1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 32

1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 32

Chapter 18

          Ciclope and Pietro ducked into the tavern. It was filled with smoky haze, partly from the fireplace at one end of the room, and partly from an old man’s pipe. Ciclope had to admit that the tobacco was aromatic — not that he had any experience with it to compare it with. Tobacco was still a novelty in northern Italy, and very pricey indeed.

          They bought a couple of mugs of ale, then found a table in a back corner away from the fire that was untenanted. Without thought, they each sat with one of the corner’s walls behind him.

Ciclope tried his ale, and winced. Not putrid, but not exactly something that he would have fond memories of, either. Ah, well.

“So, when does he show up?” Pietro asked.

“Keep your voice down or shut your mouth. The man will get here when he gets here.”

The fact that he was so short with his partner was a mark of Ciclope’s own nervousness. In truth, he himself was wondering how long they would have to wait. But the answer was the same for him as it was for Pietro; the man would get there when he got there.

Pietro had just returned to their table with their second round of ale when a man wearing ill-fitting clothes slipped into the chair across the table from Ciclope. Pietro started to say something, but Ciclope backhanded him on the shoulder as soon as he opened his mouth.

“Are you the pros from Dover?” the stranger asked.

Ciclope studied him for a moment before responding. Hard to see his eyes under the brim of the hat he was wearing, but his beard was very neatly trimmed and his hands looked rather clean for the kind of man his clothes would normally hang on. And that was the phrase his boss had told him to listen for, idiotic though it sounded. So this must be the new boss, the one that hired them to come to this God-forsaken hinterland of battlefields and howling Protestants.

“Aye, that is us,” he responded when the stranger began to shift on his stool.

“You are who Signor Benavidez sent from Venice?”

“Aye.”

The stranger’s shoulders settle a little, as tension seemed to flow out of him. “Good. It took you long enough to get here.”

“Travel from Venice in the winter is not the easiest thing to do, my friend,” Ciclope said. “And Pietro ate some bad mutton in one inn along the way, and was sicker than a dog for days afterward.”

Pietro gulped and looked queasy at the memory of it.

“Pietro — he is Italian?”

Ciclope wanted to shake his head. If this was the measure of the new boss, maybe he and Pietro had best pack up and head south again. “Of course he is Italian. We are from Venice, you know.”

“Of course, of course,” the stranger quickly replied. “It’s just that you will need to blend in with these Germans, you see.”

Pietro spoke up in German. “Never fear, boss. I was raised in Graubünden, at the east end of the Swiss lands, so my Deutsch is as good as anyone’s.”

Ciclope chuckled. “If they speak Schwietzerdietsch, at any rate.” That part of Switzerland had a very distinct dialect.

The stranger shrugged. “So long as nobody thinks he’s Italian. And what about you?”

“Lower Saxony,” Ciclope said. “Dresden, to be exact.”

“Oh.” The stranger hesitated. Ciclope could guess why, given the news that had been circulating when they finally arrived in Magdeburg. Baner’s army marching on the Saxon city had everyone talking.

“And no, I have no kin left there, and it would not matter if I did, as they all washed their hands of me when I left twenty years ago.”

“Oh.” The stranger brightened. “Well enough, then.” He looked around furtively. “The reason why I brought you here . . .”

Finally, Ciclope thought.

“One of the building projects going on here in Magdeburg. I want you to hire on with the builder, and . . . keep him from succeeding.”

“What do you mean?”

The stranger leaned forward over the table. “I do not care what you do, but I want that project to fail, quickly and spectacularly. I want the people involved in the project to suffer, and their reputations to be ruined.”

“Does it matter if we hurt anyone?” Ciclope asked.

“Feel free.”

Ciclope and Pietro looked at each other, and identical smiles appeared on their faces.

****

          Logau wiped his pen’s nib with a very stained cloth and set the pen aside with care. He leaned forward over the desk and pinched the bridge of his nose. Done. Finally. Opening his eyes, he lowered his hand and picked up the page in front of him, careful to not smudge the ink.

Do You Hear the People Sing, translated into Das Lied des Völks. And done in three days. Once Logau had arrived at his room and pulled Frau Linder’s page from his pocket, he had been drawn into the work of translating the song, staring at the paper and alternating scribbling in a frenzy, balling pages up and throwing them over his shoulder, and staring at the wall with unfocused eyes. He knew he had thrown himself on his bed to sleep for a few hours at least once. He thought he had eaten. Surely he had.

No matter. He was done. Now to get this to Frau Linder and see what she would make of it.

Logau threw on his coat, plucked up his walking stick and gathered his hat. Halfway out the door of his rooms, he remembered to go back for the paper.

****

          “Frau Linder!”

Marla stopped and turned to see Friedrich von Logau hurrying after her on the street. “Herr Logau,” she greeted him when he caught up to them. Franz nodded, which Logau returned in acknowledgment.

The poet looked a bit worn to Marla. Wisps of hair stuck out at odd angles from under his hat, his coat looked as if it had been slept in, and his stockings were sagging from his breeches, all of which was intensified by the dark bags under his eyes. The burning gaze he directed toward her spoke more of a fever, though.

“I am glad to find you so quickly,” Logau said. He reached into the breast of his coat and brought forth a page, which he presented to Marla with a bit of a flourish. She smiled at that. “Here is the translation you requested, Frau Linder. I believe that it will prove suitable. However,” he pulled the page back with a bit of a smile as she reached for it, “I have decided I do have a price for this after all.”

Marla looked at him with a small frown, wondering what he was after. “Very well, Herr Logau. State your price, if you will.”

