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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Friday, July 25, 2008 19:44 EDT




September 1634

Under amazement of their hideous change


    Ed Piazza looked at the packet of papers that Martin Wackernagel had just dropped directly into his hands.

    Wes Jenkins was very conscientious. He hadn’t sent them by SoTF government mail. Like Henry Dreeson, he thought of this project as a “politicking trip,” Ed supposed.

    And he wouldn’t have wanted to put them in the mail. That was probably prudent. The mail was a great thing for inquiring after the health of your great-aunt Gladys, but the fact remained that under the postmastership of Johan van den Birghden, the USE postal system was not exactly impermeable to snooping. Any more than the imperial system under the Thurn und Taxis family was impermeable to snooping.

    So Wes had paid a private courier, like almost everybody else who wanted to be as sure as possible that confidential or sensitive information got from here to there without an intermediate detour into the hands of someone else’s spies.

    “He paid you at the other end?”

    Wackernagel nodded and smiled.

    Ed thought that he’d never let that smile anywhere near his daughter. How the man had managed to remain a bachelor this long, in a world that didn’t have effective contraceptives and did have shotgun weddings…

    Ed might be as straight as a stick himself, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t recognize a guy with the masculine equivalent of come hither when he saw one.

    The courier waved and walked out the door. Ed waved absentmindedly in return.

    Now all they had to do was talk Henry into going on a tour of Buchenland and coax it into a solidly pro-Fourth of July Party stance before Mike called new elections. Which they should be able to do. The news had arrived a couple of days ago that Mary and Veronica had reached Basel and were safely in the USE embassy with Diane Jackson.

    Plus, the word from Franconia was that the Ram Rebellion had pretty much wound to its end with the face-down of Freiherr von Bimbach by Anita Masaniello.

    Which left the problem that some group of unknown recalcitrants had kidnaped more than half of the SoTF administrators in Fulda, including Wes Jenkins himself.

    Which was where Henry would be going.

    Wes must have sent the paperwork before they got him.

    Ed got up and walked over to the window.

    Nothing he could do about Wes and the others from here. Anyway, the folks over in Fulda had already managed to get Harlan Stull and Roy Copenhaver back. They’d radioed that in yesterday. Plus Fred Pence and Johnny Furbee. That had come in this morning, barely in time for him to get a news release out.

    Ed would have to work on faith that they’d do as well with Orville and Mark. And Wes and Clara. And the abbot. He’d spent a lot of time these last few years doing that—working on the faith that the people he’d sent out to do an impossible job would accomplish it.

    If Derek Utt and his people didn’t find the others. Well, then Buchenland would need something like a visit from Henry Dreeson more than ever.

    He picked up the phone. “Chad, can you get hold of Joe, Tony, and the rest of the crew? See if we can meet with Henry for lunch? Somewhere quiet, so not the Gardens. Not Cora’s. See if the back room at Tyler’s is free.”



    “Basel’s better than ‘somewhere in Bavaria,’” Henry admitted. “But it’s still not exactly ‘right here in Grantville.’”

    Arnold Bellamy, who was twirling his knife in his fingers, said, “You’re weakening.”

    “I’ve talked to Tony Jr.,” Tony Sr. said. “Well, we’ve sent a lot of Morse Code back and forth since he first raised up Bernadette and told her that the ladies were there.”

    “Not a little bit proud of that boy of yours, are you?” Joe Stull grinned.

    “Not a ‘little bit,’ no,” Tony answered agreeably. “He’s pretty sure we’ll be able to get them out of Basel. So I figure,” he looked at Henry, “that we might as well go ahead and do the planning for your trip. Then, when we get the actual news that Horn or somebody else on our side has collected them, you’ll be ready to go ahead and start out.”

    Henry pushed his plate back and leaned forward, elbows on the table and fingers steepled. “I’ve still got that house full of kids to deal with. Jeff and Gretchen are still in Amsterdam and I don’t mind saying that I’m getting sort of exasperated by the whole thing. Not that Will and Joey and the older ones aren’t pretty well behaved as kids go, but they’re her job. Not mine. Not Annalise’s. And really not Ronnie’s.” He leaned back. “Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…”

    “How’re you going to handle it?”

