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Grantville Gazette .Volume XXIII

Eric Flint


Eric Flint

Grantville Gazette .Volume XXIII

What is this? About the Grantville Gazette

Written by Grantville Gazette Staff

The Grantville Gazette originated as a by-product of the ongoing and very active discussions which take place concerning the 1632 universe Eric Flint created in the novels 1632, 1633 and 1634: The Galileo Affair (the latter two books co-authored by David Weber and Andrew Dennis, respectively). This discussion is centered in three of the conferences in Baen's Bar, the discussion area of Baen Books' web site. The conferences are entitled "1632 Slush," "1632 Slush Comments" and "1632 Tech Manual." They have been in operation for almost seven years now, during which time nearly two hundred thousand posts have been made by hundreds of participants.

Soon enough, the discussion began generating so-called "fanfic," stories written in the setting by fans of the series. A number of those were good enough to be published professionally. And, indeed, a number of them were-as part of the anthology Ring of Fire, which was published by Baen Books in January, 2004. (Ring of Fire also includes stories written by established authors such as Eric Flint himself, as well as David Weber, Mercedes Lackey, Dave Freer, K.D. Wentworth and S.L. Viehl.)

The decision to publish the Ring of Fire anthology triggered the writing of still more fanfic, even after submissions to the anthology were closed. Ring of Fire has been selling quite well since it came out, and a second anthology similar to it was published late in 2007. Another, Ring of Fire III, is forthcoming. It will also contain stories written by new writers, as well as professionals. But, in the meantime… the fanfic kept getting written, and people kept nudging Eric-well, pestering Eric-to give them feedback on their stories.

Hence… the Grantville Gazette. Once he realized how many stories were being written-a number of them of publishable quality-he raised with Jim Baen the idea of producing an online magazine which would pay for fiction and nonfiction articles set in the 1632 universe and would be sold through Baen Books' Webscriptions service. Jim was willing to try it, to see what happened.

As it turned out, the first issue of the electronic magazine sold well enough to make continuing the magazine a financially self-sustaining operation. Since then, even more volumes have been electronically published through the Baen Webscriptions site. As well, Grantville Gazette, Volume One was published in paperback in November of 2004. That has since been followed by hardcover editions of Grantville Gazette, Volumes Two, Three and Four.

Then, two big steps:

First: The magazine had been paying semi-pro rates for the electronic edition, increasing to pro rates upon transition to paper, but one of Eric's goals had long been to increase payments to the authors. Grantville Gazette, Volume Eleven is the first volume to pay the authors professional rates.

Second: This on-line version you're reading. The site here at http://www. grantvillegazette. com is the electronic version of an ARC, an advance readers copy where you can read the issues as we assemble them. There are stories posted here which won't be coming out in the magazine for more than a year.

How will it work out? Will we be able to continue at this rate? Well, we don't know. That's up to the readers. But we'll be here, continuing the saga, the soap opera, the drama and the comedy just as long as people are willing to read them.

– The Grantville Gazette Staff

Loose Canon

Kirt Lee

The insistent man at the rectory door turned out to be George Andrews, Magistrate, so Bartholomew set aside his complaints about the late hour, lit a candle, and opened the door.

"Good evening, Bartholomew."

"And good evening to you as well, George. What brings you about at such a late hour. Something official?"

"Not at the moment, Reverend. Officially, I'm not here at all until morning. Late morning, I should guess."

That was a rather strange statement for George, who was usually quite straightforward. "I see. And upon what business will you be calling, if I may ask?"

"It would seem that I am to take you into custody for transfer to the Old Bailey in London."

Stranger and stranger. "Old Bailey? London? That seems a bit of a bother for a minor Non-Conformist like myself. By whose order?"

"By order of the king himself, it would appear. A messenger arrived with the papers just before nightfall. And a nice set of documents they are, too. Wax seals. Quality paper. The best handwriting. Bound in red tape. All very proper looking."

Bartholomew was taken aback… to say the very least. "Well, I do seem to have come up in the world a bit."

"More than you know. It would seem that His Majesty has a notion that you plot schism."

"Schism? That is preposterous, and you know it, George! Or should."

"Oh, I've little doubt of it, Reverend, but tell it to that messenger. The fellow became quite chatty after his fourth or fifth pint. It would seem there's a larger roundup in progress. Can't say as I have heard some of the names he mentioned, though I do seem to recall the Cromwell fellow in connection with that business about the fens a while back. The messenger seemed to think that some of them were bound for the tower. Alas, I am afraid it's the Old Bailey for you, though. I should not expect us too early, however. The messenger insists on being present himself. The man can certainly put it away, when drinking on someone else's coin. I left him in the care of Old Hollow-Legged Harry, at the inn. That should keep him busy."

