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1634: The Galileo Affair: Chapter Forty One

       Last updated: Friday, April 2, 2004 04:18 EST



    “Yes, Frank, you.” Marcoli said. In just such tones might he have ordered Frank to form up a party of men and Take That Hill.

    Frank stole a glance at Giovanna. She was gazing at him, eyes shining. Frank knew in that moment that whatever they did to convicted felons in Italy in the seventeenth century, he had no choice but to face it with a smile. Her eyes!

    He couldn’t see a way out, unless... “What about Michel?”

    “Non, Frank,” Ducos said firmly. “I am really little more than a clerk. Oh, for certain, I am from the back alleys of Paris and I own myself a fair hand in any desperate business. But I have not the temperament to be a leader—whereas you do, Frank.”

    “Me?” Frank found that particularly mystifying. He’d been brought up a hippie, not an army brat. At least he thought army brats grew up knowing about this chain-of-command stuff. Kids on a commune sure didn’t.

    On the other hand...

    Well, yes, he supposed it might be true that he was often the guy who seemed to get things organized. That wasn’t just true with his brothers, either, something which could be explained by the fact that he was the oldest. He’d been the one who got the soccer league organized and off the ground, too.

    Um. And now that Frank thought about it, if he hadn’t been along on this expedition they’d probably still be in the outskirts of Venice. Frank had been the one who’d constantly finagled the Marcolis to settle on a course of action—any course of action—and just do it. Antonio Marcoli was a natural leader in terms of charisma and decisiveness, to be sure. The problem was that his enthusiasm for just about everything led him to change his mind about four times an hour—each new change of plan being advanced just as enthusiastically and decisively as the preceding ones. Following the man was a bit like following a child leading the way in an amusement park. He wanted to take all the rides at once.

    Still, there just had to be a better way out of this. “Messer Marcoli, I’m only nineteen years old—well, okay, almost twenty. Still, by your standards—even, some ways, the standards of my own folk—I’m not a grown man yet.”

    “Nonsense!” Michel exclaimed. “Age has nothing to do with leadership. Consider Alexander the Great. And you have already devised a plan to avoid our assassins!”

    Frank stumbled over the analogy with Alexander. “Huh? I did? What are you talking about?”

    “The route through Ravenna!” Michel clapped him on the back. The kind of hearty, manly reassurance that raised the hackles of every hippie-trained instinct Frank had. He really didn’t like Ducos, he finally decided.

    “Hold on, Michel!” Frank protested. “You decided on Ravenna.”

    “Ah, but I would not have thought to go another way than the main road to begin with! Truly I would not, Frank. I have some small command of the geography of this country, but I lack the supple mind, the decisiveness. You supplied these lacks. I can assist with the details in some small way, but...” Michel trailed off with a very expressive, and very Gallic shrug.

    “I don’t even know where Ravenna is—”

    “Have no fear, Frank!” Marcoli said. “I came prepared. I have a map!”

    Great, Frank thought. A seventeenth century map, I’ll bet. He wondered whether they should have thought to bust out one of the up-time maps that he knew the embassy had. Too late now, of course. One foot back in Venice and they’d be lucky to get as much as ten yards off the boat before they were jumped by assassins. Did they dress all in black, with masks, he wondered? Or was that just ninjas?

    Maybe they had ninjas in Venice. There’d be a hell of a market for their services, he thought sourly. Maybe there were adverts in the Ninja Times of Japan. “Come to Venice for the most lucrative working holiday of your life!”

    At that point Frank realized he was on the verge of decidedly unmanly hysterics—which was definitely not the thing to do with that look in Giovanna’s eyes. Dark brown or not, the eyes seem as bright as anything he’d ever seen. “Okay,” he muttered.

    “So you will lead! Okay! Splendid! And your plan for Ravenna is a good one, for it lets you avoid Florentine lands, where we might have had trouble.” Marcoli positively beamed. Like a lot of folks down-time, he’d picked up the word okay very quickly. No wonder, it was a useful word.

