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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Eighteen

       Last updated: Monday, September 15, 2008 01:09 EDT



Frankfurt am Main

    Guillaume Locquifier pinched the candle out and lay on his pallet, thinking.

    They should have taken out the Stone brothers when they had the chance. Lackeys or not. Everything that had gone wrong in Rome had been the fault of those… He couldn’t think of a suitable epithet. The sons of Tom Stone were in a category beyond epithets, whatever Michel said regarding their insignificance.

    The woman Veronica. The security surrounding her in Frankfurt had not been tight, except during the march itself. That had only been an artifact of the security surrounding the important civic officials.

    In one way, though, Antoine was perfectly correct. She was only important because of her relatives. There was no reason on earth for Richelieu to order her assassination. No reason for anyone to order her assassination.           

    Except, perhaps, her own family. If the reports that Gui and Fortunat had given about her general temperament, as they had observed it on the barge from Mainz to Frankfurt, were correct, then it would seem quite possible that almost any near relative might wish to see the end of her. But that would be personal, not political.

    Symbolism. Antoine wanted symbolism. When Antoine wanted it, Michel ordered it.

    Richelieu, once, had sent the Croats against Grantville.

    An assassination in Grantville itself? Everyone would blame that on Richelieu at once. Which would be…very satisfactory.


    Piazza perhaps? He was their president. The same office that Stearns had previously held, which would be a clear symbolic link.

    Or a down-timer? Ableidinger when he was in Grantville. He came, occasionally, to consult with Piazza.


    He fell asleep.



    “It is clear to me now.”

    The other four men looked at Locquifier.

    “It came to me in a dream a few days ago. The riot against the Jews. The riot here in Frankfurt that did not happen. That is something we can do.”

    “Here in Frankfurt?” Deneau looked puzzled.

    “We have a guest.” Locquifier opened the door and beckoned to de Ron, who showed another man in. “I would like to introduce Vincenz Weitz. He has a proposal for us.”

    Brillard knew the man. By reputation, at least. Weitz was a teamster. He spent most of his time going back and forth from Frankfurt into the little jigsaw puzzle that Nils Brahe had turned into the Province of the Upper Rhine the previous summer, hauling wine. He and a half-dozen or so like-minded friends had been prominent among the anti-Semitic mutterers after the explosion at the Sachsenhausen redoubt. Not from Frankfurt, most of them—other haulers of heavy freight. A useful occupation. They were men who were regularly on the move from place to place. It did not attract any special attention from city authorities when the came or when they left.

    At Locquifier’s invitation, Weitz began talking. He was arguing that it would be a major propaganda coup if they could destroy the synagogue in Grantville, thus demonstrating that the up-timers were either unable (too weak) or unwilling (thus hypocritical) to maintain in practice, right in the center of their power, the religious freedom that they advocated putting into the proposed constitution for the entire United States of Europe.

    “This will destabilize Richelieu how?” Brillard asked.

    Locquifier smiled. “By angering Stearns so much that he drops his opposition to the more punitive aspects of the treaty that Gustavus Adolphus intends to impose on the French.”

    Brillard blinked. That was… really quite good.

    Ancelin nodded. “Such an attack would enable us to take propaganda advantage of the entire controversy going on between the Fourth of July Party and the Crown Loyalists on the topic of the level of religious toleration and the issue of a state church.”

    Ouvrard jumped up. “He is right. Everyone has heard of the Grantville’s synagogue. Of their anarchist ‘freedom of religion.’ We must destroy that synagogue. Wipe out the ghetto that exists like a worm in the heart of their little radish.”

    Brillard stifled a smile. Clearly, Robert had not forgotten an unfortunate event that had marked the previous evening’s supper. It was rare for de Ron to serve bad produce. He bought through a local grocery wholesaler name Peter Appel. Yesterday night, however… After Robert’s experience, the rest of them had used their knives to cut their radishes in half before eating them. Which had proven to be a prudent precaution. Clearly, a field somewhere had an infestation of worms. Which was not immediately relevant, other than to the production of bad metaphors and similes, perhaps.

    “They don’t have a ghetto,” Ancelin said. “The synagogue is right out on an open street in the heart of the town. Close to the meeting of two bridges, which is the closest thing they have to a decent market square. I’ve seen it marked on my map of the Croat Raid.”

    Weitz spoke up again. “So much the better. We will show that the up-timers cannot even protect their own pet Jews. They have built no palisade for them, leaving them open to random attacks.”

