1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 55

 

1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 55:

 

 

            Two things happened the next morning. Beyond, of course, the fact that most of the residents of Grafenwöhr ate breakfast and started work. And talked to one another; the whole town was buzzing with excitement about Veronica again.

 

            Böcler, on the assumption that Hand would soon be arriving with a company of troops and could take charge, left at dawn to follow the barge down the river. There were, after all, only so many places that a barge could go. It was unlikely to grow feet and walk. He had a letter from the regent authorizing him to investigate “whatever is going on,” which would be of great use in getting information from possibly reluctant local authorities.

 

            Being more or less local himself, even though most of the residents of the Upper Palatinate would certainly have defined Cornheim in Franconia as a strange town in a foreign country, he had the ability to both understand the people who were answering his questions and to move about comparatively inconspicuously. The last thing they wanted to do was start a panic. The mining and metallurgical communities of the Upper Palatinate were accustomed to having officious and comparatively youthful apprentice electoral bureaucrats with the seventeenth-century equivalent of clipboards wandering around the locks and tollbooths, poking their noses into everybody else's business and counting things. One more would not even rise to the level of, “what's he doing here?” One more customs official would just be a part of the scenery. Especially since they were all busy filling out Duke Ernst’s Fragebogen.

 

            Unlike any of the up-timers; unlike, even, Hand himself. Extremely tall Swedish colonels with obvious war injuries rarely manifested an interest in ore barges; nosy customs officials often did.

 

****

 

            Nicholas Moser and Dorothea Richter eloped. They had, after all, only promised to delay until after Veronica left town, and Moser, by virtue of his job, had gained a pretty clear awareness that she had now left town. After all, he has spent the night in the basement recording the protocol of the questioning under torture. Thea’s aunt had not specified how she was to have left town when she instructed them not to elope until after that. Moser didn’t want to stay for the next stage, when von Wenzin took the evidence he already had and set out to get a confession from Thea’s father. That could get sort of grisly.

 

            Moser shuddered. Von Wenzin was just so matter of fact about it. He looked at the executioner and asked, “Wilhelm, are the tongs ready?” in the same dry as dust tone of voice as he usually asked, “Nicolas, have you finished the record copy of that affidavit?”

 

****

 

            The elopement threw a red herring of major and distracting dimensions into the deliberations of everyone else, since none of them knew that it was one. Owing to his paranoia about Immuring in Convents, Moser had insisted that they not leave notes that might aid in a pursuit, so the Grafenwöhr officials wasted a great deal of time discussing the possible implications and potential ramifications of the disappearances of the town clerk and Richter’s daughter. Rastetter finally made the connection, but it took a while. He was not inside the city government loop.

 

            It slipped the lovers’ minds, as they fled, that upon leaving Grafenwöhr, they were supposed to meet Dorothea’s Tante Veronica in Amberg, where she would furnish them with a bank draft, because they didn’t have enough money to get to Grantville. They forgot about it because they spent most of their time along the way discussing such things as Thea’s noble effort to break their non-existent engagement because of her family’s appalling disgrace compounded by Nicol’s equally noble determination to permit no such action. So, they didn’t realize that they were running out of money until they got to Nürnberg.

 

****

 

            Several things also happened that afternoon. Or didn’t happen that afternoon, depending upon how one looked at it.

 

            Leopold Cavriani, having left Amberg at first light, arrived. He didn’t stay; just hired a couple of fresh horses, collected Marc, and started down-river, following the path that Böcler had taken.

 

            Hand, who was supposed to be two hours behind them, didn’t arrive at all. He hadn’t even tried to get a company of regulars for this purpose. Banér had almost all of them over around Ingolstadt and there was no way he was going to strip the rest out of Amberg, leaving the regent himself with no decent security. He was bringing a company of Grenzjaeger, boatmen, and other competent trackers. They came up the road just in time to run into a party of foreign soldiers near Freihung and, not surprisingly, became distracted from their original aim.

 

            A lively time was had by all. Hand sent a messenger to Grafenwöhr to let Böcler know that he was turning back to Amberg because of an unexpected emergency.