    Frank had a whole lot more useful words assembled to go, too, right on the tip of his tongue. Words and terms he had to firmly suppress, like out of your mind and you gotta be kidding.

    There was just no way, not with that look on Giovanna’s face. Her expression was an odd combination of adoration, serenity and smugness. Frank understood that he’d crossed some kind of invisible line here. Giovanna’s beloved father had just more-or-less officially declared him a Certified Adult Male, Prime Cut. Eminently suitable for his daughter in all respects. That magic moment—simultaneously treasured and dreaded in varying proportions by all involved parties—when the Prospective Father-in-Law solemnly avers and avows that The Young Fellow Is Okay With Him.

    It was a bit like being branded. As Frank recalled from various movies he’d seen, the calf always bellowed in protest. As much, he suspected, due to its fear of the future—yup, young fella, you’re now certified Grade-A meat on the hoof—as the pain of the moment.

    He felt like bellowing himself. How in the hell did I ever wind up in this fix? It was as if fate and destiny had guided him as surely—and with as much malice aforethought—as ranchers herded their cattle into the slaughtering pens.

    Firmly, he shook his head. Giovanna was at the center of this, after all, as least so far as he was concerned. And she was hardly the equivalent of a slaughtering pen.

    Frank took a long slow breath, his eyes closed, doing his best to think everything through. Everything that mattered to him, leaving aside what he thought about the Galileo affair. Getting married at an early age didn’t hold the same fears for Frank that it might for most nineteen-year-olds. Rather the opposite, in fact. Most kids hadn’t been raised on a hippie commune. Yes, there were advantages; and, all things considered, Tom Stone was probably about as good a dad as you could ask for. But Frank also understood the limits of the “free and easy life.” Truth be told, there was something deeply attractive to him about the kind of traditional marriage that he was looking at here. “Traditional,” as in seventeenth-century.

    He opened his eyes and looked at Giovanna. She met his gaze happily, confidently, serenely. The girl was almost two years younger than Frank. But she had made her decision and had no problem with it at all. That she wanted Frank as much as he wanted her, he knew for sure by now. Till death do us part and all that, too. Whatever her ideological notions, Giovanna was really no modern girl. That was part of the attraction, Frank knew. He had no idea where his own mother had wandered off to, after she left the commune. Neither did Ron; neither did Gerry. Whereas none of Giovanna Marcoli’s kids would ever wonder about what had happened to her. She’d either be there, or she’d be in a grave.

    Say whatever else you would about the Marcolis, not one of them was faithless.

    Okay, done, he said to himself. It was time to decide, and the decision was really easy to make. Even if it did lock him into the goofiest set of in-laws anybody could hope to have. And even if it did commit him to lead what was probably the screwiest political caper anybody had ever come up with.

    See if you think that on the rack, lover boy, came a little Voice of Treason.

    But Frank chose to ignore the voice. Much as Alexander the Great, he fancied for a moment, chose to ignore the odds at Issus.

    Yup. He died young too, snickered the Voice. Thirty-three. You’ll beat that by a country mile. Here lies Frank Stone. 1984 to 1634. The only Great Hero on record dumb enough to kill himself off two hundred and fifty years before he was even born.



    Dino put his head around the door at that moment. “The carts, they are here.”

    “I guess we better get loaded up, then,” Frank said firmly.

    He turned back to Antonio. “Messer Marcoli, I want to marry your daughter.”

    He heard Giovanna clap her hands, once, but kept his eyes on the father.

    “Of course,” Marcoli said immediately. “I can think of no man I should rather have for a son-in-law.” He gave his daughter a quick, sly glance. “Nor do I foresee any problems in convincing the child to respect her father’s wishes.”

    Frank risked a glance himself. Giovanna’s smile was the widest he’d ever seen on any human being. Anatomically speaking, it was a little scary.

    But he brought his eyes back to Marcoli at once. The hard part was still to come. “We can’t get married today. It’s just not possible.”