"What should I pack for the Bailey?" said Bartholomew's ever-practical wife.

"I would rather your husband were not here at all when we arrive, Anne. Given the messenger's demeanor, I shouldn't be surprised if Bartholomew arrived at London in less than pristine condition. Oh, and the man may be rather disappointed at not being able to take your son John into custody with you."

"What son John? I've no children."

"True, but he insists we take John as well. He was quite adamant on that point. John is named in the papers quite clearly."

Bartholomew considered that for a moment, before realizing that. .. "Oh, how preposterous. Is this about that Thuringian business? What was the name of that place? Grantburg? Grant town? Something like that. Simply preposterous."

"Thuringian business? Preposterous or not, I'd not care to have that fellow escorting me to the Bailey. He brought his own shackles, if you please. Quite fond of them, too, the way he caresses them. It's a long trip, Reverend, and there are more like him at the other end. The man seemed positively crestfallen when I told him you would never put up a fuss over surrendering. That is not to mention the Bailey's involuntary residents with their various maladies of body and soul. I do hope you will be off visiting in the morning. Perhaps we can arrive to learn that you have left for Amsterdam or some such, and we missed you."

"Should I pack for Amsterdam, husband? It might be best to travel light, under the circumstances." Anne had her faraway "making a list" look.

"You'll find friends in Amsterdam, Bartholomew. Perhaps I can find someone to remember that you have gone to London," offered George. "I think I can manage that. Last week might be best."

Bartholomew surrendered. "Pack for Amsterdam, wife."

***

As luck would have it, they got to Amsterdam before the siege began… if you can call that luck.

As ever, the city enjoyed no lack of ministers, and of many sorts. Doctors were in shorter supply. Bartholomew was an experienced physician, so if he could not serve God in one way, then he would serve Him in another. Anne practiced midwifery, like the good wife of a man both minister and physician.

There was dysentery in this part of the lines. Bartholomew followed his nose, and found the reason easily enough, if the Grantville woman could be credited. He sought out the responsible officer.

"You are aware of the orders regarding latrines, Captain?"

"We've enough holes in the ground."

"You've not, nor are they deep enough." Bartholomew raised his walking stick, and pointed to a mark on it. "This is the proper depth. Did not your father see to your learning of letters, Captain? If not, I can read to you the orders regarding latrines."

"Did your father see to your instruction in the use of shovels, Reverend Doctor? If so, I can offer one."

Bartholomew exploded. The captain erupted. Volleys were exchanged. A truce was signed. Bartholomew found himself supervising some disfavored soldiers in the use of shovels. His insistence regarding the mark on his walking stick caused some surliness. That ended, or at least quieted, when Bartholomew used the stick in its second office, knocking a soldier into his own inadequate excavation.

He made a mental note to come back on the morrow to see that his instructions were followed regarding the usage of the resulting trenches. It had become routine. This lot was new to the lines, or slow to learn, or both. He would next begin on the subject of boiled drinking water. Bathing and laundry might take longer. It was tedious, but satisfying work, befitting Bartholomew's temperament.

The captain had not yielded, however, to Bartholomew's insistence on some kind of screen round the latrine for modesty. He pled nothing with which to construct it. Bartholomew had not expected that victory. He seldom won that one, but it was handy to have some ground to yield.

It had been bad enough, early on. Amputations. Torn flesh. Gut shots. Powder burns. Final prayers. They were all within his training. Then, things had settled down, and Bartholomew faced the inevitable diseases. That was worse. But there was not as much disease as there might have been. The reason for that was the Jefferson woman, Anne, of Grantville.

Like many others, Bartholomew had been outraged by a woman who practiced medicine. Only the very poor or truly desperate had gone to her at first. The rest had learned, soon enough, that she knew her business-and her limits. It was said that among her own people, she did not even qualify as a doctor. A queer folk, these Grantvillers. It was even said that one of their women was an ordained minister, if such a tale could be credited.

"It was said." Bartholomew did not seek that knowledge at first hand. It was not a woman's place to instruct men, so he learned at second hand, from men less fastidious. Much was also said about the famous books that had caused so much trouble, but nothing that told Bartholomew why the king would single out this particular Non-Conformist minister. He hadn't asked, but meant to find out, soon enough.

