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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Thirty Four

       Last updated: Sunday, December 7, 2008 13:34 EST




    "Because I don’t really want to be at home, Veda Mae, if you want me to be brutal about it. Every time I turn around, I see another German, and not a servant, either. What is it about Lenore’s family? They collect Krauts like cat hair on your best dress slacks." Bryant Holloway finished off his coffee. "At least Nathan Prickett had the sense not to come home for the holidays."

    "You’re acting like a fool about Lenore, Bryant," said Trent Dorrman.

    Bryant glared at the other man sitting at the table. Brother Green had sicced Dorrman onto him. He hadn’t gone to church, so Green had come around knocking on the door, saying that he hadn’t been at services for a while. The pompous Reverend Doctor Albert Green.

    Blasted preachers, wanting guys to come in for counseling, and then when he had refused, this "peer counseling by laymen" stuff. He’d been stuck with Dorrman all vacation. What did Dorrman know about marriage? He’d been divorced for years before the Ring of Fire and remarried even less time than he’d been married to Lenore himself.

    Bryant said as much.

    Dorrman spoke very softly. "I think that Brother Green thought that maybe I’m a little smarter for the experience of living through a broken marriage once. I count myself lucky to have Caroline. For a guy like me, it was sort of like hitting the jackpot. I don’t intend to make the same mistakes again." He smiled. "New ones, maybe, considering that I’m a human being. But not the same ones."

    "You’re on a collision course, Dorrman," Veda Mae predicted. "She’s got more education than you, just the way your first wife did. History repeating itself. The way Laurie tried to do to Gary. The way Lenore has more than Bryant. Mark my words, it’s a recipe for disaster."

    Dorrman looked at her. "’I'm proud of my wife and her accomplishments.’ That’s a place to start. That was my first resolution, this time, after she said she would marry me. To be proud of Caroline. Not to try to put her down or pull her down. To do a better job of understanding her interests than I did with Pam."

    "Then go home and drool over her for a while, but leave me alone." Bryant had his suspicions about Caroline Jones. Caroline Dorrman, she should be now, but since the Ring of Fire, the women weren’t changing their names when they got married because the Krauts didn’t do it.

    Jenny Maddox and those uppity women in the genealogy club were at fault, too. They said it was easier to keep track of people if they kept the same names. Lenore, though some people called her Mrs. Holloway, was still signing stuff as "Lenore Jenkins." If he was looking over her shoulder, she would add "(now Holloway)."

    Maybe Caroline had put her uncle Simon Jones up to putting Brother Green up to this counseling stuff, somehow. Through the blasted Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance or something. She was almost exactly the same age as Lenore and they were friends. Methodist Sunday school together and all that. Maybe Lenore had been tattling. If so, she’d regret it. Whether Lenore had been telling tales out of school or not, Caroline was probably meddling.

    He turned back to Veda Mae. "And I’m between assignments. Hell, I’m supposed to be on vacation for two weeks, between finishing in Frankfurt and going back to Magdeburg. Steve Matheny said that he didn’t want to see my face at the fire department the whole time, so I don’t have any place else to go except home or to my sister Lola’s and she’s working. ‘Relax,’ says the chief, ‘relax, relax.’"

    "You should talk to Jacques-Pierre Dumais. You really should. Even if you don’t drink, you can talk to him at the 250 Club. Ken Beasley doesn’t like him a lot. He calls his corner the "dry table" and complains that he loses money on it. But that would give you someplace to be, evenings at least, where you can get away from Lenore."

    "I talked to him a couple of times last fall."

    "Well, talk to him again."

    That was all he needed, Bryant thought. Another lay peer counselor.



    Trent Dorrman looked at Holloway, frowning. Brother Green was probably right to be worried about him. There had been some kind of meeting that Brother Green had attended, with Mayor Dreeson and Steve Matheny, the fire department chief. About stress problems. That was when Brother Green decided to train lay peer counselors.

    He’d taken apart an old fashioned alarm clock once, when he was a kid. After he had the back off, he’d taken the key and wound the spring inside so tight that it snapped. He hoped Bryant Holloway wasn’t getting to that stage.




    "I agree. There’s no direct connection with our greater purpose." André Tourneau gestured at Antoine Delerue.

    His fellow silk weaver, Abraham Levasseur, made a calming gesture. "Guillaume is getting impatient, André. Here, we are planning. Focusing. Preparing various projects, such as the one we have already given to Abraham Levasseur. In Frankfurt, he and the others are merely waiting. These little enterprises will occupy their minds and give them something to do."

    "I disagree." Delerue waved one hand at the report that had just come in. "They are only using the demonstrations as excuses to not make any real effort to carry out the assassinations we ordered. A piddling attack on a hospital. A minor action against a synagogue. What is the point?"

    Ducos chimed in, very forcefully. "I don’t intend to let them lose sight of the ultimate purpose. Reiterate my instructions to Guillaume. Between the election and the transfer of power. No matter who wins the election, Stearns or Wettin. Think - the emperor, Stearns, and Wettin dead. All that welds these Germanies together gone. With Kristina dead, the new union of Kalmar, fragile enough at the best of times, will be broken. There is no other obvious heir in Sweden, either, so Oxenstierna and Brahe will be pulled out of Germany to handle civil strife and two generations of attempts by the Vasas to build a centralized kingdom will collapse. Poland will intervene, again. Which will tempt Russia to send another tentacle toward Poland. Which will distract both Wallenstein and Ferdinand III, opening a gate for the Ottomans."

    Ducos sat back, in happy contemplation of the impending chaos. Armageddon would be welcome, if that was what it took to remove Richelieu from his post.

    If only the lever he needed to move the world proved adequate to the task.

    "Again, Antoine. Repeat my instructions in your reply. Remind them again. All five. On the same day. In the same place. As soon as possible after the election."

