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1634: The Galileo Affair: Chapter Thirty Five

       Last updated: Tuesday, March 16, 2004 04:00 EST



    Once they got out of the embassy, Sharon felt decisiveness leaving her. Pouring out, rather, like water through a ruptured dam.

    She looked around, uncertainly. “I really don’t have any idea where to start.” She gave Ruy a look of appeal.

    Sanchez rose smoothly to the occasion. “The last activities of Buckley, I think. I know he was attempting to interview the Turks. Ha! Speak of folly.”

    Billy Trumble straightened. His hand slid to the pistol holstered to his waist. As an officer assigned to an embassy guard, he was entitled to one of the precious up-time automatics. Sharon knew little of guns, beyond how to fire them—her father had insisted she learn that much—but the thing was certainly wicked-looking.

    “You want to start with the Turks, then?” the young Lieutenant asked gruffly. As gruffly, at least, as an twenty-year-old could manage.

    Sharon saw Ruy disguise a little smile with another stroke of his mustachios. He was amused by the young American’s bold front, obviously. But, just as obviously, was not prepared to deride him for it. No doubt Ruy had many memories of bold fronts himself, as a youth.

    “No, there is no point,” the Catalan responded. “I do not really suspect the Turks.”

    “Why not?” Sharon asked.

    Ruy shrugged. “They are certainly callous enough. But, first, that was not a callous killing, it was a savage murder done by a man in a rage. I am quite sure of that; and I suspect the murderer was not entirely sane as well. Hard to explain some of those wounds otherwise. The Turks would have simply sent an assassin—they have very good ones—who would have strangled him and been done with it. Or slid a stiletto between his ribs. Why torture him? Still further—why fake the torture? The Ottomans have no motive to do such. Not that I can see.”

    His eyes ranged the canal for a moment, as if he sought inspiration in its filthy waters. “Secondly, they have simply not been here long enough. Even a man as heedless as Buckley could not have infuriated them so quickly. No, whoever it was, it was someone who had known Buckley for some time.”

    Billy’s expression underwent a peculiar shift. From bold front to... startled?

    Sanchez didn’t miss it either. “Yes, Lieutenant?”

    Billy rubbed his face. “Well... I can’t see any reason why they would... they seemed to like him, in fact. But, well, he’d been spending a lot of time, there just before the end, hanging out with the Committee of Correspondence.” The lieutenant pointed toward the north. “Over there on Murano. You know, at the building where the Marcolis live.”

    “You have been there?” Sanchez asked.

    Billy gave Sharon a nervous glance. As an officer in the Marine guard, he’d presumably been subject to Mazzare’s instructions to keep a diplomatic distance from the Committee in Venice. “Well...”

    Sharon smiled sweetly. “Your secret is safe with us, Lieutenant. Ruy could care less, and me—well, I’m just the temporary buck-passer. Temps are always forgetting to pass things along, you know.”

    “Uh, thanks. Yeah, well, I did go out there. Twice. Once with my buddy Conrad and once alone. Conrad couldn’t come along the second time because, well—”

    Sharon smiled more sweetly still. “Yes, Lieutenant. I know about his girlfriend. The whole embassy knows. I remember Father Mazzare muttering just the other day that if one of our Navy officers manages to get the daughter of an Arsenal guildmaster pregnant, he’d strip his hide off. More precisely, he’d have Gus Heinzerling strip his hide off.”

    Billy grimaced. Then, shook his head. “Not much chance of that! You wouldn’t believe the way they watch their girls around here.”

    “Come on, it’s not that bad.” Sharon gestured toward the embassy building. “After all, none of the chambermaids have chaperones watching over—oh.”

    It was Billy’s turn to smile. “Yeah. Oh. Sure, they let them work out of the house. But the minute there’s a whiff of anything... You have noticed, maybe, that Giovanna Marcoli hasn’t worked here for weeks. Soon as Old Man Marcoli got wind of Frank—zip—out she came. He hasn’t let her out of sight since, let freedom ring be damned. She’s under his eye or that of her brothers and cousins every minute.”