The siege was easing now. People came and went through the Spanish lines. Bartholomew turned and began walking to the rooms where he and his wife had lived these many months. It would soon be safe enough to leave. He would have his answers in Grantville. He would go to their library, read their books, and by all that was sacred, he would have his answers. What he would do then, he could not say. He would study their medicine and preach, he supposed.

***

The young lady behind the desk had a helpful, efficient manner. She was also busy, so Bartholomew had to wait his turn, which did not take long.

"How may I help you?" she asked.

"I would like to read theology," Bartholomew replied. "English Non-Conformism."

"There's quite a bit of call for that," she said. "Especially considering the role it played in the English Civil War. The one that hasn't happened yet, I mean. Maybe it won't. Was there any aspect in particular you are interested in?"

Bartholomew considered a moment. "I should like to read about theologians, please."

"Start with the encyclopedias," she suggested. "There's a waiting list. Do you know how to use them?"

It took Bartholomew some time to get the correct volume, but once he had it, it took only seconds to find his own name. It did not take much longer to learn why he had had to flee his home in the middle of the night. He was pleased with how well he controlled his temper. His research continued for days. He was amused to find that he was remembered as a man who was "plain spoken."

It was no more than the truth, as his wife could attest.

***

Bartholomew had intended to begin preaching from a street corner on Sunday morning. He had one picked out. He nearly changed his mind on that, but finally kept to that plan, although with a small detour: He first took Anne to a church. He had wanted to arrive early so as to get a good seat, but decided to wait until just before the service to avoid friendly questions.

Music began. The congregation fell silent. A woman approached the pulpit, in the garb of a minister, just as he had been told she would. Anne started as Bartholomew stood and marched up the aisle. Unsurprisingly, such behavior was not unheard of here. Others had come to this church for ax grinding purposes. Two men in the front pews stood up and faced him, blocking his way.

That was fine. Bartholomew stopped just short of them, never taking his eyes off the woman. There was muttering and rustling in the pews behind and to the sides. Assuming his best "fire and brimstone" voice, he positively boomed.

"I am Bartholomew Wesley, madam. Perhaps you've heard the name."

Silence fell. So did "Reverend" Mary Ellen Jones's jaw. Bartholomew savored the moment, paused for effect, then continued.

"I see you have. Don't worry. I shan't be staying long. I merely wished to drop in and clarify the record."

Reverend Jones's eyebrows shot up, though her jaw remained slack. Bartholomew pressed on. "I wish it to be known that no Wesley of my family, not me, not my yet unborn son John, nor his yet unborn son Samuell, nor his yet unborn sons, John and Charles, would ever countenance the ordination of a woman to preach the gospel."

He paused again, then said, "Good day to you."

Somewhere in the pews, a woman said, "Amen!" That would be Veda Mae Haggerty. Every person in town knew her thoughts. So did every cat. And dog. And… well, everyone.

Bartholomew turned and addressed the congregation. "And if any of you wish to hear a true Wesley sermon, delivered by a true Wesley, great-grandfather of this church's very founders, you'll find it just outside those doors." He pointed at those doors, then added, "Now."

He then took his wife's hand, and went out those doors.

Many Ellen recovered enough to briefly reflect on how pissed her husband, Reverend Simon Jones, would be to have missed this. Then she recovered enough to be glad he was not here. If she was ever to be accepted as a minister in her own right in this time and place, then she had to handle this herself. Looked at this way, one might almost wonder if a divine hand had reached out and offered this opportunity. She looked heavenward to ask for strength, and immediately knew what she must do.

Assuming her own pulpit voice, the Reverend Mrs. Jones placed her hands on her hips and spoke.

"Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I have no intention of missing a genuine Wesley sermon, delivered by a genuine Wesley."

And with that, she followed Bartholomew out those same doors.

***

Game, Set and Match

Kim Mackey

London

When George Goring entered the study, his father-in-law was seated behind his desk and focused on the paperwork in front of him.

George waited a few seconds and then cleared his throat.

Richard Boyle, Earl of Corke, and now the King's chief Minister in all but name, looked up and smiled at him.

"George, so good of you to come on such short notice. How is Lettice?"

George cleared his throat again. Damn it, stop being nervous. Yes, Richard Boyle has power now to go along with his riches. But you've treated Lettice well. Mostly. "As well as can be expected, Your Lordship, given her health. She is off to Bath again with her cousin, Joan Gwyn."

"Ah," Boyle said. "And Grey Brown?"