“I have three non-negotiable demands. First, that you call me Friedrich. Logau sounds so stuffy, so . . . so pompous.”

Marla smiled at that. “I can do that. Second?”

“I want to be with you when you first practice this, to hear it in case I need to change something. The words flow well on the paper, but that does not mean they will do so when mated with the melody.”

“Agreed. And third?”

Logau gave her what could only be called an evil smile. “I want to be there when you sing this in public the first time.”

Marla heard Franz chuckling behind her as she returned smile for smile. She held out her hand. “Agreed and done.”

They shook hands, then she looped her hands through both men’s arms. “Come with us, Friedrich. I have to make a stop at the telegraph office, then we’ll go christen your words appropriately.”

They strode off down the street with Marla humming “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” Neither man understood why she started laughing after a few measures.

Chapter 19

A T & L TELEGRAPH

BEGIN: MBRG TO GVL

TO: HEATHER MASON

ADDR: TROMMLER RECORDS

FROM: MARLA LINDER

DATE: 18 DEC 1635

MESSAGE:

HAVE A ONE SONG SPECIAL YOU REALLY OUGHT TO BUY UP

WILL EITHER WRECK MY CAREER OR TOP THE CHARTS

ATWOOD COCHRAN WILL RECORD

YOU IN OR OUT

MARLA

END

****

A T & L TELEGRAPH

BEGIN: MBRG TO GVL

TO: ATWOOD COCHRAN

ADDR: LOOK IT UP

FROM: MARLA LINDER

DATE: 18 DEC 1635

MESSAGE:

YEAH THIS IS ONE GOOD CAUSE

PITCHED DEAL TO HEATHER AT TROMMLER

EXPECT THEY WILL BUY

RECORDING DATE SATURDAY JAN 19

THIS WILL BE THUMB IN THE EYE OF THE POWERS THAT BE

YOU IN OR OUT

MARLA

END

****

          Marla looked at the two telegrams the delivery boy had just left with her, and smiled.

The first one read:

A T & L TELEGRAPH

BEGIN: GVL TO MBRG

TO: FRAU MARLA LINDER

ADDR: SYLWESTERHAUS MAGDEBURG

FROM: ATWOOD COCHRAN

DATE: 19 DEC 1635

MESSAGE:

CANT PASS UP CHANCE TO JAB THUMB IN EYE

IN

WILL TAKE CUT OF TROMMLER DEAL

ATWOOD

END

And the second:

A T & L TELEGRAPH

BEGIN: GVL TO MBRG

TO: FRAU MARLA LINDER

ADDR: SYLWESTERHAUS MAGDEBURG

FROM: HM AT TROMMLER RECORDS

DATE: 19 DEC 1635

MESSAGE:

WE ARE IN

SEND DETAILS ASAP FOR CONTRACT

HEATHER

END

She looked up at her husband.

“You are really going to do this.” Franz didn’t ask a question. He knew who he was talking to; he made a statement.

“Uh-huh.” Marla wrapped her arms around herself. She felt cold all of a sudden.

Franz said nothing more, but wrapped his own arms around her. She nestled in his embrace, and drew strength from him.

 

 

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Comments

8 Responses to 1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 32

  1. Stanley Leghorn says:

    A pity we already know who wins, it lowers the tension a bit. They need to print copies and ship them out across the parts of the USE that Ox does not control.

  2. Zak Ryerson says:

    “The Pros From Dover” ?!?

    I can not recall if that was in The Movie vesion of M*A*S*H.
    It is in The Original Book.

    In the book it is stated that Hawkeye Pierce cadge free rounds of golf by claiming to be “The Pro From Dover”, and, when necessary adding more information.

    GIVEN THE ABOVE:

    Will there be some “uptimer ” who is involved in this plot?

    • Good question, Zak. It was George Schmidt, a downtimer, who sent for Ciclope and Pietro, and his secretary, Stephen Burkhardt, was also a downtimer. So who might the uptimer be? It will be interesting to find out.

      It is also conceivable, albeit it seems unlikely, that Schmidt or Burkhardt might have read MASH.

  3. Gil Norton says:

    The explanation of the “Pro from Dover” is, as you say, in the book. In the movie Trapper announced to the CO at the hospital in Japan when they showed up to operate on a Senator’s son. “We’re the Pros from Dover, and we aim to crack this kid’s chest and be on the golf course by early afternoon.” (or words to that effect). There was no explanation in the film. Only those of us who read the book enjoyed the reference.

    • Stewart says:

      Actually I do remember the original movie had Trapper John use that phrase 1 time in the hospital in Japan.
      It’s been a few years since I last saw the movie, but I have a copy to check if it is really needed.

      — Stewart

  4. Tweeky says:

    Well the translation has been completed and I suspect that very soon Oxenstierna is going to get a case of serious heartburn.

    It looks like the two hitmen aren’t there to actually kill someone but to sabotage the building project (I get the feeling that they’re going to get caught in the end) and it looks like that the two of them enjoy hurting people which doesn’t bode well.

  5. Bequimão says:

    Sorry,
    “Das Lied des Völks” or “Völk” doesn’t exist. Very bad, indeed. It should be “Volkslied”.

    Best regards,
    Bequimão

    • zakryerson says:

      Is your comment on the order of Harlan Ellison having his “Who’s Who” listin state “Army of The United States (becuse he was a draftee).
      An my statement that if I could ever get someone to make me a 1970’s _Olive Drab_ * Kippah, I Would have the Hebrew letters af Sadik, Resh, Aleph Bet under my NAme in Hebrew because _I Enlisted_ ?

      * NOTE: Cammo would be incorrect.

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