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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Ten

       Last updated: Friday, August 8, 2008 20:28 EDT




    “I’ll get it.”

    Annalise jumped up from the dinner table and dashed for the front hall. “Hello. Yes, Mrs. Piazza? They’re out! They’re out of Basel? They’re okay? Really all right? Not hurt or anything. You’re sure? Just a minute.”

    She left the receiver on the telephone stand and ran back into the dining room. “They’re out of Basel. Oma and Mrs. Simpson and the archduchess. They’re okay. Absolutely okay. Henry, can you come to the phone?”

    She turned right around and dashed again, so she could pick up the receiver again as fast as possible. She didn’t want Mrs. Piazza to think that she’d hung up before Henry could get there. “Don’t go away. He’s coming right now. Thea had to get his cane for him.”



    Denise Beasley spread out the morning newspaper on the kitchen table in her father Buster’s trailer. Her best friend Minnie Hugelmair read over her shoulder. “Isn’t that a hoot? Mary Simpson and the archduchess getting into a plane with the new king in the Netherlands so Jesse Wood could fly them off to Amsterdam.” The girl’s very pretty face twisted into a half-scowl. “I’ve never flown. I bet I would have, by now, if the Ring of Fire hadn’t happened. Maybe we still can, someday.”

    “Oh, sure,” Minnie commented. “I can see it now. We get so famous that a plane lands out in your dad’s storage lot to take us someplace exciting. Not likely. Just not. How about checking my algebra homework before we leave for school?”



    The noise in the Thuringen Gardens was deafening. But on the evening of a day that most people had spent talking about this kind of news, Henry felt like he had to show up. Flying the flag, or something. The Gardens were a kind of symbol for Grantville by now, he supposed. If you really had something to celebrate, you celebrated it at the Gardens. Not to mention—this was where he’d met Ronnie, in the first place.

    “Veronica’s still with Horn’s army, then?” Tony Adducci waved at Thecla to bring him another beer.

    “She’ll be on her way home by the end of the week, they tell me. Horn’s sending her by boat as soon as he can arrange to get her on one with all the necessary safe-conducts and such for passing through the region held by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. Down the Rhine and then up the Main.”

    Chad Jenkins nodded. “Bernhard’s being cooperative, they say.”

    “Just hope that it lasts.”

    Joe Stull grinned. “So, Henry, are you going to climb into that ATV to make the tour of the towns in Buchenland before the snow flies?”


    “We got a new message in from Fulda right before I left the office,” Ed Piazza said.


    “They’re suggesting that since Veronica will be landing at Frankfurt, you ought to extend the tour. Go on down the Kinzigtal and meet her there. There are bits and pieces of Buchenland County along the route until you get as far as Hanau.”

    Martin Wackernagel finished chewing a bite of pretzel. “Not a bad idea. It’s a pretty trip. Not a very good road, but a really pretty trip, especially in the fall when the leaves are turning. I go that road all the time. The Reichsstrasse.”



    “What a hellish racket.” Missy clamped her hands over her ears. “Maybe they should have waited and not had last month’s parade until they got Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson back. That would have made for a few more floats.”

    “It would have saved a lot of beer, too.” Denise smirked. “Most of the guys are going to end up just as drunk tonight as they did after the parade. First they strut and then they swill. It’s not as if any of them here had anything to do with what was going on in Basel, but to hear them talk, you’d think that the SoTF Reserves rode into the city with Don Fernando—the king in the Netherlands, whatever he’s called at the moment—and raised the siege at the embassy.”

    “Maybe we should go home early. It’s not as if there’s anyone here we’re interested in, and we’re not close enough to Dad and Mayor Dreeson to overhear anything political.” Missy turned around and tapped Pam Hardesty’s shoulder. “Pam? Are you ready to go?” Then, “Pam? Is something wrong?”

    Pam shook her head, eyes narrow. “No. Not really. I just spotted one of Velma’s less pleasant old boyfriends, over there. Take a sighting past Wackernagel, then a little to the left and four tables toward the door. I don’t want to walk past him. Is there enough room, anywhere, that we could get out one of the other doors?”