George winced. In 1631, he had become bored with life on the Boyle estates in Ireland and had borrowed two thousand pounds. Then ridden off to seek adventure in Scotland and England, leaving his new wife in her father's care. The choice grey gelding he left with had been called Grey Brown.

"Very well, Your Lordship. I have him quartered here in London."

"Excellent!"

Boyle's look turned speculative.

"You know, George, my new secretary, Edward Hyde, speaks very highly of you."

"He does?"

Boyle smiled. "Oh yes. He says you have wit, courage, understanding… and ambition uncontrolled by fear of God or man." Boyle picked up the letter opener on his desk and began to twirl it on his fingers. "He also thinks you excel in dissimulation."

"I assure you, My Lord…"

Boyle sliced the letter opener through the air.

George's throat constricted.

Boyle laughed. "Relax, George. I didn't ask you here to make an example of you. Instead, I have a proposition for you." Boyle motioned Goring to sit.

George sat down heavily. "A proposition, your Lordship?"

"Indeed," Boyle said. "You've met Arthur Jones, the new Viscount Ranelagh?"

George nodded. "Of course, sir."

Arthur Jones, Viscount Ranelagh since his father's death by the outbreak of plague that had struck the city of London in 1633, was the husband of Boyle's fifth daughter, Katherine. Jones had become the butt of many jokes when his wife had gone on an extended trip to Grantville in 1632 with friends she had made among the Acontian society in London.

Without him, and without his permission.

Few blamed Katherine herself. As John Leek had told George, Jones was considered one of the foulest churls in Christendom whose best point for Katherine would have been that he was dead drunk every night and thus not awake to beat or abuse her.

"I've met him, Your Lordship, but we do not, uh, move in the same circles."

"Tactfully put, George. Tactfully put." Boyle considered George for a moment, then sat back in his chair. "George, have you ever read Fenton's translation of Guicciardini's History of Italy?"

"No, sir, I can't say that I have."

"You should, George. You should. He makes some very astute observations about political conditions that are relevant to England. For example, Fortune is a very fickle goddess, George. But men of virtue, such as myself, can always find ways to turn her intervention to advantage."

George shook his head. Where was Boyle going with this?

"Arthur, Viscount Ranelagh, has decided to attempt a reconciliation with Katherine."

"Really, Your Lordship? Arthur is going to Grantville?"

Boyle shook his head. "Not Grantville, Brussels. That is where my Katy is now. Assisting the Secretary of State of the Republic of Essen in negotiating a treaty with Fernando's Netherlands." Boyle begin playing with the letter opener again. "Katy and I have been in contact for some time. In fact, my youngest son, Robert, is visiting her right now. Although I believe he is still in Essen at the moment."

"Brussels," George said. "I have a number of contacts in Brussels."

Boyle smiled. "Exactly!"

"You want me to accompany Arthur to Brussels? Assist him in his attempt to reconcile with Katherine?"

Boyle's smile broadened. "Indeed. And I would be grateful, George. Are you still interested in one of Lord Tilbury's regiments? I think I can get you a troop of horse cavalry. Should be worth at least three thousand pounds a year."

George nodded. "That is very generous, Your Lordship."

"Worth it to me, George, especially if you can act as a mediator between Katy and Arthur. Not that I hold out that much hope for a reconciliation, you understand. Kate seems happy with her position, and Arthur seemed somewhat rigid in his own thoughts on the matter."

"I understand, sir. I will do my best to persuade Katherine to return to England with Arthur."

Boyle's smile turned grim, and he shook his head. "Oh no, George, that would not do, not at all."

George cocked his head. "Sir?"

"England, George, think of England. Kate has made many excellent contacts in Essen. She knows the governor general, Louis de Geer, who is a personal friend of the emperor, Gustavus Adolphus. Her closest friend, the up-timer Nicki Jo Prickett, is the principal research scientist for the Essen chemical company. And the Prickett woman has taken an interest in educating my son, Robert."

"Why is that, sir?"

"Apparently, in the other universe from which God delivered Grantville, Robert was the most well-known of any of my children. In fact, he was considered the father of modern chemistry there."

"So what do you want me to do in Brussels, Your Lordship?"

"Try to keep Arthur from making an ass of himself-and a fool of me-if you can. If Arthur agrees to join Katy in Essen, that would be best. But in the end, if necessary, it would be much better if Katy was a widow." Boyle looked into Goring's face. "Don't you agree?"

George nodded. Now the light was finally dawning. "Of course, sir. I agree completely."

Coudenberg Palace, Brussels

It was only after their second bout of lovemaking that Fernando and Maria Anna began their usual pillow talk.