    Marcoli frowned. “Well, of course not. Posting the banns alone would require—” He broke off suddenly, glancing back and forth between Frank and Giovanna. “Ah.”

    The frown deepened. For a moment, threatening to become Jovian. Then, to Frank’s relief, began to fade away.

    “To be sure,” Marcoli murmured. “You will want your intended to accompany you to Rome.”

    “Yes, sir. Ah...” How to say it? “It will be dangerous for you here, sir. You and Massimo both. What with the assassins coming after us.”

    Marcoli waved his hand. “Yes, yes, I understand. A desperate business. Massimo and I will shortly be on the run, I have no doubt at all. Our chances? Not good. No, not good. I agree. Giovanna would be safer with you.”

    He swiveled his head and gave his daughter an intense scrutiny. “Intense,” as in Marcoli-intense.

    Then, seemingly satisfied, Marcoli looked back at Frank. “I give my permission. I will trust you not to take advantage of the situation until you can find the time and place for a wedding. I would not see my daughter dishonored.”

    “My word on it, sir.”

    Massimo had awakened, apparently, somewhere in the middle of all this. Frank heard him issue a derisive snort.

    “You are mad, cousin. Look at them! As well command water not to run downhill.”

    Marcoli glared at his cousin. Massimo was now levering himself upright on his bed. “Still,” he said, “I agree with the decision itself. We must be decisive at all times—here above all others. Better to risk—”

    Massimo gave Marcoli a glare of his own. “—something which has been known to happen in this family—my own sister! Giovanna’s mother! two days before the wedding! don’t try to pretend!—”

    Antonio Marcoli flushed and looked away. His eyes carefully avoided his daughter’s.

    “—without any noticeable catastrophe, I would point out.” Massimo cleared his throat. “Better that than to fail in saving our great Italian savant. The young man here—fine young man, yes, I fully agree—will do far better if he can concentrate on the task without worrying about what might have happened to his betrothed.”

    Massimo was now sitting fully upright and, concussion or no concussion, was gesticulating with his usual intellectual’s enthusiasm. “Besides—I am the theoretician here, don’t forget—I suspect we need to modify our program on this matter in any event.”

    He came to an abrupt halt, eyeing Frank and then Giovanna. “After these two impressionable youngsters have departed, however.”

    “Leaving right now,” Frank announced. He extended his hand. “Giovanna?”

    She skipped to her feet. “Coming!”



    “You’re sure?” Tom Stone demanded. “I mean, like, positive? They didn’t just, you know, maybe go off on a long picnic or something?”

    Lennox was shaking his head before Tom had finished the sentence.

    “Goan,” said Lennox, in a tone lugubrious even for him. “I found yon papist drunkard bemoanin’t the lack ae ‘em.”

    Sharon felt a chill run down her spine. This was too much. Buckley dead, Ruy fighting for his life, and now Lennox had brought Heinzerling in to report that all three of the Stone boys had definitely vanished. And, more to the point, that they had discovered several people who’d seen them leaving the city in the company of the Marcolis.

    That had been the last, lingering hope—that, maybe, the bizarre “evidence” of a plot against the Pope’s life which they’d found in the Marcoli house after the fight had been entirely faked by Ducos’ agents.

    Sharon didn’t have any doubt at all that the so-called “evidence” about a plot to kill the Pope was fraudulent. No matter how scrambled his brains might be by hormones, she knew Frank Stone well enough to know that he’d never have agreed to something like that. But the other business... about rescuing Galileo...

    It was all she could do not to groan out loud. When she’d passed on the information to Ruy just an hour ago, he’d immediately confirmed her own private assessment.

