon.



    Later that day, Dumais collected his mail, regretting that Venice and the Swiss had not yet joined the new International Postal Union that made use of pre-paid stamps. If it had, Duke Henri would be paying the postage, not himself.

    Ah, well. Even if Jacques-Pierre could rent a post office box, it wouldn't keep him from having to appear at the post office fairly regularly. That wasn't something ordinarily expected of a garbage collector. Luckily, the Grantvillers were, as a whole, so eccentric themselves that they did not find it notably unusual or peculiar for a trash man to receive letters with international postmarks.

    Dumais could have tried to pass for a Walloon instead of a Frenchman, he supposed, but there were too many Walloons working at USE Steel down around Saalfeld and Kamsdorf. Some one of them might have tried to look him up. Bad idea. Simpler was better, particularly since so many of the Grantvillers were convinced that all Frenchmen were incompetent - aside from Richelieu, of course. In a pinch, he identified himself as Rochellais, which was perfectly true, too.

    There was a letter from Henri de Rohan today. As soon as Dumais was outside the post office, he opened it and began reading.

    The duke was worried about Ducos. He speculated that Ducos had, from Rome, headed for the south coast of France, gone up the Rhone, crossed over to the upper Rhine, taken it as far of the mouth of the Main, and would probably soon be meeting with his henchmen and cohorts in Frankfurt am Main. The duke would make arrangements in Frankfurt, through his contacts with the Huguenot colony there, to have people on the alert for Locquifier and the others.

    Dumais nodded. That was not his problem. What was this leading up to?

    He read on. Of course. A Grantville connection. Rohan had also learned that the one Roman confederate of Ducos who had been apprehended was caught due to the rapid action and thinking of a boy named Ron Stone and his brothers. Stone was now reported to be in transit from Padua to Grantville. Should he appear there, Dumais should attempt to contact him.

    Dumais shook his head, wryly. There were times the duke's exalted position made him blind to certain realities. He seemed to think that a lowly garbage collector could easily contact the son of the owner of Lothlorien Farbenwerke, who was now probably the wealthiest man in Grantville.

    Pas du tout, monsieur le duc!

    True, it would be easier for Jacques-Pierre to make Stone's acquaintance in Grantville than in most other places. But easier did not necessarily mean easy.

    Rohan, de Ron, Ron Stone. All for his mind to keep track of on one assignment. Sometimes he suspected that the Lord God had a perverse sense of humor.



    "Henry, glad I caught you before you left for the day."

    It was Steve Matheny. Henry Dreeson looked up the steps that led back into City Hall. Right at the moment, they looked like Mount Everest. But the chief of the fire department wouldn't be here unless it was really important. So he smiled a lot more cheerfully than he felt like doing and climbed back up to his office.

    Budget, of course. Budget had been a critical problem for the fire department for a year, now. First, sending trained men and part of Grantville's modern equipment up to Magdeburg to protect the Navy Yard. That had come first. Then sending more trained men and more of Grantville's modern equipment up to Magdeburg to protect the capital of the new United States of Europe.

    "We need to order more of the down-time equipment from the manufacturers in Nürnberg," said Steve. "The last order arrived and it's functioning about as well as we'd expected, but it still doesn't have the capacity that uptime equipment had. To get equivalent coverage, we'd have to have more of the wagons and hoses."

    Which, of course, the city would have to find the money to pay for.

    Henry thought that he probably shouldn't complain about stress. The firefighters had stress. But the fact remained that he was mayor of Grantville and that meant that he was ultimately responsible for the safety of Grantville. The buck stopped here, like Harry Truman had said. Every trained up-timer and every piece of equipment that left greater Grantville, reduced the protection level here - and there hadn't been enough to start with for the needs of an area that had nearly twenty thousand people, now, since the setup before the Ring of Fire had been for a town and outlying area of under four thousand.

    Maybe he should talk with Steve about where his activities were fitting in with other initiatives, and such. Maybe he could set up a meeting with Enoch and some of the other ministers to talk to Steve about the strains they had been seeing in some of the firefighters who attended their churches. They had all been on call 24/7 for more than three years, now. Some of the fires had been awful, with loss of life, such as the one on New Years Eve back in 1631. No matter how many down-timers they trained, whether the Benedictine monks who came in regularly, or the men who had already organized the voluntary firefighting systems in the towns and cities before Grantville came back to seventeenth-century Germany, the up-timers still had to take the brunt of doing the training as well as responding to calls.

    He suggested a meeting.

    Steve looked a little exasperated. "What's the point of a meeting, Henry? I already know about it. Archie Stannard in Magdeburg knows about it, too. Neither of us sees anything else we can do. Not since everyone agreed on the importance of setting up a first-class system in Magdeburg from the very beginning, as a model for the rest of the country. Not at the rate we're trying to expand. Not at the rate we're trying to get the down-timers to upgrade. Think just Rudolstadt, Saalfeld, Jena, Badenburg. Equipment purchase has been straining their budgets, too. Not to mention training, and getting reliable volunteers who are willing to take the training rather than wanting to keep on doing it 'the way we've always done it' with the equivalent of a warden, a neighborhood watch, and bucket brigades. Stan Myers has been tearing his hair out about that."

    "There's no extra revenue, Steve." Henry shook his head. "What with city taxes, state taxes, war levies - there's no way we can increase the rates and leave people enough money in their pockets to live on. Ordinary people, at least. I don't mind soaking the rich. We tax them and then on top of that I go out and give speeches that make them feel guilty in hopes they'll donate this or that. But even so…."

    "We've got to do something, Henry." Steve was drawing overlapping circles on the note pad in front of him. "Is there any hope of getting the army to detail us some more of the high school graduates right out of basic?"

    "Now that the worst of the war seems to be over for this season? Ask Frank Jackson." Dreeson shook his head. "Maybe in the fall, if Gustavus Adolphus doesn't try to run a winter campaign against Saxony and Brandenburg."

    "If not that, then what? Personnel is too tight. We know that we're robbing Peter to pay Paul. Bill Porter at the power plant wasn't happy when I pulled a couple of his mechanics out of there and got them into full-time fire prevention work because they had the training. Every full time up-timer I have - well, except Stannard, who was a bonus but who's up in Magdeburg now - I've had to pull off doing some other job that also needs to be done."

    "Maybe you could try recruiting some of the men who got out of the army last spring now that it's gone to all-volunteer. Mitch Hobbs and those other guys who went in right after the Ring of Fire. That's the only real possibility I can think of, and they're pretty much all dropping right into full time jobs, the way Ryan Baker did. But you can ask them. They should be in good shape. Grantville's fire department before the Ring of Fire was volunteer, too."

    Steve Matheny shook his head. "I'll try. But I'll tell you the truth. There's not enough people to go around, Henry. No matter how fast we train new people, up-timers and down-timers, there's still not enough to go around. And the full-time guys are feeling it. It's hitting some of them harder than others. Some of them are better than others at working with down-timers, for instance. It wasn't easy picking the crews we sent up to Magdeburg, especially not when some of them have families who, for one reason or another, have to stay here. But they're all feeling it."

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