"I missed you," Maria Anna said.

"And I missed you, my love," Fernando said. "But it was only eight days, after all."

"Only eight…" Maria Anna's head came off Fernando's chest. "Why, I'll…"

Fernando laughed. "Just kidding, my dear, just kidding."

"You better be," Maria Anna said. She pinched him and Fernando yelped.

"So tell me about your trip," she said, settling her head back down on Fernando's chest. "Were the Portuguese bankers in Antwerp more accommodating this time?"

"Oh, yes, much more accommodating," Fernando said. "They also seemed interested in sounding out our position on Brazil. A number of the merchants want to start mining gold in the Minas Gerais area."

"Gold? In Brazil? I thought rubber and sugar were the most important products in Brazil."

"They probably are," Fernando said. " But once again, it's information from Grantville that is driving up interest. The merchants in Antwerp have discovered that a thousand tons of gold were taken out of Brazil in the late seventeenth and on into the eighteen century in the up-time universe. Many of them want us to mount an expedition as soon as possible."

"Wonderful." Maria Anna sighed.

"And you?" Fernando said. "What did you do while I was away?"

"Meetings, meetings and more meetings," Maria Anna said. "At least the treaty with the Republic of Essen seems almost complete. Hainhoffer's assistant for technical matters, Katherine Boyle, has been very helpful. We've actually become quite close. I'm looking forward to meeting her friend."

"Friend?"

Maria Anna nodded. "Nicki Jo Prickett. An American. She's more our own age, unlike the women I was with on my trip across Germany. It will be interesting to see how her perspective differs from theirs. She's also bringing some up-time tennis racquets and tennis balls. I've had the court in the Warande garden redone to the same measurements as an up-time court." She smiled. "It's been fun to see how the sport evolved."

Fernando laughed. "You've been practicing, haven't you?"

"As well as I can. But the cork balls we use just don't give the same bounce as an up-time ball, according to Katherine. And you don't use the walls at all. But another reason I want to talk to Prickett is the company that she and Katherine want to establish in Brussels, with my help."

Fernando began stroking Maria Anna's hair. "What kind of company?"

"A cheese and chocolate factory."

"Cheese I can understand, I know you love cheese. But chocolate? I thought you hated chocolate."

"Only the kind I tasted in Vienna. It was very bitter. But Katherine assures me that the chocolate I tasted will bear very little resemblance to what 'Royal Maria Anna's Cheese and Chocolate Factory' will produce here in Brussels. After our tennis match on Thursday we will go to Essen House to sample some of their products. I'm looking forward to it."

"Perhaps I should come along."

Maria Anna laughed. "I don't think you'll have time. You'll be spending your hours soothing the feelings of the Brussels guilds about the Essen treaty."

Fernando growled. "They seem to have forgotten what Isabella and Albert did to them in 1619."

"I don't think you'll need to go that far. But they certainly don't feel the same way about us as they did the archdukes."

"Hmmm… 'Royal Maria Anna's Cheese and Chocolate Factory.' It does have a certain ring to it." Fernando's hand moved lower on her body. "But all this talk of food has made me hungry for something else."

"Fernando! Come here, you beast!"

Inn of the Silver Swine, Brussels

"Bitch! Harlot! Have you read this?" Arthur Jones thrust the letter across the table.

George shook his head, then pretended to read. "No, of course not." Ha! Not only have I read it, I helped compose it, you sniveling twit.

Three weeks in the company of Arthur Jones had been the most trying of George Goring's life. It wasn't just that Jones was a drunk. He was a talkative drunk. A whiny drunk. One who demanded the attention of all those around him (especially his new best friend, George Goring) so he could itemize in enormous and nauseating detail the endless wrongs done to him by his enemies. The list of which seemed to extend from his own father to his wife to nearly every human he had ever come in contact with.

Boyle is going to owe me a brigade for this. George looked up from the letter. "So, she offers a judicial separation I see."

"Judicial separation!" Arthur sneered. He tilted the tankard of beer and swallowed three times before slamming it back on the table. "And won't that make me a laughing stock at court." Arthur poked the letter in George's hands. "The whoresome bitch even refuses to see me. She'll deal only with you."

Arthur belched. Then smiled. "We'll see about that, my friend. Indeed we will."

"Careful, Arthur," George said. "You're not in England here. And Katherine has some powerful friends who dote on her. I think it best if you let me handle the negotiations."