    Sharon frowned. “I’d gotten the impression that the Marcolis approved of Frank. They certainly haven’t ordered him to stay away from Giovanna, I know that much.”

    “Approval’s got nothing to do with it, ma’am. They do approve of Frank. I think if he asked her to marry him—and he just might, too, he’s that bowled over—they’d agree in a heartbeat. But there won’t be any hanky-panky going on before then, if you know what I mean.” He glanced toward the Arsenal. “It’s the same with Conrad’s girl. He’s actually gotten pretty damn popular over there, even with the guildmasters. I think they admire his cussing ability, if nothing else. It is pretty impressive.”

    That was interesting. Sharon hadn’t paid any attention to the embassy’s progress in the Venetian shipyards, since the first days after their arrival. Between her heavy nursing duties—more like half-faking a doctor’s consultations—combined with Magda’s round-the-clock commercial ventures, she’d been too pre-occupied with her own affairs. The last she’d heard, Conrad had been encountering sullen resistance in the Arsenal to his new-fangled American notions.

    She suddenly remembered the heavy turn-out from the Arsenalotti at Buckley’s funeral. “What’s the sentiment over there, these days? About Joe’s murder, I mean?”

    “They’re really pissed, ma’am—uh, pardon the language. But, I mean, they really are. Conrad told me just last night that if they ever figure out who did it, the bastard’ll be lucky to get out of town alive. There are thousands of those Arsenalotti and they’re tough as nails. They’ve run people out of Venice on a rail before, you know.”

    Belatedly, he realized who was present. He bobbed his head nervously toward Sanchez. “Uh, meaning no offense, Don Ruy.”

    The Catalan grinned cheerfully. “None take, I assure you. And you are indeed quite right. I have personal experience with those fellows from the Arsenal. Most forthright, they are, in moments of displeasure. I was reminded at the time of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Except the bulls were more civilized. And considerably less insensate.”

    “They do that already, Ruy?” Sharon asked, her curiosity momentarily piqued. “Running the bulls at Pamplona, I mean. I thought—I don’t know.” She issued a little laugh of embarrassment. “I thought maybe Ernest Hemingway invented that.”

    “Oh, no. La Fiesta de San Fermin dates back two centuries already. He was the saint who was gored by the bulls, you know. He was probably drunk at the time. He often was, they say. The manner in which this made him a martyr of the church escapes me at the moment. Saint Ernest, I believe, is the one who was martyred by a great fish of some sort.”

    He said the last with a perfectly straight face. Sharon didn’t dare ask if Ruy had any idea who Ernest Hemingway was, or if he’d ever read The Old Man and the Sea. With Ruy, you never knew. He was just as capable of inventing a story on the spot, and improvising it to incredible lengths without missing a beat.

    Sanchez was now looking toward the Arsenal. “Hm. Interesting,” he murmured. “And such a pleasure that would be...”

    He turned back to her, smiling. “But let us not jump to hasty conclusions. To be sure, it probably was the French. Ungallant bastards. Shoot a woman! Still, other possibilities cannot be overlooked. Perhaps a triton or some other fantastical creature took offense at Buckley.” He waved at the canal. “These waters are said to be full of them.”

    Sharon snorted. “Your prejudices are showing, Ruy.”

    He shrugged. “Perhaps. For the moment, I think we should begin on Murano. Most likely the Committee had nothing to do with the affair. They are said to be most ineffective. Still, it is a beginning.”



    Padua was a nice-looking town, at least in silhouette. As the boats pulled up at the river-dock below the town, Frank couldn’t see much more than that, what with the mid-afternoon sun begin to set behind it.

    “We stay here tonight,” Antonio Marcoli said. “I know an inn.”

    “A lot of work to do getting unloaded first,” Frank remarked.

    “Oh, sure,” said Marcoli. “We got plenty of big strong boys with us, though.” He grinned. His own hands were no strangers to hard work, it had to be said.

    It was still going to be hard work. Frank and messer Marcoli were in the third boat of three. Rather than get faster, oared boats, Marcoli had hired three smallish sailing boats. Big dinghies, Frank supposed they were. There were twelve of them on the mission, and any of the three boats would have held them all comfortably with any reasonable amount of baggage. For some reason, though, trying to fit all seven Marcolis and the word “reasonable” into the same plan was something that just couldn’t be made to happen.

