1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 29
“More than you might think, but we’ll give them a bargain anyway,” Hayley said. “Sell boat passes that are good for a month for twenty-five pfennig each, or even twenty.”
“Or you could do it like some of the bus companies did up-time,” Frau Fortney said. “Sell tickets and give your boatman a paper punch. The ticket has however many circles or boxes printed on it. Each time they ride, the captain or someone punches out a circle or box on the pass. When they’re all used up, they have to buy a new ticket.”
Herr Pfeifer wasn’t sure what they were talking about, but decided to let it ride for now. “However they pay, it costs money to run a barge on the river.”
“Sure, but not that much,” said the young girl. “Put in seats and maybe an awning to keep people dry when it rains. There are around a hundred people who come out here every day, working on the track. Fifty people per trip and four trips a day — two here, two back. That’s two hundred tickets at a half pfennig per head . . . a hundred pfennig a day, every day. A bit over a reichsthaler every three days, gross. Your boatman will get a couple of groschen a day and there will be docking fees . . . but even with the cost of the boat and steam engine amortized in, you should make a decent regular profit. Not a great big profit, but a steady one.” Two groschen a day was fair pay for a worker. It was what the day laborers at the race track were getting. But the surprising thing for Hayley — all of the girls, for that matter — was what a groschen would buy. There were twelve pfennig to a groschen. In Grantville or Magdeburg a pfennig was about equal to a quarter, but you could buy a small loaf of bread, about half a pound, for a pfennig in Vienna. Gayleen Sanderlin had said several times that it was like the prices in Mexico, back up-time.
By the end of their conversation, several things had happened. One was that Jakusch Pfeifer got his name shortened to Jack. He also figured out that Hayley Fortney was actually running things, not Frau Fortney acting for her husband. Perhaps more importantly, he was smart enough to guess some of the reasons for the subterfuge and to keep the secret. Jack became the lawyer for the Sanderlin-Fortney Investment Company and Jack’s family got in on the ground floor of the Vienna ferry business.
Annemarie reported two days later, when she had her contact, that the Sanderlins were going to try to build a canal to the race track. She didn’t report that it was the women arranging it. She just assumed that they were acting on instructions from their husbands.
It took Bernhard Moser an extra couple of days to report the development. Not because of any incompetence on his part, but simply because he was working out at the shop and it had taken a couple of days for the news to come up in conversation.
“They seem harmless enough,” Bernhard told his contact. “Even the canal they want to build seems to mostly be about giving people work.”
“And who’s going to pay for the work?” his contact asked. “That money’s got to come from somewhere and I don’t see where.”
“Neither do I,” Bernhard acknowledged. “Then again, I’m not an up-timer.”
It wasn’t a really satisfying meeting. Not because Bernhard had been unable to get the information. About the only thing he had missed was that Hayley Fortney was the one in charge. He’d even figured out that it was the women running things. Mostly that was by the process of elimination, because he couldn’t see Ron Sanderlin — or either of the other two men — running a business. But Hayley Fortney was just a teenaged girl. The idea that such a person could be able, much less trusted, to manage large sums of money and major projects was so ridiculous that it never even occurred to him. As well to think it was all being run by Brandon’s chickens.
Magdeburg, United States of Europe
Francisco Nasi brought up the next report. He’d already read it, of course, so all he needed to do was give the contents a quick scan to refresh his memory.
“This is from our correspondent in Austria.”
Mike Stearns got a crooked little smile on his face. “‘Correspondent.’ Sounds so much nicer than ‘spy.’ I assume we’re talking about Sonny Fortney, right? Or is that ‘need to know’ and I don’t?”
Nasi pursed his lips. “Interesting protocol issue, actually. Since you’re the head of government, I suppose you technically need to know everything. In any event, you’re my employer, so if you tell me you need to know I’ll take your word for it.”
Mike shook his head. “I’m not sure how that worked back up-time. At a guess, judging from the screw-ups, the CIA and the other spook outfits didn’t tell the U.S. president more than half of what they should have. In our case…”
He pondered the problem, for a moment. “I’ll take your word for it, whether I need to know something or not. Just make sure you let me know there’s something I might or might not need to know in the first place. If the grammar of that sentence doesn’t have you writhing in agony.”
Nasi smiled. “In this case, as it happens, Sonny really is more in the way of a correspondent than a spy. He does report to me — as I’m sure the Austrians have already figured out — but I don’t have him creeping around listening at keyholes or peeping into windows.”
“For that, I assume you have other people. Call them ‘real spies.'”
“I don’t believe you need to know that, Prime Minister.”
“Spoilsport. So what’s happening in Austria?”
“To summarize… The Austrians are adjusting to the American presence. More slowly and with greater difficulty than they should, of course, but they’re doing better than I expected.”
He set down the report. “But it’s very early days — and now we have a new emperor. Ferdinand III will be one mainly setting the tone and the pace.”