    Minnie stood up, swiveling her head. “Not right now. We’d better wait a bit.”

    Missy frowned at Pam. “He didn’t…?”

    “He didn’t. But not for lack of trying. Talk about a nasty, nasty, man. Fish bait.”

    Denise’s nouns and adjectives were considerably more colorful than that, ending up with, “Maybe you’d better let Daddy give you some lessons in dirty fighting. You ought to see what Mom can do.”

    “Benny’s a good man,” Minnie said slowly. “His sister Betty’s husband seems to be a good man, too, but he’s been so sick ever since we came to Grantville that it’s hard to tell what he’d be like if he wasn’t coughing all the time. Betty likes him, though. Her son David’s nice, and so is Louise’s husband, but they’re both about fifty, I guess. How do you tell if someone young is going to turn out to be a good man?”

    “Wait until they’re old,” Missy suggested.

    “Where’s the fun in that?” Denise asked. “Just arrange things so you’re in the driver’s seat.”

    Pam looked at Minnie. “Reputation, I guess. Pay attention to what other girls say. Sometimes it does pay to listen to gossip.”

    “Hell,” Denise said. “Listen to what the guys say. Oh, sure, men say they don’t gossip. They do, though. They just call it ‘shooting the breeze.’ There were a bunch out in Daddy’s welding shop the other day. Older guys, not our age, but it’s all the same. One of them asked, ‘Who did Bobby Fitz marry, anyway?’ That’s what they called Austin O’Meara’s brother—it wasn’t his name, but everyone called him that. I don’t know why. None of you probably ever met him, since he moved away a dozen or so years before the Ring of Fire. But you remember Austin—the one who got killed in a fight here at the Gardens last year. Well, first one of them said it was Obie Conway’s sister down in Kentucky and then they started talking about the job corps and when Bobby Fitz met her and how her folks interfered and she married someone from her dad’s snake handler church instead, but after he died, Obie dropped a word to Bobby Fitz and he gave notice at his job that same afternoon and headed for Pikeville with everything he owned in his pickup.”

    Missy raised her eyebrows. “So?”

    “There wasn’t a one of them who doubted that when Bobby Fitz tore out of town, he had a respectable marriage on his mind, even if it did come with three half-grown stepsons attached. Or that he’d be good to Sandy Jo and her kids. There’s a lot to be said for listening to guys who work with a man. They know how he acts if it’s one of those days that started by dropping an anvil on his big toe and ended by having a big weld go wrong at the last minute.”

    “Yeah, maybe. But Buster’s friends are old enough to tell the difference. I don’t think guys our age really are.” Missy looked at Minnie. “My advice is that you don’t even try to tell the difference now. Just hold back for a while. I’m not planning to get serious for another ten years, at least. Not until I’ve finished all my education and worked for a while. Maybe not until I’ve traveled some, if things settle down.”

    Denise grinned. “No fun and games along the way.”

    Missy shook her head. “I don’t need that kind of complication in my life right now.” She looked at them solemnly. “Neither do the rest of you.”

    Minnie stood up. “Thecla and her flying squad of waitresses have cleared a path along the wall, on the other side of the room from where Pam’s nasty man is sitting. Let’s get out of here while we can.”





    “A welcoming parade,” Andrea Hill said. “We’ve got Wes and Clara back.” She waved toward the head of the table. “Henry’s coming. We ought to put on the biggest parade this town’s ever seen. Kids from the schools. Captain Wiegand and his city militia. The whole Fulda Barracks Regiment.”

    Orville Beattie shook his head. “It won’t fly, Andrea. We’ve got Wes and Clara back, but the Stift is missing its abbot and we don’t even know where he is or if he’s still alive. ‘Hearts and minds’ stuff. We’ve got to do something more subdued. We can’t ignore the way the monks have got to be feeling.”

    Mark Early scratched his chin. “Maybe Henry could review the militia and the regiment out at Barracktown.”