    First of all, Massimo had to be forcibly dissuaded from bringing the printing press. Yes, it was portable. Yes, it disassembled into easy-to-carry sections. Yes, you could have the thing up and running from its box in under two hours—once you had a Philips screwdriver and were familiar enough with the thing to do without the instructions. On the other hand, “easy to carry” meant two strong men on each of three boxes, and if it got dropped it’d probably be ruined.

    What had clinched it was the simple argument from time and speed. Four hours a day just setting the thing up and taking it down, not counting the time spent actually printing. Time spent buying paper en route. Time spent composing propaganda en route. Time in which Galileo was being held in Rome awaiting trial, and a date would be set any day now.

    Massimo had given in. The idea of instant, reactive propaganda... Frank hadn’t dared ask, but he suspected that Massimo had been thinking of passing out progress bulletins on the rescue as it went along. Frank privately thanked whatever deities, watchful spirits, guardian angels and even Great Cthulhu that they didn’t have TV or radio in Italy yet. Massimo would have been trying to lug a transmitter along to do a play-by-play.

    Of course, Massimo had only given in for small values of “given in.” Then the negotiations had begun as to how many crates of pre-printed propaganda they would take along for distribution en route...

    So now they were approaching Padua slowly, when they could have been here by lunchtime. They were doing it in three boats—eating still further into their store of funds—where they could have used one. And before they got to dinner and a bed for the night, apparently with a friend of Marcoli’s wife’s sister’s husband, they had about a ton of revolutionary propaganda to haul out of the boats and up to wherever they were staying. They wouldn’t even start on trying to hire a couple of wagons until the next day. Coaches were out of the question, of course. They had too much baggage for anything that was likely to move.

    Bright side, Frank, bright side. Spending the night meant they’d have time to track down their father. In fact, as soon as the boat docked—he’d already arranged it—Gerry would make himself scarce and set off to find him. None of the Stone boys knew exactly where their father and Madga were staying, here in Padua, but they knew it was somewhere in or right next to the university where he gave his lectures.



    Once they were on the mainland and into the carriage Mazarini had obtained for them, Mazzare decided they’d reached a point where their travels would be uninterrupted for a time. They’d be on the road for approximately two weeks, stopping only at night for food and lodgings. The carriage rode much too roughly for Mazzare to even think of writing notes. So roughly, in fact, that the trip itself would be tiring. Too tiring, he suspected, to allow him to make notes during their overnight stops, either.

    He’d just have to make do with days of extended conversation. Hopefully, he’d be able to remember what was said and systematize it in writing once they reached Rome.

    He turned to Jones, sitting next to him on the plush seat of the carriage. “Simon, can I ask you please to put aside the things you’ve heard about the Inquisition?”

    The Reverend Jones nodded, although Mazzare was a bit amused to see the wary look on his face.

    “The truth is this, Simon: Galileo got in trouble, more than anything, for annoying some well-connected scientists within the church. The fact that he was usually ahead of what he could prove from his data didn’t help. Made it look like he was contradicting the church’s interpretation of the bible out of heresy. So what happened in the universe we came from is that they sentenced him to life in jail and commuted it to house arrest after he, ah, copped a plea. The Inquisition held a trial, but that was all. Galileo went voluntarily and cooperated rather than upset the church.”

    Mazarini straightened up from his comfortable traveler’s slouch on the seat bank across from them and sat erect, his hands planted on his knees. “It is different now.”

    “How?” asked Jones.

    “There was no Inquisition. His Holiness called a Commission of Inquiry. Half of its membership are Inquisition cardinals. They have a report from a number of astronomers who say that there are errors of fact in Galileo’s work and that he holds, defends and teaches something considered heresy at present.” He glance at Mazzare. “The exact words are significant, you understand.”

    Mazzare turned that one over in his mind a little. At present. “Do we know who the astronomers were?”

    Mazarini grinned. “One of them was Scheiner.”