    “Their lack of city walls was not precisely a problem during the Croat Raid,” Ancelin pointed out.

    Brilliard leaned back, chewing on his upper lip. Neither Ducos nor Delerue had anything against the Israelites. Nor did he, himself. Clearly, God, for some incomprehensible reason, did not want the Jews to become Christian. If He wanted them to, they would scarcely have an option, no matter how stubborn and hard-hearted they might be. God was, after all, omnipotent.

    Still, Weitz was right about one basic fact. There was a synagogue in Grantville. That might work as a starting point.

    “There are five of us,” Deneau said. “Five. One, two, three, four, five. I’ve organized riots and demonstrations before. How can our small group possibly attack two major targets at the same time, Weitz? At least, with any hope of success. We could, I suppose, lie down in front of the buildings and offer ourselves to be arrested on a matter of principle.”

    “The attack will succeed this time. I will plan better than the Croat leader did. We will…” Weitz paused.


    “I have allies. Aschmann, from Hesse; Meininger, from Schleusingen; Heft from Bamberg; others. All of whom have their own ties. You will only need to provide a distraction somewhere else. Draw their police forces away from the synagogue. Only then will my men advance.”



    Once Weitz had left, Ouvrard frowned. “I still don’t like it. There are so few of us.”

    “We can give ourselves time to bring in some of our other men from La Rochelle,” Ancelin said.

    “So we write to Chalifour. Who will he send? Not Marin Girard—in her last letter, Jeanne said he had gone out of town with Etienne Lorion. Olivier won’t part with Piquet or Marchant. Who does that leave? Léon Boucher. Georges Turpin, perhaps. Why would we want them?” Deneau threw his hands up in the air. “Even if he sent Plante and Baudin also—so we have nine men instead of five. How much does that help?”

    “Jeanne shouldn’t be writing about whether they are in town or out. It’s none of her business,” Ouvrard griped.

    “How can she keep from knowing? They sleep in her attic. They eat in her kitchen. When Chalifour doesn’t have jobs for them, they work in her brother’s knife-grinding shop.”

    “Even if she knows, she doesn’t have to tell you about it.”

    “I’m her husband.”

    Locquifier stood up. “We can hire others for the distraction. They don’t need to know what is going on. Ordinary street thugs. Mauger has an informant in place in Grantville. He can organize that.”

    “Not the school. The Croats failed in their attack on the school, because…” Ancelin started to unroll his map. He truly loved his map of the Croat Raid on Grantville. He spent hours studying it.

    “We must not let Mauger’s man in Grantville know about the synagogue.” Locquifier shook his head. “That would make it necessary for us to let him, whoever he is, know too much about our overall goals and purposes. We will use hired thugs for only one. Only for the distraction, but Mauger’s man must not know that it is a distraction. He must think it is all we are planning. Fortunat and Vincenz must take direct responsibility for the synagogue.”

    “Is it a good idea to keep Mauger’s agent so far out of the loop?” Ancelin asked.

    “We must,” Locquifier said. “It is policy.”

    Mathurin Brillard leaned against the wall, remembering Delerue’s “Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” It was pretty hard to argue with that one. Although given the complexity of what Guillaume was now planning, the “wheels within wheels” of Ezekiel 1: 15-17 might be more appropriate.

    Ouvrard looked over Ancelin’s shoulder. “What should we tell him to target, then, if not the school? ”

    “There are three schools.” Ancelin pointed. “But the building they call the ‘middle school’ is very near the synagogue, so it would not be of any use at all. The police could easily see from one to the other and move to the second disturbance.”

    Not any of the schools. For one thing, somewhere during the discussion, they had decided on March 4. A Sunday. In the morning. The schools would be empty.

    Ancelin studied the map for a few minutes more. “The hospital. The one with the famous Moorish surgeon. It’s far enough away. Since the other attack is to be on the synagogue, it is all to the good that they permit Balthazar Abrabanel to practice there, since he is Jewish. And the father of Stearns’ wife.” He moved his finger. “Perhaps we can actually do them enough damage to please Michel.”



    “Laurent Mauger must know nothing of what we plan. We must use him as a courier only. I emphasize this as strongly as I can.” Locquifier tapped on the table.

    “Are you sure we can rely on him? That he won’t open our instructions?” Ouvrard was a congenital pessimist.

    “The only sure things are death and taxes. So far, though, there haven’t been any leaks from the letters we have sent to Michel through his firm.” Deneau looked at Robert. “Just have de Ron flatter him a little. Congratulate him on his prudence and forethought in having someone in place.”