    “Not a bad idea,” Derek Utt said. “That way, we can pretty well secure the perimeter while Henry’s up on the reviewing stand. Not that I’m expecting the farmers to try anything. The Ram Rebellion never really got violent over here, the way it did at Miltitz, and anyway, they’re on our side. But we haven’t caught the kidnappers and we don’t know if the guys who hauled Schweinsberg away were the only ones that the archbishop of Cologne sent into our territory.”

    “Did he send them because he’s archbishop of Cologne or did he send them because he’s the brother of the duke of Bavaria?” Harlan Stull asked.

    “I’m not even sure he could separate those two things in his own mind.” Clara frowned. “If he wasn’t Maximilian’s brother, he wouldn’t be an archbishop.”

    Wes took his glasses off and started to polish them with his handkerchief. “Is he in any position to do anything after the Essen War?”

    “He’s on the run,” Derek conceded. “Or, at least, out of Bonn and lurking somewhere over on the other side of the Rhine. But if we’ve still got some of the guys he hired running around loose… And I don’t know that we don’t. It doesn’t seem likely, but I can’t be sure. A closed perimeter looks good to me.”

    “Make sure there’s a chair for him on the reviewing stand. George Chehab says Henry’s having problems with that hip again.”

    Derek nodded. “Sure. He can go through the new school building, too, while he’s out at Barracktown. The roof is on, now, and there’s glass in the windows. We can set up the lunch in the larger schoolroom. He can eat with the teachers. We’ve hired a second teacher for next year.”

    “That’s that, then,” Wes said, putting his glasses back on. “How are you planning to get Henry out to all the small towns and villages, Orville?”




    “What is it about men whose wives have just had babies that makes them look insufferably smug and oh-so-pleased with themselves?” mused Ed Piazza. “I mean, it’s not as if the man did anything except get his rocks off months ago.”

    Mike Stearns’ grin never wavered. “And you didn’t?”

    “Oh, sure,” said Ed. “I’m just quoting my wife’s none-too-admiring words addressed at me, back when.”

    Francisco Nasi, the only single man in the trio, shook his head. “I’m simply glad that Rebecca is well. And the girl also.”

    “What are you going to name her?” asked Ed.

    “Kathleen,” said Mike. “We decided that a long time ago. In fact, it was supposed to have been the name we gave Sephie, except we decided in the end that ‘Sepharad’ would be better for our first child.”

    The term Sepharad was the word used by Europe’s Sephardic Jews to refer to the Iberian homeland from which they had been driven almost two centuries earlier. As always, Nasi was struck by the name, used as the name of a child—and, still more so, by the complexities of the gentile father who had chosen that name. Complexities which had, in the end, produced something as simple and clear-cut as Nasi’s own firm allegiance to the man.

    But it was a complex world, after all. And there was always this, too—working for Michael Stearns was invariably an interesting experience. Sometimes, even an exhilarating one.

    “Kathleen,” said Ed, rolling the name. “After a relative?”

    Mike’s grin got a bit crooked. “Uh, no. It was my ex-fianceé’s name.”

    Ed looked a bit startled. Nasi, who knew the story, said: “The woman who died in the car crash. In California.”

    Ed was still looking startled. “And Becky didn’t mind?”

    “It was her suggestion, in fact,” said Mike.

    That led Francisco to reflect on the complexities of the woman Rebecca Abrabanel. With some regrets, even. Had she not married Mike Stearns, she might have wound up marrying Francisco himself.

    Possibly. That had been his family’s plan, at least. But what was done, was done, and Nasi was not a man given to fretting over the past.

    Speaking of which—complexities, that is…

    “Is it possible to speak to her?” he asked. “Or is she maintaining seclusion?”

    Mike’s grin got very crooked, now. “Yeah, sure. We’ll have to manage something discreet, though. Becky maintains most of the rituals and customs, but not all of them, especially the ones she thinks are—her words, not mine—‘stupid and pointless leftovers from tribal pastoralism.’ But she tries not to rub anybody’s nose in it.”