    Mazzare raised an eyebrow. Scheiner was one of Galileo’s most bitter enemies. “And he used that form of words?”

    “Yes. I guess it this way, that he is still angry with Galileo, but has begun to read Grantville’s astronomy.”

    “Hold on,” said Jones. “If they’re prepared to accept that the earth moves on Grantville’s say-so, why are they bothering to give Galileo grief? Am I missing something?”

    “Politics, Simon,” said Mazzare. “The church isn’t just the Pope, and he can’t just order the whole church to follow his lead. There has to be some negotiation, you see, or it’s the Church of England all over again.”

    Mazarini nodded. “There is this, too—the Father-General of the Jesuits is involved this time. If anyone can put words in the mouths of kings it is him.”

    “So it’s a show trial in a good cause, then?” said Jones, beginning to catch on. “Tennessee v. Scopes, and this time the monkey wins?”

    Mazzare looked at Mazarini, quite intently. “That’s my guess, Simon, yes.” The last word had an upward tilt to it, which made it seem more like a question than a statement. A question address at Mazarini.

    The Vatican diplomat smiled serenely. “My guess also. But, who can really know?”

    It was all Mazzare could do not to glare at him. Mazarini turned his hands over and spread them wide, still smiling. “I am simply telling you the truth, Monsignor. I really do not think the Pope himself knows yet what he intends to do.” Mazarini turned his head and looked out at the passing Italian countryside. “The Father-General... perhaps.”



    “Be careful, Magda,” Stoner cautioned. He extended a hand to help her into the boat.

    His wife gave him a glance that was just short of sarcastic. Magda was some twenty years younger than Tom Stone, more athletic, more coordinated, in better physical condition—and considerably more practical about most everything. Stoner’s awkward perch on the side of the boat made his helping hand a dubious proposition. He was more likely to fall off himself and drag her into the river with him than anything else.

    However, Magda was a dutiful German wife, at least for public consumption. Besides, she was also a better swimmer than Stoner. So she took her husband’s hand—the fingertips only, in case she had to let go—smiled, and hopped nimbly into the rivercraft. Nimbly enough, in fact, that even the slender vessel—designed for speed, not cargo-handling—barely rocked under the impact.



    The vessel’s captain and crew were also attuned to speed. The instant the captain saw that the woman was securely seated and that her idiot husband was no longer actively attempting to capsize the boat, he gave the order to push away from the pier. Within seconds, the oars were in the water and the boat was making good speed toward Venice. They’d be there by nightfall.

    The captain was pleased. That meant a good bonus. The young soldier who’d come up the river with them to fetch the man and his wife had promised as much. And while this was the first time the captain himself had ever done business with the people from the Swede’s embassy, they had a good reputation with the boatmen on the river to Padua. The man was some sort of savant, who made this trip regularly. And, by all accounts, paid well, paid promptly—and never tried to skimp on the bonus.

    Thankfully, he hadn’t drowned yet. Given his clumsiness in a boat, the captain supposed that was just a matter of time. Still, he’d make sure the man stayed in the boat long enough to pay the bonus for this trip.

    Looking around at the riverbanks, the captain noticed some sort of stir at the commercial docks now some distance behind. Other people, it seemed, had difficulty staying out of the water.

    The passengers had craned their necks around and were observing the same little ruckus. Idle curiosity, nothing more. It was really too far away to see much.

    “What is happening back there?” the woman asked. Her Italian was not bad, though the captain found the heavy Venesse accent a bit amusing. Heavier than a native’s, it was.

    “Nothing significant, Signora,” he replied casually. “I think someone fell into the river and others are trying to fish him out.”

    “Oh, the poor fellow. I do hope they manage to rescue him.”

    But her concern was more perfunctory than anything else. She didn’t spend more than a moment observing the distant commotion before turning back and facing forward. Her husband and the young soldier escorting them did the same, a few seconds later.

    The captain didn’t share even her minimal concern. He’d been a successful boatman for almost thirty years now. He’d never even bothered to learn how to swim. What sort of boatman can’t manage to stay in a boat? Let the incompetent ones drown. They had no business plying the trade in the first place.

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