    “Do we know who his local informant is? If we’re planning to use the man to organize a demonstration, not just as a source of information, maybe we should find out more about him. After all, he isn’t one of ours.”

    “No, I don’t think so, Robert. We can’t control every single detail. As long as we strictly limit what information we send via Mauger, it should be safe enough.” Locquifier paused in his finger tapping. “All he needs to know is that he is to find a pretext and, on the specified date, carry out a demonstration against the Leahy Medical Center.”

    “True. Not one word to him about the synagogue. That, we will manage ourselves.”

    “There should be some pamphlets,” Locquifier said. “Something disseminating a sense of growing discontent. So the demonstration at the hospital will not come as a complete surprise, totally disconnected from the ‘will of the people’ of which the up-timers claim to be so fond.”



    Laurent Mauger had begun to wonder whether or not keeping an informant in place in Grantville, full time on the ground, was worth the expense, since the real center of political action in the USE had moved to Magdeburg. Now, however, he was reassured. De Ron said that his employer was pleased. That Mauger was to make sure he had an agent in place there, and to prepare that person to conduct an important propaganda blitz.

    He was not only reassured. He could (and did) congratulate himself on his wisdom in not having transferred Jacques-Pierre Dumais somewhere else. In spite of the extra cost he had absorbed by hiring someone else in that someplace else.

    The thought of hauling crates of pamphlets from Frankfurt to Grantville did not please him. He rarely rode. Because of his bulk, it was too hard on all but the largest and strongest of horses. But he preferred a lightweight wagon, a cart, really. He only hauled enough wine for his personal use, and let teamsters move the commercial loads. That’s what freight companies were for. Pamphlets would be too heavy. He would just get Dumais his own duplicating machine.

    At least he now had a good reason to visit Grantville again. The Higgins Hotel. The hot tub. Aahhh.




    “It is part of the ‘destabilization’ campaign against Richelieu.”

    “What is the connection?”

    Mauger frowned. The truth was that he could not perceive much connection between demonstrating against the hospital in Grantville and undermining Richelieu’s position in the French government.

    Dumais laughed. “Ah, well. They have a poem, these up-timers, from a war in the Crimea that, now, will probably never happen. ‘Ours not to reason why, ours but to do or die.” If they want a demonstration, they shall have one. I assure you. But why, specifically, on the fourth of March?”

    “They simply had to pick a date, I presume. It is far enough away that you will have plenty of time to make arrangements. Now, as for money….”



    Jacques-Pierre poured another glass of wine.

    Yes. There were possibilities associated with his dinner companions.

    Laurent Mauger was a lonely man. He had talked quite a lot during the course of their association. While he was grieving after the death of his wife, his sons and nephews had extracted a pledge from him that he would not remarry and beget a second family. They didn’t want to see their inheritances dispersed. Not just a promise. A legally binding contract.

    As far as he knew, Mauger’s pledge had not contained any proviso about remarriage to a woman beyond childbearing age. Any widow required some provision for her support, of course, but was a temporary thing that reverted to her husband’s family after her death. Not the same thing as shares allotted to additional children.

    Madame Velma Hardesty, in addition to being Michael Stearns’ cousin, was not a bad-looking woman—for a sleazy floozy. Silently, Jacques-Pierre rolled the English words on his tongue; he appreciated their euphony. She must sans doute be beyond childbearing age. He could scarcely confirm it, of course, since it would not be tactful for him to ask and would be most out of character for him to investigate that at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Doing things that were out of character drew attention to oneself: something to be scrupulously avoided. But the oldest daughter, he had ascertained, was past twenty. And there had been a first marriage, which had produced the hopefully-to-become-a-valuable-contact son in the army. With the up-timer women it was hard to judge from their appearance, but presuming that she had married at the normal age, even a little young… She had to be fifty, at least.

    Mauger was taking a good look. Madame Hardesty was talking about money again. Money, Jacques-Pierre knew, was something that Laurent Mauger had plenty of.

    Jacques-Pierre poured more wine. Mauger had brought plenty of that, too.

    Madame Hardesty said that It Was Meant to Be.

    Jacques-Pierre had missed something while he was thinking about Mauger. He nodded his head solemnly. When Madame Hardesty said that something was Meant to Be, it was usually followed by a quotation from her most recent horoscope. Nodding seemed safe enough.