    “Well, with Ronnie’s niece staying with us now, it’s a different kettle of fish than it was a couple of months ago. Thea and Nicol are grown-ups. In their twenties and married and expecting a baby. So they can house sit. Babysit. Plus, I’ve talked to Enoch and Inez. They’ve agreed to supervise. Sort of at a distance, with Nicol and Thea on the spot. Since the Cavriani girl staying with them is Annalise’s best friend, they’ll have plenty of excuses to drop by and sort of cast an eye over the way things are going.”

    Arnold started twirling his knife in the opposite direction. “Knew you were going, didn’t you?”

    “Yep.” Henry nodded. “Even before I admitted it to myself, I guess. Haven’t done any traveling since the Ring of Fire—never been farther than Jena—and it’s sort of a pity to waste what amounts to my first and only trip to Europe, I suppose. I’d better go see something outside West Virginia County and the middle of Thuringia before this hip gives out, if I want to see it at all.”



    “Good news about Orville Beattie and Mark Early.”

    Ed smiled broadly. “I really enjoyed that phone call I made to Lisa this morning. And I have to admit that I stood right there while Tanya radioed it into Mike Stearns’ office in Magdeburg, pretending that I could hear Susan stand up and shout. I was principal when Mark and Susan graduated. Three years apart, but my stint covered them both. And all three of Orville and Lisa’s kids. Shane—he’s the youngest—was finishing his sophomore year the spring that the Ring of Fire hit and I had to turn things over to Len Trout.”

    He paused a minute.

    Arnold raised an imaginary glass. “Absent friends.”

    Ed nodded. “So, yeah, it felt real good.” He looked at Arnold. “Real, real, good. Thanks for coming down from Magdeburg to back me up on handling this. Did Tanya get the press release out?”

    “First thing. And I phoned Henry. Any word about Wes and Clara? Or the abbot?”

    Ed shook his head. “No. Well, not yet.”

    “Do you think we really ought to let Henry go if things don’t calm down over there in the next couple of days? The people who did this—some of them, at least—could still be in Buchenland County. Could make another try. The mayor of Grantville would make a tempting target.”

    “Right now, I don’t think we could stop him. He’s gone into his old-fashioned stump speaker mode. Even…”

    “Even what?”

    “Tried to talk young Muselius from over at Countess Kate’s into going along to translate for him. Henry’s not one to overestimate the quality of his German. Muselius can’t go. The beginning of the school year is too busy. But he’s persuaded one of Kastenmayer’s sons, Cunz, the one who’s about to finish up his law degree at the University of Jena, into doing it. Muselius also talked the boy’s exam committee into accepting a paper analyzing the trip as his honors thesis in constitutional law under Arumaeus, so he won’t have wasted a semester.”

    Bellamy shook his head. “I’m not surprised. I’ve met Muselius, several times. Golden-tongued, that young man.”

    “Is young Kastenmayer?”



    “The boy knows a half-dozen different languages, they say. That wouldn’t mean he’s a good public speaker, necessarily. But going into law, with his dad a preacher… he might be. The way they do the schools here, he’s at least bound to have had a lot of debate practice. Disputations, they call them.”

    Ed nodded. “If so, he can double up as the PR man. Run the press conferences.”



    Johann Conrad Kastenmayer, generally known as Cunz for all purposes other than his formal, legal, signature, was surprised that he had been invited to this meeting.

    He had met Charles Jenkins the Younger, of course. He was the one who was always called Chip, much as he himself was called Cunz. Chip was also a law student at Jena. The law school was not really very large. All the students knew one another.

    Now he was in Chip’s father’s parlor, with Chip’s sister holding out a tray and offering him a choice between coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and beer. He thought a moment. She was named Melissa, like the famous Ms. Mailey, but everyone seemed to call her Missy.

    Really, he would prefer beer. Probably.

    However, he had never tasted oriental tea and might not get another chance to taste it for quite some time. It was very expensive. The Kastenmayer household in the rectory at St. Martin’s in the Fields could not afford to do expensive, as the up-timer young people expressed it. Neither could the Kastenmayer sons in Jena afford to do expensive. So, in the interest of furthering his liberal education… He reached out and took a cup of tea.

    In some ways, visiting Grantville was almost like taking a miniature grand tour. Which he would also never be able to afford to do, he supposed. As soon as he got his degree, he would have to find a job—take some of the burden off his father and start making a positive contribution. It was noble of his oldest brother Matthaeus to follow a vocation into the pastorate like their father. But it didn’t pay very much. Martin’s position as an assistant city clerk didn’t pay much more. And with Andrea’s elopement, which meant that this year the parish was going to have to pay for a second teacher in the primary grades, there was no prospect that Papa was going to get a raise. But this… Visiting Erfurt and Frankfurt didn’t precisely constitute a grand tour, but maybe a mini-tour. They were larger cities than he’d ever seen before.