    Nasi chuckled. “Especially in Amsterdam, whose rabbis are notoriously rigid.”

    “’Reactionary scoundrels,’ is the phrase Becky herself uses to describe them.” Mike shrugged. “She doesn’t care at all what they think. Still, most Jews in the city are religiously very conservative, if not always politically, and she doesn’t see any point in needlessly irritating them. So, although she’s not maintaining the forty days of seclusion, she’s not flaunting the fact either. Come by our place tonight, after dark.”

    Nasi nodded. Mike cocked his head quizzically.

    “What do you need to talk to her about? If it’s something personal, of course, you can ignore the question.”

    “No, it’s political,” said Ed. “And you should be part of the discussion anyway. The problem is with Becky’s seat in the SoTF Congress. She’s been gone for a long time, Mike. Is she planning to come back to Grantville? If so, we’ll figure on running her again as the candidate of the Fourth of July Party. But, if she’s not coming back—or not coming back soon—we really need to run somebody else. We just can’t keep that seat held for somebody in absentia.”

    Mike scratched his jaw. “Yeah, I understand. Becky and I have talked about it, but—what with this and that and this and that—”

    “It’s been a hectic few months,” Ed said, chuckling.

    “—we never came to any conclusions. And, yes, I can see where it’d be a problem for the party in Thuringia.”

    “We’ll be by tonight, then. In the meantime…” Ed winced. “I suppose we may as well go see Gretchen.”

    Mike frowned. “What’s the problem? She’s not hard to talk to—at least, if you can pry yourself through the small mob of CoCers who are usually surrounding her.” He glanced at his watch. “And, this time of day, that’s where you’ll usually find her. At the CoC headquarters downtown.”

    “Well… this is a personal matter. Henry Dreeson asked us to talk to her while we were here. He’s wondering—and he’s getting pretty damn dyspeptic about it—when Gretchen’s planning to come home and start taking care of that mob of kids of hers. She’s been gone just as long as Becky, you know.”

    “Oh.” Now, Mike made a face. “Yeah. Good luck. The old saw comes to mind. ‘Better you than me.’”

    That made his grin re-appear.

    “That’s really a pretty disgusting grin,” Ed observed.



    In the event, though, Gretchen wasn’t belligerent. In fact, she looked downright shame-faced when Ed finished passing on the message from Henry.

    “Well, yes, I know. But… we’ve been very busy…” She made a fluttery sort of gesture, very out of character for Gretchen. “The struggle against reaction…”

    Ed just waited. Under the circumstances, that seemed the wisest course.

    Eventually, Gretchen stopped muttering and mumbling about the needs of the struggle and started muttering and mumbling noises on the subject of returning to Grantville. After a couple of minutes or so, Ed decided he could excavate enough of those vague phrases to mollify Henry.

    For a while, anyway. But, by then, all sorts of things might happen. The newly-arrived cousin might turn into the reincarnation of Mary Poppins or… Whazzername, the great governess played by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. The one who wound up marrying von Trump. Von Trapp?

    Or, horses might learn to sing. Or, Gretchen might actually tear herself away from the struggle against reaction and the forces of darkness long enough to come home to Grantville and do something with that gaggle of kids.

    Who was to say? All Ed had agreed to do was pass on the message. Which, he’d done.

    “I’ll tell Henry,” he said stoutly.



    Rebecca seemed a bit shame-faced herself, that night, after Ed raised the problem of her seat in the SoTF Congress.

    “Yes, I understand. You may tell our people back in Grantville that I think it would be best if I simply resigned from the seat.” She glanced at her husband. “Michael and I… well, we do not wish to be parted again. And he must remain in Magdeburg. Even if he loses the election, as we expect, he will have to lead the opposition.”

    She looked back at Ed. “So, we have decided. I will go to Magdeburg also. And if my father is willing, we will ask him to move in with us.”

