1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 10
In short, the perfect right-hand man for him. David could hire Heinz as his own employee and call him a sub-contractor for the army. No one would squawk since his salary wasn’t coming out of the military’s budget but David’s own pocket.
Which was now deep, deep, deep. David took a great deal of pride in the uniform he wore and the contribution he was making to the war effort. The actual salary he got as a major he contributed to the soldiers’ widows and orphans fund, since he hardly needed it himself. He’d already made a fortune in the stock market and expected to continue doing so indefinitely.
And after the war… If Heinz worked out as his quartermaster’s assistant, he’d surely have a place for him in one or another of his civilian enterprises.
David finished his beer, paid for it, and left the tavern. By the time he got out on the street, Böcler was no longer in sight, but David wasn’t concerned. He started walking in the direction Böcler had been going when last he saw him, listening for the sound of an earnest voice engaged in bargaining.
He’d find him soon enough. If Johann Heinrich’s parents had been Puritans instead of Lutherans, they have named him something like Reliable in the Eyes of the Lord Böcler. Or Prudence or Patience, if he’d been a girl.
Late that day, Bonnie Weaver dropped by Rita and Tom’s apartment.
“Have you seen Heinz?” she asked. “I’ve been looking for him all afternoon.”
Without waiting for an invitation, she pulled out a chair and sat down at the kitchen table. There was just enough room for her because Tom had left a couple of hours ago to deal with an issue involving the artillery train. He and his men would be marching out of Regensburg themselves the next day to join the campaign against the Bavarians.
Rita occupied her usual seat by the window — the very tiny window with a very distorted glass pane, which didn’t do much except let in some sunlight and not much of that — and Julie was sitting across from her trying to keep Alexi from fidgeting, as thankless a task as it ever was with energetic three-year-olds.
Bonnie immediately relieved her of that burden. “Here, let her play with this,” she said. She dug into her purse and came out with a top in her hand. The toy was made of wood and was larger than most up-time versions would have been. But the biggest difference was the carving — it almost looked like a work of art.
Alexi’s attention was immediately riveted and her hands stretched out as if driven by instinct. She already knew how to use a top so no instruction was necessary. Five seconds later she was happily contemplating the joys and delights of the laws of motion.
“Bless you, Bonnie,” said Julie. “I was at the point where I was either going to have to take her home or — or –”
“Don’t say it! Strangulation is really not an option, as tempting as it might sometimes be.”
“Would you like some coffee?” Rita asked. “I can make some.”
Bonnie gave her a look full of doubt and suspicion. “Are we talking actual coffee?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Didn’t think so. No, thanks.” She turned toward Julie. “I’m curious, though — you’ve been living in Grantville ever since you got back from Scotland, Julie. What’s the coffee situation back home, these days?”
“Sucky. You can get it, usually, but it’s always expensive as hell and the quality’s pretty unpredictable.”
“Where’s it coming from? Turkey?”
“Most of it’s brought in by Italian merchants. I think they buy it from somewhere in the Ottoman Empire, but someone told me most of the coffee is actually grown further south. Yemen and I think Ethiopia, too.” Julie’s expression darkened. “God knows what it gets cut with along the way, though. I’ve had some so-called ‘coffee’ that I don’t want to think where it actually came from or what was really in it.”
“How long are you planning to stay here in Regensburg?”
Julie shrugged. “As long as Alex is campaigning in Bavaria, I figure. He’ll be close enough I might get to see him from time to time. When he was off in Poland it was hopeless so I just stayed home. In Grantville, I’ve got ready-made babysitters of the best persuasion.”
Rita and Bonnie both grinned. “Grandparents,” said Rita. “And — lucky you — one of them’s a dentist so you don’t have to worry about that either.”
“The best medical care’s still in Grantville, too,” Julie said. “Even with Dr. Nichols living up in Magdeburg now. For a woman with a child in the Year 1636 in our plague-and-typhoid-fever-not-to-mention-diphtheria-infested brave new world, that’s a load off.”
“Regensburg’s not too bad that way,” Bonnie said, a bit defensively.
Rita nodded. “It’s pretty good, actually. The sanitation practices are up to Magdeburg standards, anyway. A lot of that’s the army’s influence.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s part of the reason I decided to move down here.”
Bonnie cocked her head slightly. “Did you bring your rifle?”
“Yeah, sure. I don’t go much of anywhere without it. But I doubt very much if it’ll ever come out of the case unless I go hunting.” Julie got a pious look on her face. “My days imitating Annie Oakley are over, dammit.”
The expression got a bit haunted. “Scotland was… enough.”
The sounds of someone entering the apartment filtered into the kitchen.
“We’re back here!” Rita half-shouted.
Böcler came into the room.
“There you are!” said Bonnie. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
Heinz had a peculiar expression on his face. “I was meeting with David Bartley. For a while. Then I decided it would be most appropriate to do this the up-time way — I asked David how it was done — and I’ve spent the past two hours negotiating with Herr Sommer.”
“The jeweler?” asked Bonnie, frowning. “Why does the army need a jeweler?”
Heinz shook his head. “Not the army. Me.” He took a slow, deep breath. “I have a new employer. Herr Bartley. The offer came with a large — very large — increase in remuneration. So…”
He looked around, leaned over, and gently nudged Alexi to the side. The girl was so intent on her spinning top that she didn’t even seem to notice.
“Herr Bartley tells me one knee is correct. If he is not right, blame him, not me — but not to his face. I do not want to lose the job.”
He got down on one knee, reached into a pocket of his coat, and drew out an ornate little wooden box. Then, got a look of consternation on his face.
“I forgot to ask. I am not certain which one of us is supposed to open it.”
He offered the box to Bonnie.
She stared at it. “Holy shit.” Then, smiled very widely. “If that’s what I think it is, Heinz, the answer’s yes.”
“And boy are you in a world of hurt, if it’s not,” said Rita, smiling widely herself.
When Bonnie opened the box, her smile widened still further. It threatened to split her face, in fact.
“I recommend leaving the ‘holy shit’ part out of your report to your dad, though,” cautioned Rita. “I don’t think that’s technically blasphemy, but still…”