 

****

 

            Kilian Richter’s wife appeared at the city hall. She was feeling terribly hung over, but she was sober. Once the first clerk ascertained that she hadn’t shown up to try to bail her husband out, she was shunted from room to room. She couldn’t find anyone in authority to talk to. Finally, she stood in the corridor and shouted, “I want to tell someone what happened!”

 

            Hieronymus Rastetter came out of the back room of the city clerk’s office. He looked very official in his standard bureaucrat’s robe and hat. He was followed by his clerk. She started to talk.

 

            The clerk started to take notes.

 

****

 

            “Kilian was terribly angry when Anton decided that his family would convert to Catholicism. With Anton’s sisters gone, only his nephew had been standing between Kilian and Johann Stephan’s share of their father’s property. He’d been biding his time, waiting for Anton to go into exile also. When he heard that Anton had conformed, he swore fiercely. Oh, how he cursed and blasphemed.”

 

            “What about Augustin Arndt?”

 

            Kilian’s wife frowned. “I known the name, but not much else. Except I know he hired most of the bullies for Kilian. But I don’t think he was there himself when it happened.”

 

            “Was where? When what happened?”

 

            “Why, at Anton’s shop, that night. The night that Amberg was plundered, Kilian sent a party of men disguised as mercenaries to Anton’s shop. They were going to kill him, and his whole family, and make it look like the soldiers did it. They would have killed all of Anton’s family. Him and his wife; Veronica; the three children. Except that they were interrupted by a group of real mercenaries and had to run away. They took Anton’s wife with them when they ran.”

 

            She paused for a moment. “I guess it was real mercenaries who took Veronica and the children.”

 

            The questioning continued, faithfully recorded by the clerk.

 

            No, she didn’t know who all was involved. That Johann Rothwild had been there, she did know; Kilian had promised him a share of the Johann Stephan’s property, since he was Sara’s son; later, Kilian somehow kept it all. She wasn’t sure how that happened, but she thought that it had to do with the case that caused him to be permanently exiled from Grafenwöhr. They could look it up. Magdalena and Wilhelm Bastl should have gotten part of it, too, since Magdalena was a niece. But they didn’t get any, either. Maybe they decided that they would rather be alive and didn’t push it.

 

            In any case, the men disguised as mercenaries had gone back to Arndt’s office, where Kilian was waiting. It may not have been Johann Rothwild who had killed Anton Richter. But it was Johann who killed Anton’s wife. She was sure of that. How come? Oh, because Kilian told her so. That was after the men had all come back to Grafenwöhr. Kilian told her that Anton’s wife had been struggling and threatening Johann while he dragged her through the streets. How did Kilian know that, if he had been waiting in Arndt’s office? She wasn’t sure; she had never thought about that. But after they got to Arndt’s office, Johann did kill her, right there. Arndt hid the body for a couple of days. Then, when the worst was over, he just brought it out and added it to the others that the cart was taking to the mass grave.

 

            She sat there long enough to initial the rough copy of the notes that Rastetter’s clerk had taken. She initialed every page. Then she said, “I guess I feel better now.” Then, after fidgeting a bit: “Are you really sure that they aren’t going to let Kilian out?”

 

            Rastetter looked down at her statement, smiling very thinly. “You may rest assured that Kilian Richter will not be ‘let out.’”

 

            “All right,” she said. “I guess, then, that I will go home.”

 

            “I think,” Rastetter said, “that you had better stay until I can find the bailiff.”

 

            Böcler had gone; Hand had not arrived. It was all back in the Grafenwöhr bailiff’s lap. Business as usual. He strode out.

 

            Richter’s wife was still sitting on the bench, her hands in her lap, rotating her thumbs around each other, when they came back with von Wenzin.

 

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
This entry was posted in 1632Snippet, Snippets. Bookmark the permalink.
Skip to top

Comments

One Response to 1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 55

  1. Dave Graham says:

    In “1632” and/or “1633”, I thought that Gretchen’s mother (=? Anton’s wife) had disappeared several years before he was killed and the family taken by the mercenaries later involved in the “Battle of the Outhouse”. How could she be around to be kidnapped and killed the same night he was killed?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.