    Madame Hardesty was certainly Meant to leave Grantville. Preferably before her conversation drove him insane.

    Mauger leaned far enough forward that he could look down Madame Hardesty’s yellow-eyelet-ruffle outlined cleavage.



    Velma went to bed feeling pretty good about things.



    Mauger went to bed thinking about Madame Hardesty’s beauty. Particularly her lack of a corset.



    Jacques-Pierre went home to unpack his new Vignelli duplicating machine. At least the Dutchman had brought quite a few useful things this time. Plus instructions.

    Nothing about Ducos or Locquifier. Mauger never mentioned their names, but that was not surprising. Mauger’s awareness didn’t go beyond Isaac de Ron. Behind de Ron, in the background, there was some wealthy Huguenot patriot whom he represented, as far as Mauger was concerned.

    Jacques-Pierre’s own belief was that after the debacle associated with the failed attempt to assassinate the pope in Rome the previous summer, Ducos and his closest associates had somehow managed to find a hiding place in England, so it made sense that his directives would be coming through the Netherlands and Frankfurt now.

    Interesting instructions. And the wonderful provision of a genuine duplicating machine. Jacques Pierre drummed his fingers on the table. Propaganda and planning. The coming winter would not be dull.

    If only he could get rid of Velma Hardesty before he succumbed permanently to la migraine.



    “I tell you, Veda Mae, I grinned when I looked in the mirror.” Velma gestured dramatically, to draw attention to her nails. She was getting a lot of good, now, from the fact that back up-time she hadn’t been able to walk into a drugstore without buying cosmetics. She still had nail polish. Today, her nails featured an azure undercoat with white tips and a little glitter on each one.

    “What do you have to grin about?”

    “Just look at me! Jacques-Pierre comes over to the trailer and talks to me for an hour or two at least three or four times a week. He’s giving me ideas that I’m supposed to Meditate on. Mental Enlightenment and Spiritual Comfort. It’s done wonders. I have to admit it.”

    “You’re about as able to meditate as… as… an ostrich.”

    “I do try to meditate, just like he says. A whole five minutes, twice a day. And to share my new insights. He gives me Themes. For each one of them, I’m supposed to walk around town every day until I’ve talked to at least four people. I’m supposed to Share Words of Enlightened Wisdom.”

    “Have people started to run when they see you coming?”

    “Well, of course not. I’m supposed to share each Theme with four different people. I don’t bother with that, most of the time. Whenever he gives me a new one, I share it with the receptionist at the Probate Court and the receptionist in Maurice Tito’s office, since I have to go talk to them about Susan’s money and the custody of Susan, anyway. Dropping off papers and things like that.”

    “Captive audiences, then. Figures.”

    “But I have to do extra walking to find enough people to share the rest of the Themes. By now, I know almost every place in town where I can be sure of finding several all at once. The checkout line at the grocery store. The line for the circulation desk at the public library. I figure that even if I just say it to the person behind the counter, I’ve had shared it with everyone in line. Don’t you think so?”

    “More captive audiences.”

    “With all the extra walking, I’ve lost four pounds. If the bathroom scale is right, which I can’t guarantee. It’s ancient. Really, having someone who listens to me—really listens—has made so much difference in my life. So I owe you.”

    Veda Mae blinked.

    “I can see what you were trying to tell me, now. It really does have to be Meant that Jacques-Pierre came to Grantville. He agrees that I ought to have custody of Susan. Or, least, take care of her money. He promised to help me. At least, he nodded his head the other evening, when I said it was Meant to Be.”


    “So now I’ll pay even more attention to his other suggestions in regard to Mental Enlightenment and Spiritual Comfort.”

    “I bet there isn’t a single soul in Grantville who believes that the only comfort he’s offered you is spiritual.”

    “Hell, Veda Mae. I scarcely believe it myself. But let me tell you something, Even if Jean-Pierre isn’t interested, his friend Laurent Mauger definitely is. A girl can tell that kind of thing.”



    As soon as Mauger left town again—his comings and goings served more or less as punctuation marks for the sentences that Jacques-Pierre’s experiences in Grantville were writing in the story of his life—it was time to send another report to Henri de Rohan.

    Dumais passed on what Mauger brought him in the way of new instructions from de Ron. Exactly and precisely as he had received them. Since de Ron would also be sending a report to the duke, the duke could worry about the question of whether Mauger had manipulated or misinterpreted anything.