    Ed nodded. He didn’t ask about Mike’s mother, since he knew full well she’d be quite unwilling to leave Grantville even if she wasn’t an invalid. But that wouldn’t be a major problem, he didn’t think, with all the support she had in the town.

    And it was none of his business anyway. The political issue had been resolved. “All right,” he said. “You might consider becoming active politically in Magdeburg.”

    Mike and Rebecca both smiled. “As it happens,” Mike said, “Gunther Achterhof has been pestering us for weeks now to agree to let Becky run for the House of Commons from one of Magdeburg’s districts.”

    Ed’s eyes widened. “The USE parliament?”



    “Exactly what I said!” exclaimed Rebecca. Her hands fluttered much the way Gretchen’s had earlier than day. “I’ve never lived in the city—anywhere in the province. Only even visited just a few times. I could just manage to move there in time for the election. The idea seems absurd.”

    Mike, on the other hand, was looking smug again. “Who cares? Gunther sure doesn’t—and he says nobody else will either. If we run Becky, he says she’ll win in a landslide.”

    Nasi cleared his throat. “I have to say, I agree with Achterhof. Magdeburg province is even more—ah, I will say ‘July-Fourthish’ rather than ‘radical,’ just to avoid haggling—than the State of Thuringia-Franconia.” His eyes got a little unfocused. “I’m quite familiar with the subject, you know. I estimate she’d get at least two-thirds of the vote, in any district in the province. If she ran in the city itself, she’d almost certainly go unopposed. The Crown Loyalists have given up there, for all practical purposes.”

    “I’ll be damned,” said Ed. He realized, not for the first time, that because he’d always remained in Grantville since the Ring of Fire that he had a tendency to underestimate the impact that the time-transplanted Americans were having on the seventeenth century. In some places, at any rate.

    “Anything else?” asked Mike.

    “No. Unless you’d like to hear the latest Grantville gossip.”

    “Oh, horrors,” said Becky, leaning forward. “But start with something pleasant.”

    “Pleasant, it is—at least, if you enjoy the exploits of rambunctious girls. You know Denise Beasley, don’t you?”

    “Such a sprightly lass,” said Becky. “What did she do now?”



On the Reichsstrasse between Arnstadt and Erfurt

    Wackernagel was doing explanations at the front of the first ATV. Cunz Kastenmayer was doing explanations at the back of the rear ATV. The drivers were standing by the doors, pointing at first one thing and then another. The soldiers, who were standing around, trying to look casual, were surrounded by a lot of boys and a few girls who had already had their turn in the vehicles but wanted to know more about how they worked.

    Henry Dreeson was on a bench, leaning back against a tree, enjoying the shade and letting them have at it.

    There hadn’t been this much excitement when they stopped in Badenburg, even though they’d done a press conference. The people in Badenburg saw various kinds of motorized this-and-that almost every day. Beyond there, though, even on the way up to Arnstadt, the first day out, this had happened every time Wackernagel called a stop. Which he did at about every good-sized village.

    Henry didn’t mind admitting that he appreciated the frequent stops. Not just because his hip ached, even though it did. The prostate gland wasn’t what it used to be, either. Who used to sing that song? Rosemary Clooney. “This ole house…”

    He hummed a couple of lines. That must have been fifty years ago, give or take a couple. Right about the time he and Annie got married. Before he understood in his bones what it was about.

    Over by the ATVs a boy, ten years old maybe, blew the horn and let out a whoop of delight.

    Henry had been surprised at how much interest there was in his tour. Wackernagel said that if he was doing a good-will tour, he might as well do it right from the start and all the way over. People in the villages, both between Badenburg and Erfurt and on the Imperial Road from Erfurt to Fulda, had all seen up-time vehicles going back and forth before. Lots of times. They had not, very often, seen one of them stopped, where they could take a closer look, with a driver who was willing to explain how things worked. Much less passengers who were willing to vacate the premises and let them climb in and out, let the boys put their hands on the steering wheel and go vroom for a while, or anything else of the sort.