"Negotiations!" Arthur spat contemptuously. "What is there to negotiate? Either she comes back with me to England or I'll beat her bloody, I swear I will. And as for that American friend who is poisoning her mind… I'll kill that little conniving strumpet."

George had to sigh. "Arthur, that's why she left you in the first place." Although, truthfully, it was probably the mental abuse that drove Katherine away. God knew, George was sick of Arthur's company after only three weeks. And Katherine had endured him for over a year.

"Ridiculous!" Arthur said, taking another three swallows of beer. "I never used a cudgel on the trollop. Just my hands. Not even a fist. Slaps only. Nothing but light chastisement, George, I swear it."

Then, like a torch being thrust into a river, the anger and hate in Arthur's eyes went out.

Oh God, here comes the self-pity again.

"Please, George, please. Help me? I love her, George, truly I do. Help me convince her to go back to England with me. Please?"

George sighed again. "All right Arthur, let's work on your next letter."

A brigade? Even that was insufficient. Perhaps a barony as well.

"Let's start by you professing your undying love and devotion, Arthur."

Essen House

Nicki Jo Prickett was just beginning to climb down from the first wagon when Katherine Boyle emerged from the doorway and threw her arms around her.

"Nicki!"

Nicki laughed and hugged her friend. For a second her eyes watered. God, how I've missed you, my love.

Katherine squeezed her tighter, taking her breath. "Whoa! Careful there Katy. I'm a bit fragile after this trip."

A young boy jumped down from the second wagon and ran over to them. "Katy!" Robert Boyle jumped into his sister's arms.

Nicki laughed again. "Think he missed you?"

Katy kissed her brother on the cheek and then lowered him to the street. "I missed you both terribly. But we have to get the wagons unloaded as quickly as we can. The Brussels' city council is strictly enforcing its ordinances against blocking the streets the next two weeks, what with all the visitors coming to see the festival."

"Festival?"

Katy nodded. "The Joyous Entry of Fernando and Maria Anna as the new King and Queen in the Netherlands. Very Burgundian. And very useful in terms of its political utility. Isabella and Albert did it when they became the archdukes. Lots of theater, pageantry, triumphal arches, tableaux vivant, and so on. You'll love it."

"I'm sure." Nicki said. She sighed to herself. She loved her life in the seventeenth century, but there were times…

Even with the help of the servants at Essen House the unloading of the wagons took almost an hour.

Finally Nicki and Katherine found themselves alone in the large kitchen.

"So, did you bring the tennis racquets like I asked you?"

"Of course," Nicki said, "and my last can of up-time tennis balls. But what's the story? I know you couldn't say much in your radio transmission given the limited time Hainhoffer allows for personal messages, but still…"

"The story is, my dear, that you have a match tomorrow with the queen in the Netherlands. And she and I have been practicing."

Nicki couldn't help but roll her eyes. "Oh, great. You know I hate playing down-time tennis. Yuck."

"Oh, no. She wants to play it by up-time rules. She's even had the court behind the Coudenberg palace laid out according to up-time dimensions."

"Now that's different. Do I have to throw the game for political reasons?"

"Not at all. Maria Anna seems pretty reasonable, for a royal. In fact, I think she'd probably resent it if you didn't play your best."

Katy's face clouded. "But we have other problems, I'm afraid. Arthur is here in Brussels."

"Arthur?" Nicki tried not to frown. "Your husband, Arthur? What the hell is he doing here?"

"Attempting to get me to come back to England with him. He has my brother-in-law, George, the one who married Lettice, with him."

"So what are you going to do?"

"Stall," Katy said, "until we leave for Essen. I don't think he'll follow us there. George is clearly helping in that regard. He hasn't said so, but I think he has instructions from my father to keep Arthur away from me. He is acting as the go-between during the negotiations." She grimaced. "So-called negotiations. I even offered to admit to adultery so he could get a judicial separation. He was not inclined to accept, according to George."

Nicki reached for Katy's hand, worried. "Any second thoughts?"

Katy shuddered. "None. I know I've told you about Arthur, at least a little. But if you really met him…" Katy shook her head. "No, I don't want you to meet him. And I certainly don't want to see him ever again. He was horrid. Truly, utterly horrid."

Women up-time had been abused. But from Katy's stories, Nicki had learned that physical and mental abuse of women in seventeenth century England was much more the norm than it had been up-time. Unlike many Protestant states in Europe, women in England couldn't even get a legal separation unless they could prove the physical abuse was life-threatening, which was difficult to do. And of course, there were no shelters for battered women as there were up-time. So women just suffered. And endured. A few-a lucky few-with sympathetic relatives and enough money were able to escape their abusive relationships. But most didn't.

