1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 51

 

1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 51:

 

 

Chapter 27

 

Optiones Ineptae

 

 

Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

 

            They had collectively kicked themselves. Mary had been so tired when she got back to the Schloss the night after Veronica left that she hadn’t brushed her hair—just washed her face, brushed her teeth and then collapsed into bed. So she hadn’t found the note until the next morning. It had been an object lesson on the dire consequences of sloppiness.

 

            The other Grantvillers, Duke Ernst, Erik Haakansson Hand, her lawyer Rastetter—any of them or, if necessary, all of them combined—would normally have managed to stop her from taking off on her own, but they had been too distracted by the epidemic. Those who knew her personally were not really surprised that she had gone. She just wasn’t accustomed to thinking of herself as a person of national, much less international, significance, even if the rest of them realized her importance. Her symbolic importance, at least. To some extent, as the wife of the mayor of Grantville, she even had actual importance.

 

            Spilt milk. And, according to the report that the mayor of Grafenwöhr had provided to Duke Ernst, she was having an enjoyable visit with her family. So, as Keith said, they might as well relax a little. At least, there were no reports that the diphtheria had spread to Grafenwöhr.

 

****

 

            The epidemic in Amberg was definitely tapering off. Balde made his entries. Only two deaths yesterday. One a child. The other, Afra Forst, a chambermaid from Pfreimd who had worked at the Schloss. Catholic. No family in Amberg, poor girl. Frau Simpson, although not Catholic herself, had generously provided a stipend for a funeral mass. She said that the maid had cleaned her rooms, and those of Frau Dreeson.

 

 

Grafenwöhr, the Upper Palatinate

 

            Kilian Richter and his son Hermann came back to Grafenwöhr together. Johann Rothwild came separately, bringing an associate remarkably like himself. Kilian had to find them a place to stay in a cottage outside the town. Johann was, unfortunately, persona non grata with the Amberg authorities.

 

            That didn’t mean, of course, that the two men couldn’t enter the town during the day. Johann’s face wasn’t that well-known after several years of absence. Day laborers, looking for a bit of work; transients, perhaps. Those were common enough sights in any town. If they didn’t stay too long, it shouldn’t be a problem, Kilian thought.

 

            What he did think was a problem was the disappearance of quite a few of his business papers from his chest. The last ones that he would want anyone else looking at. The old ones that he had pulled out to refresh his memory about just how much pressure he could put on Arndt.

 

            So, not even papers he could explode about. He couldn’t shout and slap his wife. She was scarcely the model of the frugal and prudent housewife. The odds were high that she had been so drunk that a military company could have marched through the house playing their fife and drum and she wouldn’t have noticed them. Nor could he scream at his daughter. Why hadn’t she been home?

 

            He did ask her where she had been. She answered that she had gone to her godmother’s house at mid-morning and remained there the rest of the day. So much for the possibility that she might have noticed someone lurking around. Who in hell might have known about those papers?

 

****

 

            His daughter Dorothea’s reply had the advantage of being perfectly true. No matter that Tante Veronica had told her to go home, she hadn’t wanted to spend the rest of the day hearing her mother snore. When she left the city hall, she had gone to her godmother’s and had stayed there until it began to get dark. Kilian didn’t think anything about it. Dorothea had spent a lot of time at her godmother’s these past few years.

 

            It had been a relief to Dorothea, although a little undermining to her general sense of self-importance, that apparently no one in town had taken any notice of her visit to the city hall. Not even the mayor and aldermen who, naturally, had offices in the building. And she spent so much time thinking of Nicol and their planned elopement that she forgot entirely that she had left her father’s papers there.

 

            If Dorothea had grown up in Grantville, her classmates would have been of the opinion that her head wasn’t screwed on too tight. Or that she was a ditz. There were a lot of ways a person might describe Dorothea Richter, such as “sort of cute.” No one would have included, “Really, really smart.”

 

****

 

            Nicholas Moser was working really, really, hard at not paying any attention to Dorothea Richter in public. This was in order not to arouse suspicion. He certainly did not want her father to guess about their planned elopement. This meant that whenever she was in sight, on the streets or in the marketplace of the town, he carefully looked somewhere else.