    It was sort of restful, as long as people were more interested in the cars than they were in him. He had a feeling that was going to stop once they got over into Buchenland.

    Tonight they’d be staying in Erfurt. Probably no curious kids there—Erfurt had a lot of trucks, being the central supply depot for the army—but the city council was giving a dinner for him tonight and then he’d promised to do an interview for the newspaper. Newspapers. There were three, but Cunz had told them that they all had to come to the same interview.

    The difference between an interview and a press conference seemed to be that at an interview, everyone sat around a table. At a press conference, he stood up in front and the reporters sat in a row.

    Tomorrow morning, Wackernagel wanted them to make a stop at a little village called Bindersleben right outside the city limits. It didn’t make much driving sense to stop that soon after they got started, but apparently he knew people there and had promised some kids they could have a good look at the cars.

    It was probably a good idea to do it this way, with all the stops. He was glad Wackernagel had come up with the idea. Good PR. Cunz was writing up a kind of trip diary saying what they did at every village and sending it back to the Grantville papers. It listed the names and everything of the kids who came to look at the ATVs. The Times had promised to send copies of the those issues to the villages, so parents could buy copies of the Grantville paper with their children’s names in it. Ed Piazza would like that. It would make people who didn’t have the time or money to visit the Grantville Fair to see machinery feel more connected to the government. That sort of stuff. It was a lot more personal than watching a truck on the road or looking up and seeing an airplane flying overhead, or even having a crystal set and hearing about it on the radio. Ed believed in personal.

    Of course, Ed was thinking about the election.

    And his driver was waving. On the road, again.

    Someone had told him that Cardinal Richelieu had hemorrhoids. So bad that five or six years ago, when the king of France took down La Rochelle, they’d had to put some kind of a stretcher between the seats in a carriage so he could ride to the siege lying down on his stomach. Made that sort of pained expression on the man’s face in all the portraits people had looked up in the encyclopedias a little more understandable, he guessed.

    He was going to have the same kind of expression on his own face before he got into a bed tonight. Even with an ATV that had padded seats to ride in. It was a hell of a good thing that he wasn’t trying to make this trip sitting on a hard wagon bench.

    He grabbed his cane and heaved himself up.




Vacha, on the Reichsstrasse

    His driver was slowing down and the car behind, the one with the soldiers riding in it, was pulling around, ahead of them. Henry looked more closely. There were a half-dozen men hanging around the little guardhouse. Those weren’t kids interested in looking at cars.

    Wackernagel cussed something in German. Must have been a good one, because Henry hadn’t ever heard it before.

    “It’s a divided town,” the driver said. “The crossing’s always been a bone of contention between the abbots of Fulda—that’s the SoTF now—and the landgraves of Hesse-Kassel, so they say. But I know for damn sure that our people cleared this motorcade with their people in advance.”

    “But Hesse-Kassel is in the USE. Verdammt!” One of the reasons Cunz Kastenmayer said he was glad that he’d gone into law rather than theology, aside from the money he expected to earn, was that he was free to indulge in the occasional profanity. If not in his father’s hearing. “And don’t think that Wilhelm V isn’t making the most of it. Think how much extra acreage he grabbed for himself last spring, all the way over to the Rhine. Under color of doing a good deed for Gustav.”

    Henry understood them, which he felt pretty good about, considering that when the Ring of Fire happened, his German had been limited to the title of Auf Wiedersehn, Sweetheart. “California was in the United States of America too, up-time. That didn’t stop them from searching cars crossing into the state and telling people they couldn’t bring in any fresh fruits or vegetables.”

    The driver looked at him, surprised.

    “I don’t care what they tell you in citizenship class. We weren’t perfect. No country ever has been. No country ever will be. The thing to aim at is to get it as good as you can for as many of your people as you can. We had as many arrogant assholes up-time as you have down-time. We just made a little more effort to get a grip on them, most of the time.”

    Kastenmayer nodded. “The greatest happiness of the greatest number,” he said in English. “We covered that in the history of political philosophy class I took last year.”