    "Guillaume has brought up the difficulty of getting them all in the same place at the same time. Not to mention security."

    Michel Ducos narrowed his eyes. "Guillaume, too, is a tool in the hand of God. I have seen a vision. He has done better, perhaps, than he believes. These demonstrations that he is planning - minor in themselves, just as you say - will occur in Grantville. If they should turn out not to be so minor? If the consequences of these actions should become greater? All five of our real targets might, by some happy chance, gather in Grantville itself. Leaving, necessarily, most of their excessive security apparatus behind."

    Delerue clasped his hands behind his head. "I read the newspapers, too. On this ‘Thanksgiving’ festival, Stearns and his wife went to Grantville by plane. Leaving the sturdy Yeoman Warders behind in Magdeburg. Accompanied, the whole time they were in the town, only by a few soldiers from the SoTF forces who met them at the air field with a single truck. Standing for a period of time, quite out in the open, on the sidewalk in front of his house."

    Ducos nodded. "An invitation, Antoine. A clear sign. An indication of the will of divine providence."




    What they called the "dry table" at the 250 Club wasn’t exactly dry. That just turned out to be Ken Beasley’s description for wine instead of ’shine or beer. The people who sat there seemed to spend a lot of time talking politics.

    "I’m not going to vote for Wettin. No way." Bryant Holloway wasn’t yelling, but his voice didn’t give any hint of flexibility.

    Dumais had received instructions directly from Rohan and from Locquifier via de Ron through Mauger to make contact with the up-time firefighter as soon as he returned from Frankfurt. For, of course, different reasons.

    "Ah, but why, then? Although you oppose Stearns, you do not support his opponent?"

    "Because Wettin is one more goddamned Kraut, Dumais. Surely you can figure that out for yourself. We’re overrun with them. This stupid Stearns immigration policy. Come one, come all. Stay a while, take an oath of allegiance, and ‘presto, you’re a citizen now.’ No standards at all. Good God, considering how long you’ve been working here, all you would have to do yourself would be walk down to the administration building, enroll in their little class, and bingo!"

    Jacques-Pierre looked at Holloway consideringly. This was one aspect of his current assignment in Grantville that had not, for some reason, crossed his mind previously.

    The man was steamrolling along. "Sure, Stearns is married to a Kraut, but at least he’s an American himself. Wettin, even if he’s changed his name, was born a Kraut nobleman and he’s still a Kraut nobleman, no matter what he calls himself. He’s married to another one. He’s got a brother who is fighting us. He’d not be any improvement. Worse."

    Dumais frowned. "Stearns is not married to a ‘Kraut.’ Rebecca Abrabanel is not a German. She is a Jewess. Her family was originally from Spain. She grew up in the Netherlands and England."

    "I don’t give a damn whether she’s Jewish or not. I haven’t met a half dozen Jews in all my life. Hell, except for the Roths, I’ve never actually met any as far as I know, and I don’t have anything against Morris and Judith. Their boy was five years or so younger than me, so I didn’t know the kids well, but they were perfectly ordinary people. Spoke English, went hunting. Americans, if you know what I mean. Not foreigners."

    Jacques-Pierre pondered the matter. Mrs. Haggerty had, upon occasion, expressed similar ideas. Most of these Grantvillers, even the most unpleasant such as those who frequented the 250 Club tavern, truly did not seem to care whether someone was Jewish or not. There were a few exceptions, such as the man named Cooper, but most of them did not.

    In fact, he thought, although there were some tensions, most of them did not care whether a person was of any particular religious persuasion at all, which was somewhat unnerving.

    They did, many of them, seem to care whether someone was "foreign" or not. This was something he would have to pass on to Rohan.

    The question for even the most dissatisfied among the up-timers, apparently, was whether someone was… different… or not. It was something to think about. What caused enough difference between people for an up-timer to take notice of it and to resent it? Was there such a word as undifferent? It couldn’t be "indifferent." That was a word in the English language, but it had another, quite distinct, meaning.

    Difference. He had been allowed to learn a great deal - more, really, than he’d expected - in large part simply because he said that he wished to become like them. Take, for example, his acquaintance through the Genealogy Club with Mrs. Sandra Prickett, who also worked for the Bureau of Vital Statistics. She had been so willing to explain how things worked. And then to show him how to look things up.

    Most of the up-timers probably would not want to act against the hospital, either. How many of the down-timers living inside the RoF would have absorbed that attitude?

    As he reflected on what might make a person completely "undifferent" in this town, he continued chatting. "You are returning to Magdeburg next week?"

    "I was supposed to be," said Holloway. "Now, though, it looks like I’ll have to run some other errands for high-and-mighty Stannard on the way. Halle for a couple of weeks. Naumburg for a while. It could be the middle of February before I actually get there. In fact, I might have to come back here first for a while."

    Jacques-Pierre looked at him for a minute. "Do you have any ’spare time’ when you are in these cities for your work?"

    "Usually, yeah."

    "You do work with down-timers, don’t you. Even though you do not enjoy it?"

    "No way to get around it. Most of the fire companies outside of Grantville and Magdeburg are all-Kraut. There are millions and millions of them in this stupid country, even in this state it seems like, and nowhere near enough of us to go around."

    "So you have contacts. Could I employ you in your spare time? I need to hire some men. Day laborers, casual workers. Strong men, physically. ‘Toughs’ are okay. Hooligans; thugs, as long as they will do what they are told in exchange for their pay. Could you ask around for me? Not too many from any one city. They would need to be in Grantville by the first of March. A commission for each successful hire?"

    "What are the Garbage Guys up to now? You must have a contract for some kind of big project." Holloway waved his hand. "But that isn’t any of my business. How much commission?"

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