1635: THE CANNON LAW — snippet 56

1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 56:

CHAPTER 21

Rome

Frank wasn’t liking the atmosphere in his club one little bit. It wasn’t that the place was rowdy, at all. If anything, the number of people in the place was a bit light for a Saturday night. It was quiet, too. The usual pick-up band—some combination of French Andree, Martino, Andreas and Fabrizzio plus whoever wanted to join them—weren’t in and no-one seemed to be ready to take up the slack. And the people who were in were largely sitting quietly and talking well below the usual drunken Italian volume.

“Anyone saying what’s up?” he asked Benito when he came back to the bar. “Seems quiet tonight.”

Benito shrugged. “Looks like we only got the real regulars, Frank. I’ll ask Piero, he usually knows what’s going down.”

Frank looked over, and indeed Piero was there. Usually he had a girl with him—and usually a different one each week and one or two of them obviously hookers, but Frank figured that wasn’t any of his business. “I’ll go over and have a chat, actually,” he said. “Mind the bar for me.”

Piero nodded as Frank dragged up a stool. “You’ve heard, then?” the lefferto said.

“Heard what? I was kind of wondering what was up, like, where is everybody?”

Piero heaved a deep sigh, and shrugged. “You haven’t seen the handbills, then?”

“Well, I’ve seen a couple—” Frank began, and then stopped. “There’s another one out today?”

“Yesterday, actually. I figured it was false, since you denied the earlier one and it just plain doesn’t sound like you.”

“Don’t leave a guy in suspense, Piero, what does it say?” Frank had a sinking feeling in his guts. He’d thought that whoever was printing the things was trying to get him in trouble with the Inquisition, and he’d been going in and making a nuisance of himself denouncing whoever it was to the Inquisition himself.

Sharon and Ruy Sanchez were certain it was the Spanish but Frank didn’t know enough to be sure. So he’d been going back and writing letters demanding to know if they’d caught the guy, which he’d thought was a nice touch, to the point where the junior priest who met him whenever he went over there looked visibly alarmed whenever Frank showed up. Frank liked that. Turnabout was fair play, after all.

“I can do better,” Piero said.”I kept mine.” He dug inside his jacket somewhere and brought out a rumpled and stained piece of cheap rag paper.

Frank looked at it. It was badly-printed, and the type looked it had slipped a bit, blurring the letters. He read it closely. It started with the usual stuff ripped off from old broadsides by Massimo—who would probably be pleased to hear that he’d made at least that much impact. Then it went on to—Frank groaned. “We’d never say any of this stuff, Piero.”

“That’s what I thought,” Piero agreed. “I mean, you don’t want to end up in jail, right? I figure you don’t want to die either. I mean, we’re allowed to make nasty cracks about the city, but you’re still a foreigner. As for the suggestion we all hold our women in common, well, you could maybe say I don’t get too attached to any particular one, but I—Frank?” Piero looked concerned.

“Sorry, I was just reading some more of this. It makes it look like I wanted to insult everyone I know around here. About the only thing I left out, according to this, is that I think everyone in Rome is fucking his own sister and killed his mother.”

Piero chuckled. “Well if you read it one way, it’s like you asked everyone to whore his sister out.”

“It ain’t funny, Piero. We got to do something about this, man.”

Piero cleared his throat. “Well, actually, you’ve got to do something about it. Only reason I’m here is, ah, I’m avoiding someone.” He flashed a grin. “I kind of made a start on the whole holding women in common thing last week, and I figured no-one was going to come looking here. Maybe things’ll blow over, though.”

“I don’t see how they will. Whoever’s printing these things still has a printing press and no-one seems to know who it is. Benito’s been asking the street kids, but you know how they are if you ask them questions.”

“I was thinking more about the husband I pissed off, but you have a point. Anyway, I heard where the one thing the Committee of Correspondence always has is a printing press. So why don’t you just get your own word out there?”

“We don’t have our press yet. We’ve only been here a couple of months, and it takes time to get the things shipped from where they’re made in Germany.”

“All right, why not use a press in Rome?” Piero’s tone was of a man explaining things to an idiot.

“I would, but all the legal ones get watched by the Inquisition. All of the ones we spoke to flat told us they wouldn’t do any propaganda. They only print stuff for us if it doesn’t mention the Committee and isn’t political in any way. Kind of narrow-minded of them, and we sneak some stuff in anyway, changing-attitudes kind of stuff that doesn’t look like politics unless you know what you’re looking for, but -“ Frank realized he was babbling. “Look, it’s just impossible right now.”

Piero shrugged. “I figure it’s not so bad, though. Get around and tell people it wasn’t you. Get the word spread. Maybe bribe one of those street kids to rat out the guy who gives them the handbills. How much damage can they do before you start answering them?”

“Plenty,” Frank said. “And I don’t like the idea that someone’s going to see this as a good tactic, it could get used against the Committee elsewhere. Oh, not back in the USE, I figure. They do nasty things to people who pull shit like this back there.”

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
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