    Henry nodded. “I hadn’t ever heard it put quite that way. But it pretty much sums up the idea.”

    The two sets of soldiers were still arguing. But it looked like it was going to turn into a paper war rather than a shooting war.

    “Can you walk a quarter of one of your up-time miles?” Wackernagel asked. “I know a family here. I stay with them overnight every trip. It’s cheaper than a room in the inn. We can go over there and get something to drink. The street’s wide enough that when they finish up with this”—he leaned his head in the direction of the disputing-the-right-of-way critters—“the driver can bring the car down and pick you up. He can turn around using the alley.”

    Henry nodded. “Sounds good to me. I can make it that far. I make it that far from the house to City Hall and back home every day, still. The hip’s going bad, but I don’t want all the rest of my joints to stiffen up, too. Counterproductive.”

    He smiled a little. That had been one of his daughter Margie’s words, too.

    Hesse-Kassel’s head honcho yelled something when they opened the car doors. He had an accent Henry had never heard before, thick enough to cut with a knife. Not one word in four came through. That seemed to happen every time he started to think he had a handle on the language, finally. Wackernagel yelled back in the same lingo. Whatever he said, the Hessian soldiers let them walk away without any more fuss.

    But they’d already held the drivers up for a couple of hours, splitting hairs. Trying to featherbed by arguing that even if an ATF didn’t need to hitch up extra horses from the Hessian teamsters to help it handle these hills, they were still obliged to pay the mandatory fee for the extra team of horses. Which, since there were two ATVs, meant that they owed the fee for two teams.

    Which meant that even if they left right now, which it sure didn’t look like they were going to, they wouldn’t be able to reach Fulda before dark. So they might as well plan to stay the night in Vacha. Nobody in his right mind would try to drive through these hill roads with nothing but headlights to see by.

    Henry intended to have Wes file an official complaint with the landgrave once they got to Fulda. He wasn’t a man to let himself be pushed around.

    And it wasn’t just him they were trying to push around. Hesse-Kassel was a Crown Loyalist, really close to Wettin, and he was insulting the SoTF. Just to see if they’d let him get away with it, probably. He wasn’t exactly farting in the face of Mike Stearns in person, but that’s what this kind of idiocy amounted to.

    Hesse-Kassel’s nose was probably out of joint because Mary Simpson and Ronnie had gotten so much publicity in the newspapers this summer while they were kiting around Bavaria with the Austrian archduchess. Which amounted to publicity for the SoTF.

    Wackernagel said they could all spend the night at this family’s house, where he stayed, but it would be crowded. Henry could have a bed, but he and Cunz, the drivers, and the soldiers would have to sleep on the floor.

    A couple of hours before dark, though, three companies of orange-uniformed men on horses, led by Derek Utt himself, showed up in Vacha. The Fulda Barracks Regiment was thoroughly spooked by what had happened to the civilian administrators and doubly determined that it wasn’t going to happen again. They’d been camping five miles or so outside of town all week and kept a couple of lookouts in an inn on the Fulda side of the town.

    The lookouts had spotted the problem. One of them had slipped out, picked up his horse from a farmer’s stall, and gone down to collect the whole troop.

    Sergeant Hartke was now having a few words with Hesse-Kassel’s border guards.

    Derek moved Henry from the outside picnic table in the friendly woman’s yard over to an inside parlor in the Fulda-side inn where the scouts had been staying.

    Wackernagel said he’d spend the night at the house like usual and meet them at the ATVs in the morning.

    Henry nodded. He supposed the woman counted on having the income from her regular customers and Wackernagel knew it. She had three little kids, that he’d seen.

    That night he didn’t just have the three soldiers from Grantville staying at the same motel with him. These roadside inns were really motels, when you came right down to it. He had two orange-colored guards inside his room and a couple more standing outside his door all night.

    He felt a little bit ashamed that he’d kicked up such a big fuss when Piazza insisted on sending the second ATV. Utt seemed to take the problem seriously. Real seriously.

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