    In response to a question he had received from the duke himself, Jacques-Pierre confirmed his belief that that Henry Dreeson and his wife Veronica had, during this autumn, become some sort of symbols—icons or “morale builders” as the up-timers described it—of significance beyond the town of Grantville itself. Even beyond the borders of West Virginia County. Possibly even beyond the borders of the State of Thuringia-Franconia. He included things he’d heard various people say about Dreeson’s “your local government in action” tour over in the Fulda and Frankfurt region.



    “When are you going back to Magdeburg?” Jacques-Pierre asked. He didn’t mind having a sandwich with Bryant Holloway here at the Willard Hotel in the evenings. The food was awful, true. But otherwise it was more pleasant than the 250 Club. It certainly smelled better.

    “Not right away. I guess Steve has some inkling that Stannard and I aren’t the best of pals. He’s sending me over to Frankfurt, on a temporary assignment, to work with the militia on getting fire prevention up to standard there. Actually, even though Frankfurt is Kraut country too, this won’t be bad.”

    “In what way?”

    “Well, for one thing, it will let me save some money. Nathan Prickett—he’s married to my wife’s sister—is over there, working on getting the city militia used to the new weapons systems that Suhl is delivering to the USE. I can stay with him; not pay rent. I should be back about the middle of December. Before Christmas, anyhow.”

    “Ah. This man Prickett. He is your brother-in-law?”

    “No. That would be the relationship if he was married to my sister Lola. Or if I had married his sister. I’m not exactly sure myself what you call someone who’s married to your wife’s sister. If you’re interested in finding out, I could introduce you to some of the ladies in the Genealogy Club. They know that sort of stuff.”

    “I would appreciate it.” Jacques-Pierre meant that quite sincerely. Whenever he received a new introduction, to find out the answer to some question that he was legitimately asking, it gave him wonderful entree into more of Grantville. From some member of this genealogy club, perhaps he really could come to have a reason to go places like the Bureau of Vital Statistics. With all of its files that were guarded so protectively by the formidable Ms. Jenny Maddox.

    “Actually,” Bryant was saying. “Prickett’s mom belongs that club. I’ll introduce you to her. And he might have been my brother-in-law if things had turned out different. He dated Lola for a while, before he started going out with Chandra Jenkins and Lola married Latham Beckworth. Grantville was a pretty small town, after all, before the Ring of Fire. Everybody knew everybody else, just about, and a lot of us are related to each other. He and Lola got into a big fight about politics and broke up. She was pretty much a left wing Democrat and he sure wasn’t. It added a certain something to their relationship. They’d done it three or four times before—fought and broken up. I was sort of surprised when the last time turned out to be permanent.”

    “This Beckworth, then, is your brother-in-law.”

    “Not any more. They’re divorced and both looking, sort of. They’ve been stuck at that level for five years, though, so I’m not holding my breath that either one of them will get married again. She caught his eyes wandering while she still hadn’t quite gotten her figure back from the second kid. Well, more than his eyes wandering. She caught him and this other gal doing the horizontal tango, ten toes up and ten toes down.”

    “She initiated the divorce procedure, then?”

    “Damn tootin’. Hell, but she was mad. Called Mom and Dad, who drove over from Clarksburg. Called me—I was working in Fairmont then. Called Latham’s father. It’s got to be humiliating for a woman when her husband goes out and diddles a woman a dozen years older than she is. The stuff she said about Velma, you would hardly believe.”

    “Velma?” Jacques-Pierre asked tentatively.

    “Velma Hardesty,” Bryant answered. “You know her. I’ve seen you talking to each other.”

    “Yes, I do know her. We were introduced by Veda Mae Haggerty.”

    “Just like us, huh?” Bryant commented.

    Jacques-Pierre nodded. He was thinking that Velma Hardesty could become a liability. More than merely a cause of la migraine. When Mauger got back…

    Jacques-Pierre did not particularly like the fat Netherlander, but the man was rich. Certainly rich enough to attract Madame Hardesty. Certainly, if all went well, rich enough to remove her from this town.

    That wasn’t part of his assignment, of course. But in some things, a man had to look out for his own welfare. Take the initiative. Much more of Madame Hardesty’s conversation and he would run out into the night, screaming.

    Mauger had not tried to lay a hand on Madame Hardesty. When he left town the morning after their introduction, though, she had come to the hotel to tell him good-bye. He had assured her that he would be back in a few weeks.

    That was a possibility with some potential. If properly managed, it might even offer some hope.

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