 

            He had no idea who Johann Rothwild was. Rothwild had been banned from Grafenwöhr years before Moser was hired. He naturally had no idea who Rothwild’s companion was, since the man had never been in town before. However, when he looked at places where Dorothea wasn’t, he kept seeing them.

 

            Seeing them, sometimes, in places where a couple of casual laborers had no business being. Sometimes near Dorothea.

 

            Horrible visions crept into his mind. He was, after all, a Calvinist. Could Dorothea’s father have guessed, in spite of all his precautions? The man was Catholic. Was he going to have Moser’s beloved kidnapped and—the terms came with capital letters—Immured in a Convent? Being Immured in a Convent was, in Moser’s mind, roughly equivalent to being Chained in a Dungeon. Or worse than being chained in a run-of-the-mill dungeon, since it would involve a Papist Plot.

 

            The two men disappeared from the streets of Grafenwöhr for a couple of days. Moser relaxed a little. They must have moved on.

 

            Then they came back. All of Moser’s fears returned. They must have been making arrangements with a Wicked Abbess to deliver Dorothea as a prisoner.

 

            Unlike Dorothea, Moser was “really, really smart” in the sense of book learning. Clever, conscientious, and competent in his work, just as Rastetter had said to Veronica. Cooperative and helpful to the people who came to city hall needing to receive or file documents. He was, however, somewhat deficient in the ordinary common sense department. Not to mention being, in this matter, a victim of his upbringing, complicated by a bad case of hormones.

 

            In any case, he sat down and wrote a letter to Herr Hieronymus Rastetter, the Amberg lawyer who was working for Dorothea’s terrifying aunt, expressing all his fears. He was a little doubtful about the wisdom of this. The aunt was, as she had admitted, Catholic herself. She might be in on the Papist Plot, however improbable that seemed on the face of it.

 

            The lawyer, however, was not Catholic. He was a Calvinist, and a friend of Moser’s father. He would be fully reliable. Moser told him everything he knew of the matter, without reservation.

 

Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

 

            Rastetter had just reopened his office the day Moser’s letter arrived. His family, thankfully, were all recovering. He had a huge backlog, so he put the letter on the bottom of his correspondence pile. When he did read it, ignoring all the nonsense about Immuring in Convents, the words Dreeson, Kilian Richter, and “two dangerous-looking men” practically shouted off the page at him. He grabbed his hat and headed for the Schloss.

 

            Frau Simpson was there. He gave it to her. She took it to Duke Ernst. Or, more precisely, to Böcler, who took it to Duke Ernst. That didn’t matter; the delay was approximately five minutes by her watch.

 

            While they were waiting, Rastetter asked her if she had heard the news about Augustin Arndt—the lawyer representing Frau Dreeson’s opponent in the lawsuit.

 

            Mary shook her head. She had never even known the man’s name.

 

            “He was found dead two days ago.”

 

            “Will this epidemic never end?” she asked. “I had thought that it was pretty much over. I hope that a new chain of infection isn’t starting up.”

 

            “He didn’t die of diphtheria, Frau Simpson. He was found by a man who works for him, more or less regularly, as an agent and had come to the city to consult with him about some matter of business he had been handling on his behalf in Grafenwöhr. Arndt’s throat was cut.”

 

            Mary looked at him. “Grafenwöhr?”

 

            Rastetter never utilized profane or blasphemous expressions. He wished, right now, that he did.

 

            After they had presented their concerns to the regent, Duke Ernst also commented, “I do wish that General Banér were here this very instant. He could say what I am thinking.”

 

            Hand did question Arndt’s agent, Valentin Forst, the one who had found the body. However, there seemed to be no connection. The man was quite forthcoming about the matter he had been working on, involving ore barrels and barges, disputed payments and delayed deadlines—the ordinary routine work of a practicing lawyer. So Hand let him go back to Grafenwöhr.

 

            Forst had, of course, omitted any reference to the landgrave of Leuchtenberg from his narrative. They hadn’t asked him about Leuchtenberg. There was certainly no reason for him to volunteer the information.

About Eric Flint

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