    “Oh, yes,” the Catalan had said confidently. “It all makes sense, Sharon. The business about assassinating the Pope is nonsense, of course. But a rescue of Galileo? That would be exactly the sort of idiot scheme that a man like Marcoli would develop—and which would seem attractive enough to naive boys. Very romantic. It also explains Ducos’ involvement—as well as his murder of Buckley. He would plant evidence trying to implicate them in a much worse design, in order to embarrass your embassy still further, increase the Venetians’ ties to the French, and drive a wedge between Paris and the Vatican. But, then, he had to murder Buckley to keep Buckley—the one man everyone would believe, in this matter—from being able to deny it.”

    Lennox had had the first report from one of his sergeants, the Catholic one named Southworth, that there had definitely been something afoot in Venice among the Committee crowd. The urchin Benito was not the only one, apparently, before whom the Marcolis had carelessly prattled. Lennox had gone looking for Heinzerling then, to ask him if there was anything he was mindful of. When he found Heinzerling, he had practically taken the Jesuit by the scruff of the neck to make his report.

    “Gus?” Stoner asked.

    “Ja,” Heinzerling said, his voice croakier even than usual. “It is that we had drinks—Ron Stone and Fabrizzio Marcoli and myself—in the Casino dei trei Radi, several days ago, and there were more drinks at another Casino whose name I forget. It is Carnivale, ja?”

    Stoner nodded. “Go on.”

    “There was discussion of the Galileo book, which has been recalled recently by the Inquisition.” Heinzerling stopped and rubbed his forehead. “It is there that I began to debate with Monsignor—I cannot remember his name—but he is now the state theologian at Venice.”

    “He was at the Casino, consorting with Committee members?” Sharon was a bit intrigued. The Monsignor in question was a notorious firebrand who had spoken out for Galileo. The thought of him squaring off with Heinzerling’s drunken eloquence was—entertaining, she realized, but not relevant. And the issue of what a senior theologian was doing in a casino knocking down drinks with the likes of Ron Stone and Fabrizzio Marcoli could also abide. “Never mind that,” she said before Heinzerling could respond, “when did you realize the boys were missing?”

    Heinzerling bit his lower lip and sighed deeply. The glum expression made his mutton-chop whiskers bristle, reinforcing the impression he gave of being a prize boar in a clerical outfit. “Well. Not until today, for a certainty—but I should have seen it coming then. The problem is that I was preoccupied. The Monsignor and I came to words over the proposition of whether summa fideei should be expressed through—”

    Sharon held up a hand. Gus’ capability for theological excursion was vast, creative and best stopped before it started if there was any urgent secular business at hand. “What should you ‘have seen coming’?”

    “Galileo.” Gus’s tone managed to grow a notch gloomier. He looked to Sharon like he was on the verge of tears. “They would rescue him, I am now sure of it.”

    Stoner’s voice was soft, although he sounded like he was on the verge of shouting. “Rescue,” he said. “Rescue.” And then a long pause. “The Inquisition have got him, then?”

    Heinzerling gave a little groan, by way of running up to coherent speech. “The Inquisition have had him since last year,” he said. “He was ordered not to travel or to print further copies of his latest book, which is about the motion of the earth. The news is that he is recovered the illness by which the Inquisition excused him travel to Rome, and is now going there under guard. Some stories say he is in irons. I do not believe that myself but—”

    He was interrupted by the door banging open. “Where are they gone?” shouted Magda as she swept in. She was flushed and looked—dangerous. She was a young woman, slender and usually dignified, grave even, in her manner. Spitting fury was not a state Sharon had ever seen her in. Even Magda’s anger at the boor Falier had been moderate in comparison.

    There was this to be said for Hanni’s tendency to haul off and belt her husband upside the head—she could cool off fairly quickly when she had vented her rage and never quite seemed to be unhappy for long. Sharon began to wish one or another of the Stones would cut loose properly at Gus—

    And Magda did. She paused hardly a moment before letting rip. Fully five minutes of sustained invective in two languages—no, three, it sounded like there had been some Latin in there.

    “And you!” she said, rounding on Lennox. “You will send men! All your men if you have to! You will get them back!”

    Lennox joined Heinzerling in the group cringe that looked set to take in every man in the room. “Aye. I’ll do that, right enough. I’ll take yon papist, wit’ y’r permission?”

