1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 51
“That’s not exactly what I imagined when you said ‘cab’.”
“Heavy wagon, light wagon, large cart, small cart, everyone just calls them ‘cabs’,” Franz said. “Something we picked up from you up-timers.”
“As long as it saves my feet and gets me and my duffle where I want to go faster than walking, you could call it a Range Rover for all I care,” the music teacher said as he carefully placed his case on the floor of the cart. After he clambered in, he kept the case between his two feet.
Franz tossed the other bag into the cart, then climbed up to sit opposite Atwood.
“Where to, Mac?” the cab driver tossed over his shoulder in understandable English.
“9 Musikstrasse. Sylwesterhaus.”
“Got it. We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
With that the driver shook the reins and clucked to the pony, which leaned into his collar and harness to start the cart rolling with a lurch.
Atwood wasted no time in asking the question that Franz expected to hear from him. “So, how are things with Marla?”
Since Atwood was one of Marla’s long acquaintances, Franz didn’t brush him off with a perfunctory response. “We were very worried about her for some time after we lost the baby, but now she is almost her old self again. Some days are better than others, of course,” he shrugged, “and she is still a bit . . . fragile, you might say. But all things considered, and by the grace of God, she is doing well.”
“Good,” Atwood said quietly. “That’s good to hear.”
They rode in silence, surrounded by the noise of Greater Magdeburg as the driver directed his pony through the crowded streets with skill, a certain amount of panache, and a great deal of vulgarity of tongue which he unleashed on anyone who even looked as if they might get in his way.
Atwood laughed again. “He reminds me of the cabbie I got in my last trip to New York City. I guess they’re a universal breed.”
Franz chuckled. “That may well be. I know they sprang from the ground almost immediately in the greater city, rather like Mayor Gericke had sown dragon’s teeth in the lands round about.”
Atwood leaned forward, elbows on knees. “So, enough chit-chat. What’s this all about?”
Typical up-timer bluntness, Franz thought to himself. No dancing around a topic with this man.
“It is Marla’s idea, and she has seized upon it with a passion as strong as any I have ever seen from her.”
The up-timer’s eyebrows rose and his lips pursed for a moment before he spoke.
“That would be saying something, I believe. Ever since I’ve known her, that girl could be so single-minded at times she would border on obsession.”
“Obsession.” Franz turned that word around and around in his mind. “I would judge she is not obsessed . . . yet.” He shrugged again. “But single-minded? Oh, yes.”
“She didn’t tell me in the telegrams what she was planning on performing.”
Franz felt a wry smile cross his face. “She has decided to sing Do You Hear the People Sing?” He paused for a moment. “In German, mind you.”
Atwood sat back. “From Les Miserables?”
Franz nodded again.
“Does she realize what she’s letting herself in for, especially right now?”
Franz couldn’t help it; he burst out laughing. After a few moments, he sobered again. “Ah, friend Atwood, that is the question everyone asks. And the answer is, yes, she understands what the consequences could be. But that is part of what is driving her, you see, the fact that such consequences are even possible.”
“Hmm.” Atwood crossed his arms and thought for a moment. “Okay, I can see that. And I understand her telegrams a little better now. So it’s damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead, huh?”
Franz didn’t understand the full import of Atwood’s allusion, but he got the general idea. “Indeed. In two nights at the Green Horse Tavern, Marla intends to cause a turmoil in the city, in the province, and even unto the entire USE.”
“All right,” Atwood said as the cabbie pulled the pony to a stop in front of Franz’s house. “I’ve come all this way; I’ll see it through.”
They swung down from the back of the cart. Franz hung back to pay the driver as the door to the house swung open and Marla stepped through to greet her friend and erstwhile teacher.
“Freeze!” Honister snapped. The watch patrolman stopped in surprise, his fingers but a fraction of an inch from picking up the white object that had attracted his attention. “Stand up and back away.”
Honister looked around for a moment. “Herr Frost! Over here, please,”
Dan was at his side in a moment. “What is it, Karl?”
Honister just pointed at the ground in front of him, and what was sitting in the shelter of several bits of charcoaled timber.
“Son of a . . .” Dan breathed after a pause. “Good catch, Karl. Now, get the photographer over here. I want pictures before we even think about touching anything.”
The photographer stepped through the ashes, and after judging the light began taking pictures of the evidence.
“So did I see what I think I saw?” Karl asked Dan in a low tone as they watched the photographer.
“I’m afraid so. It appears I may have been wrong.”