    One thing you could say for going into law, it usually paid pretty well. Cunz pulled his mind back to the conversation swirling around him. Only to discover that someone was asking him what he thought about it. Which was certainly not something for which he had prepared himself. It was much more surprising than his being invited in the first place.

    What was the it about which he had been asked?

    He uttered a few reasonably coherent sentences on the theme that Mayor Dreeson’s trip to Buchenland should have great value in making the former Franconian territories feel themselves more of an integral part of the State of Thuringia-Franconia. He added a few comments in regard to the outcome of the Ram Rebellion. He prayed that he hadn’t made a total fool of himself.

    Apparently not. The man who had asked, Herr Stull, nodded and turned to someone else, who said, “He’ll do.”

    Missy Jenkins, who had astonished him by sitting down between himself and her father as soon as she had distributed the beverages, leaned over and whispered, “Good save.”

    He made a resolution to be attentive at all times for the remainder of this tour.



    “There’s no reason at all to make that big a deal out of it.” Henry Dreeson, being a small town American at heart, with the resulting conviction that he really didn’t need any such thing as a bodyguard, or whatever the military types wanted to call it, was taking a stand. “I don’t need a fancy escort to make the trip over to Fulda. All I’m going to do is talk to a few city councils about my experiences in local government and then meet Ronnie. The government of West Virginia County has agreed to loan me an ATV and they’ll provide enough fuel to get me there and back, as long as the party’s willing to reimburse them for the expense. I’ll need to find a driver. My hip’s not up to driving any distance on these down-time roads. I won’t get lost, either. For one thing, we’ll be sticking to the main roads. In case we have to detour, I’m going to take Wackernagel, the courier, along with me in the ATV. He makes the circuit all the time, so he knows the roads well, and I’m pretty sure that he’ll have a hoot riding in a car rather than riding a horse for a change.” He smiled at everyone else in the room. “ Why, Wackernagel might even enjoy learning to drive.”

    “Henry, what the hell!” Joe Stull practically exploded. “They’ve been taking our people over there prisoner!”

    “Then Utt can give me a bodyguard once we get there. He’s got a whole regiment at Fulda. No point in dragging a bunch of people from here all the way over there.”

    “Two ATVs,” Ed Piazza said. “It’s a rough road and if the one you’re riding in breaks down, we don’t want you stranded. The schedule’s too tight. The SoTF will provide the second one and pay for the fuel. And since it’s going, it might as well have people in it. The driver, you, Cunz, and Wackernagel in the first one. The driver and three other guys in the second one. And the army picks the guys.”

    Henry eyed him. “What kind of guys?”

    “Mechanics. Really tough mechanics.”

    “You’ve got that ‘I’m the principal’ look on your face, Ed.”

    “I am the principal. Or, at least, the president, even if that doesn’t give me quite as much authority.” Ed grinned. “Two ATVs or you don’t go, important politics or not.”



    “Still no word about the abbot?” Annabelle passed over a dish of sliced pears.

    Ed shook his head. “He seems to have dropped off the map. We don’t question people under torture, of course, in the SoTF. But Derek and his people sure have questioned those guys, the imperial knights like von Schlitz who were involved in the conspiracy. Up one side and down the other. They think that they genuinely don’t know where he is. But, probably, not in Fulda any more. The guys who took him were probably Irish mercenaries. Who knows who was paying them?”

    “At least you got to spread tidings of comfort and joy about Wes Jenkins and Clara Bachmeier. Or are they Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, now?”



    “She insists on the feminine form of her surname. On the grounds that she is not male. Trust me. I still remember my first interview with her very well. She’s as stubborn as Veleda Riddle. Just as ladylike and just as stubborn.”

    “That’s… Well, I’m glad she’s on our side, in that case.”

    “ I think that the word you want is ‘daunting.’ Or maybe ‘dauntless.’ She’s dauntless herself and it’s very daunting to everyone who gets on her bad side.”

    “Odd sort of woman for Wes to marry.”

    “Guess he managed to get on her good side.”

    “It doesn’t sound like she’s even a little bit like Lena was.”

    Ed thought a minute before he answered that one. “Maybe he learned something, the first time.”

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