    It was unclear exactly who was being asked for permission. Sharon glanced at Stoner. He seemed in too much of daze to think clearly.

    Sharon decided her temp ambassador status was still operating. “Yes, certainly. Will you leave some of the guard?”

    “Aye. Lieutenant Taggart will hae command of’t. Young Trumble I’ll take wit me—’e can be the second, for his education. No tellin’ what mischief the lad would get into if left behind. Sergeant Southworth and four lads will come wi’ me too. Sergeant Dalziel will have the running of the guard here, since he’s the senior man.”

    “Why Southworth?” Sharon asked. The young English sergeant seemed to be something of an outsider among the mostly Scots troops, an infantryman who had joined the Marines and been assigned to the wholly anomalous Marine Cavalry Troop.

    “He’s a friend o’ Frank Stone, to start wit’. ‘At may coom in handy. Beyond that, Aidan’s a guid lad, right enough, f’r a sassenach, an’ wi’ the lads short-handed I want an old hand here and Dalziel’s that. Besides, if yon drunkard”—he nodded toward Heinzerling—”takes to his cups, Southworth has the heathen talk o’ these parts better than any other man w’hae.”

    Sharon nodded. For all Lennox talked a bigoted line, he was actually a lot less prejudiced than most men she knew.

    Lennox snapped a salute. “Richt. C’mon Father Heinzerling, ye sot of a Jesuit. Ye’re to come and lead us tae Rome or wherever.”

    “Wait a minute,” Sharon said. She had a sudden nightmare vision of Lennox and Heinzerling blundering about northern Italy with no real clue where they were going. “Start by going to Maestro Luzzatto. He won’t be any use himself, but he can put you in touch with Giuseppi Cavriani. Tell Cavriani that I—Magda and I, rather—insist that he serve you as a guide.”

    Stoner stared at her. “Why would he agree to do that? He’s got a business to run.”

    Madga snorted. Sharon just grinned. “Stoner, you really need to pay more attention to all those papers you sign. You are Cavriani’s business, these days. Well, in the real world, me and Madga are. It’s just disguised by this idiot business—and where’s Gloria Steinem when you really want her?—of not accepting women as signatories on commercial deals. The point is, you are now one of the richest men in Italy.”

    “I am?”

    “Yup. And she and I”—Sharon pointed a finger at Magda—”are two of the richest women. She because she’s your wife, and me because I don’t do anything in business without getting a cut. My father’s a bit oblivious to these things, but my momma didn’t raise no fools.”

    Stoner looked back and forth between them. “You are?”

    “Are what? Rich, or a fool? Yes to the first, no to the second. But to get back to the point, Crazy Giuseppi is by now easily the most successful Cavriani on record. The one thing he will not want to do is tick off his meal ticket. If we tell him to go, he’ll go. Knowing Giuseppi, he’ll even go cheerfully. They don’t call him Crazy for nothing.”

    “T’will lose us time,” Lennox objected. “Be a full day afore we c’n nab yon swindler and muscle him along.”

    Sharon managed not to sneer. Barely. “Big deal. You lose a day at the beginning—instead of losing two weeks getting lost. And what’s a day? You’re tracking the Marcolis, Captain. By all accounts, their progress across Italy will look like Buster Keaton building a sailboat.”

    That got a round of laughs. Anyone who lived in Grantville for any length of time became a Buster Keaton aficionado. For some reason, Keaton’s brand of silent slapstick comedy struck a chord with down-timers that Charlie Chaplin rarely did.

    “True enough,” Lennox grunted. He gave Heinzerling a glance. “Let’s be off, then.”

    The two big men went out, grimly silent.

    “Uh,” said Stoner, “shouldn’t they be going with more men?”

    “I’m sure Captain Lennox knows best how to organize a chase,” said Sharon.

    “He had better,” said Magda. “He had better.”

    For his sake, Sharon hoped he did.

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