"That's fine." Nicki patted the up-time revolver on her hip. It had been a present from her father when she had moved to Essen. "But if he shows up here, he better be on his best behavior. Or he'll find out what Sam Colt said."

Katy raised an eyebrow. "Sam Colt?"

"Yeah," Nicki said. "Inventor of the colt revolver. Like this thing here. 'God made men and women. But Sam Colt made them equal.'"

Katy laughed. "Now I remember! The wild west!" Katy hugged her. "Would you really shoot him?"

"If he tried to hurt you? Without a second thought."

For a minute they said nothing, just held each other.

"So, when is this tennis match?" Nicki asked.

"Tomorrow."

"Tomorrow!"

Katy smiled. "Yes. I was afraid you wouldn't make it in time. And afterward, Maria Anna is coming here to sample some of the products for the cheese and chocolate factory."

"Cheese and chocolate factory? What the hell…"

"Didn't I tell you? We're starting a cheese and chocolate factory here in Brussels under Queen Maria Anna's patronage. Herr Hainhoffer's cook, Barbara, has been preparing for it for a week. She even has a new recipe for those cookies you like."

"The ones with chipotle?" Nicki felt her mouth begin to water.

"The very ones."

"So what gave you this idea? About the factory, I mean."

"It was something that evolved over the weeks we've been here. Josh and Colette Modi are willing to back it. But when Queen Maria Anna brings it up, you need to pretend you know all about it."

"Great. A tennis match with royalty. Your husband is in town. A new business I knew nothing about. Anything else you want to tell me?"

Katy grinned mischievously. "Well, the fitting for your gown for the Joyous Entry ceremony next week is on Saturday."

"What!?"

"You certainly can't wear those clothes to one of the most important festivals in the Netherlands, can you?"

Nicki looked at her skort and jacket. "What's wrong with my clothes?" She held up her hand when she saw Katy stomp her foot. "Never mind. I don't want to know. I'll submit to your superior knowledge of seventeenth-century fashion. Grudgingly."

Nicki liked the seventeenth century. She really did. But too many of the womens' clothes, especially the ones worn by "high" society were a pain. Literally.

"Okay, Katy, tell me more about this chocolate and cheese factory."

"Cheese and chocolate."

"Whatever."

Warande Gardens, Coudenberg Palace

"We're not supposed to be watching, Corporal. We're supposed to be guarding."

Corporal Sanchez jerked away from the doorway. "Sorry, Sergeant."

Sergeant Jorge Rodriguez motioned with his hand. "Make your rounds, Corporal, make your rounds. I'll guard the doorway."

Sanchez moved off down the wall.

Rodriguez looked around and then peered in at the court. Come on, Your Majesty, you can beat the American!

***

It was infuriating. Even more infuriating was the fact she had no right to be infuriated. But at least the woman wasn't calling her "Your Majesty" every five seconds.

"You asked for this match, Maria Anna," she muttered. "You oh so wanted to play up-time tennis. So stop being so petty."

"Ready?" came from the other side of the court.

Maria Anna nodded. Once again Nicki Jo Prickett's serve came rocketing across the net.

Nicki had turned out to be a young woman of Maria Anna's height and build. At first Maria Anna thought that might give her an advantage, since her opponent wouldn't be a quick little bunny running down every shot like Katherine Boyle did. Unfortunately, Nicki had a much more powerful serve. As the match progressed Nicki's double faults had diminished and Maria Anna found herself time and again hitting empty air in her attempt to answer serve.

But this time Maria Anna was able to get her racquet on the ball and the rally was a good one, only ending when Nicki hit a backhand passing shot on the left side.

"Game, set and match, Your Maj… Maria Anna! Nice rally. You want to go again?"

Maria Anna shook her head as she approached the net and reached to shake Nicki's hand. "I think not, at least today." She pointed the up-time racquet at Nicki. "But Saturday, late afternoon, if you are willing? And were you serious about giving me this racquet? It really is a marvel."

"You bet I was serious. I really don't have much time to play in Essen, so one racquet is good enough for me. You can keep the tennis balls, too. They should keep their bounce for at least a few months."

Katherine approached from the sidelines. Nicki asked, "Is Saturday afternoon okay? Will I be done with the torture session?"

Katherine laughed. "Yes, the fitting should be done by then." She looked at Maria Anna. "Nicki has a difficult time accepting the fashions of nobility."

