1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT — snippet 34

 

1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 34:

 

 

Chapter 18

 

 

Grantville

 

            Simon Jones stood at the livery stable next to the still-under-construction St. Thomas the Apostle Lutheran Church, right outside the Ring of Fire, on the main road to Badenburg. Really the not-yet-much-more-than-a-foundation St. Thomas the Apostle church. With winter coming on, it would probably keep that status until next spring.

            They had come into Grantville from the west. The trip back had been shorter. The Duchy of Tirol had granted them safe-conducts. It seemed that among the changes in the political picture, the duchess-regent there, who was Italian, was sending out feelers to the USE. Probably nervous about Maximilian of Bavaria.

            Coming through Bavaria would not have been prudent. Not at all. Swabia was still really uneasy, too. So they’d gone northwest through Switzerland, and then down the Rhine. Whatever else Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar might be up to, he was keeping the river open for commercial traffic. Then, up the Main to Frankfurt, the Imperial Road to Erfurt, and then the Erfurt-Badenburg-Grantville route.

            The crews had done a lot to improve the Badenburg-Grantville road since the embassy left for Venice last winter. Of course, Thuringia had been through another prime road-improvement season since then. Now the road was not only graded and ditched, with a single wagon-width of gravel for bad weather, but macadamized on a double track, starting right where Route 250 came to an end and going all the way to Badenburg. Same thing from there up to the trade route.

            After he had transferred the Gentileschis’ luggage, he looked down toward the trolley stop just inside the Ring of Fire’s border. He was very glad to be getting off a horse and onto a trolley. Very. He understood the priorities that were pushing the railroad north past Magdeburg. It would be great when a spur went west. It would be worth a big detour not to have to travel from Erfurt by horseback.

            Pushing it south was so far off that there wasn’t even any point in dreaming. He’d probably be dead before people could get on the train in Nürnberg and get off again in Grantville.

            Ron and Gerry Stone, ignoring the trolley, were starting off for Lothlorien on foot. He looked after them, a little wistfully. Thirty or forty years ago, he would have had that much energy, too. At the age of fifty-two, he welcomed a seat on the trolley. A seat in which he could sit and worry about Gerry until he got home and finally saw his wife and kids again.

            The trolley station had a pay phone. Not one that accepted coins. You paid the station attendant and got to use his phone. Simon called Mary Ellen and told her that he was on the very final leg of the trip back.

            She said that she would let everyone at First Methodist know. And call the Nobilis and let Prudentia know that her mother was on her way.

            He would really rather have gotten a good night’s sleep before facing a reunion at First Methodist. He had been a minister for years, though. He realized that it wasn’t feasible. He would say hello to everyone at church, eat a potluck dinner, and sleep later. Or, maybe, be too tired to sleep. Or, with better luck, not be too tired to sleep. He had really missed Mary Ellen.

****

            Ron and Gerry left the hired horses they had ridden in on at the livery stable. They left most of the baggage there, too, in the lockup. Ron told the manager that he’d send a cart for it in the morning. The shouldered their backpacks and headed up the road to Lothlorien.

            “Are you going to get a horse of your own now?” Gerry asked. “I won’t need one, in Rudolstadt, and I can always take the train back and forth between school and home. But to get back and forth between the dye works and town, you might need one.”

            Ron shook his head. “I hadn’t really thought about it. There’s no hurry and I really don’t like to ride, just for its own sake. It’s really almost as fast to walk back and forth, and if I have things to carry, I can always hitch a ride on a delivery wagon if I remember to schedule my meetings right.”

****

            “Look, Minnie!” Denise yelled over the sound of the motors. “It’s Gerry! He’s back.”

            “Gerry?”

            “Stone. Well, maybe you didn’t know him. You didn’t start school until the fall of ‘33 and you were over in the ESOL classes then. He left for Italy with his folks the next January. But it’s impossible to miss him when you do see him. Carrot top. Freckles.”

            “Should I run over him for you?”

            “No! He’s almost the only boy who was ever nice to me, back in elementary school. Polite nice, I mean. He was one year behind me, before I got sick and lost a grade—had to do it over, I mean. Since then, we’ve been in the same class. And he stayed nice. Not trying to grope me after I got into middle school and started to develop. Sort of absentminded about it. I don’t know whether he meant to be nice to me but, he’s not a pain. And he knows more chemicals to play pranks with than the average person would ever dream of. Picked the right targets. Not afraid of a fight if someone tries to hassle him. He isn’t afraid of guns, either, but he’s not a very good shot. You can’t have everything, though. I want to offer him a lift up to Lothlorien. You can haul the other guy.”

            Minnie considered the matter. She did recognize the Lothlorien name. The dyes; the medications. All she had heard about the old hippie man and his three sons.

            She nodded. If Denise thought this Gerry counted as a friend, or even as “not a pain,” she was willing to haul the other fellow along, whoever he was.

            The other fellow, who turned out to be Gerry’s brother Ron, didn’t have the carrot top. He was just sort of there. Not at all in the category of, “impossible to miss him when you do see him.” Nothing remarkable, nothing dashing, nothing piratical. As the hero of a ballad, Minnie thought, he would have been a total loss. He seemed to be polite nice, too, which was good in everyday life but didn’t get a hero far in a ballad, either. She lost what little interest she might have had if he had been more like Denise’s friend.

****

            Pastor Ludwig Kastenmayer of St. Martin’s in the Fields Lutheran Church was finding the conversation somewhat confusing.

            But one point was clear. The youngest of the three sons of Herr Thomas Stone, the now-wealthy proprietor of the well known dye works, had chosen, with the consent of his father, to attend the Latin School in Rudolstadt rather than the high school in Grantville. He now, at the age of sixteen, wished Pastor Kastenmayer’s assistance in being admitted in the midst of the current semester, with perhaps tutoring for some remedial work he would need to do to qualify.

            While in Italy with his father and stepmother for the past nine months, he had devoted himself to private preparatory study under the guidance of two Roman Catholic priests, one of them a Jesuit.

            In order to enter a Lutheran school? With the intention of further study at the university of Jena, also a Lutheran institution? Preparatory study which, apparently, the two priests had willingly provided to him?

            “Actually, though,” Gerry said, “they didn’t know that I was going to study Lutheran theology. Because I didn’t know it myself, until the very end.”

            Pastor Kastenmayer’s little piece of the earth stopped shaking under his feet.

            “You may change your mind yet, before you get that far,” the other young man said. That was his older brother, Ron.

            Gerry ignored him. “Not until after I shot Marius while Ducos and his people were trying to assassinate the pope. He was one of them. He had a gun. I was right in front of Marius. I shot him in the throat. Blood splattered everywhere. His head almost came off in my arms. I didn’t really mean to do it, but I killed him. Marius wasn’t normal. Not quite right in the head. He had a gun and he was dangerous, but mentally he wasn’t all there. If I hadn’t done it, he would have killed the pope. Yeah, I get that. He was a little simple minded, but he would have killed the pope. Now he’s the one who’s dead instead, and I’m the one who killed him. Did I say that his head almost came off in my arms? And I knew there was nothing I could ever do to make up for it. Until Magda explained that I didn’t have to, because God already had. Atonement. It was the greatest thing I ever heard of.”

            Kastenmayer shook his head and fastened on one clear fact. “Magda?”

            “Our stepmother,” the older brother said. “She’s the daughter of Herr Karl Juergen Edelman in Jena.”

            Kastenmayer knew Edelman. The small piece of firm ground under his feet expanded a bit.

About Eric Flint

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