"I can certainly understand that." Maria Anna said. She pointed at Nicki's legs. "Those look so much more comfortable for tennis. What did you call them again? I adore that color."

"Sweat pants. Yeah, I love emerald green, too. Unfortunately, they're a cotton and polyester blend, so we probably won't have something like them any time soon. But we're working on the color at Essen Chemical. Dyes are a big business."

"That was a very nice match, Maria Anna," Katherine said. She hugged Nicki. "Nicki played tennis on her high school team and in college. You adapted very well to the up-time tennis balls."

"Well, it didn't feel like I was adapting," Maria Anna said. "I kept missing the serves. It was infuriating. Will you work with me on that, Nicki? I'd love to have that kind of serve the next time I play my sister. I can just see her jaw dropping and rolling around on the court."

Nicki smiled. "It will be my pleasure, Your Majesty."

"But now," Katherine said, "I think it's time for refreshments. I know that Barbara is probably waiting anxiously for us at Essen House. Back to the palace, Maria Anna?"

"Definitely," Maria Anna said. The best thing about living in Mary of Hungary's rooms in the Coudenberg Palace was the fact that they faced the garden rather than the courtyard. They would be able to enter directly from the Warande without having to pass through dozens of courtiers and palace servants.

"But I think we'll leave by way of the side entrance to the gardens through the Domus Isabella. We'll attract less attention that way and I can travel incognito." She scowled. "Well, as incognito as my husband and guards will let me. It is very different now compared to my time after the escape from Munich."

"Katy mentioned your travels across Bavaria. Was that exciting?"

The women continued their conversation as they approached the entrance to the Warande.

Inn of the Silver Swine

"Where's Arthur?"

James Fallows, the Catholic Englishman and veteran of the Army of Flanders, who George had hired to babysit Arthur Jones, nodded toward the back stairs of the inn. "Said he was feeling ill and was going to his room. He's been up there at least an hour."

Well, if the illness is serious enough, perhaps we can end this charade and go home, George thought, climbing the stairs. He knocked on the door to Arthur's room. "Arthur? How are you feeling? You awake?"

No one answered.

No, please no. George opened the door. Jones was not in the room, and the bed was in the same disarray that George remembered from the morning.

Bloody hell! He's gone to find Katy.

Essen House

Arthur Jones was fifty yards from Essen House when he saw the carriage and its guard detail of half-a-dozen cavalry pull up in front. He stopped and squinted as three women, including one who had to be his Katherine, climbed out of the carriage and entered Essen House. The carriage then moved off along with its escort and parked in the square further down the street.

Now or wait? There was no telling how many people might be in the house. Better to wait.

***

"Oh, this is very, very good. Chocolate covered strawberries!" Maria Anna took a second bite. "You were right, Katy. This chocolate is nothing like I tasted in Vienna. You say you have two different kinds?"

Nicki nodded. "Dark chocolate, which is semi-sweet. That's what's on the strawberries. And milk chocolate, with more sugar. That is what these were made with." She offered Maria Anna a cookie.

Maria Anna took a bite and her eyes opened wide. "Spicy? I love spicy! Hungarian dishes with paprika were always my favorite in Vienna."

Nicki laughed. "So do I. These don't have real chipotle, which would mean smoked jalapenos, but they're close. They're made from a chili pepper grown in a town in the Basque area of Spain called Espellete. Imported from America a century or so ago, of course."

"Fernando must taste these. Really he must."

Katy smiled and pointed at the basket on the table. "We thought you might like to take some samples with you. We'll put more cookies in the basket." She laughed when she saw Nicki's face droop. "And don't worry Nicki, Barbara will make more for you tonight."

***

Sergeant Rodriguez never took his eyes off the front door of Essen House. It didn't matter that the queen had ordered him to wait for her here in the square. It didn't matter that the square was less than seventy yards from Essen House. What mattered was that if anything went wrong, if anything happened to the queen, the king was sure to blame him, not Her Majesty.

"Sergeant, that man is acting suspicious."

"What man?" Rodriguez asked.

Sanchez pointed with his chin. "That one. The one across the street with his arms crossed. He's been standing there since we've been in the square, I'm sure of it. He never seems to take his eyes off Essen House."

It was at that moment that the front door to Essen House opened.

***

"You two go ahead, I'll catch up at the carriage. I forgot something." Nicki turned away as Katy and Maria Anna opened the door. Yes, she felt guilty about palming the cookie from Maria Anna's basket. But they were just so good!

She was taking her second bite when she heard Katy scream.

Pistol. Bedroom. Shit! No time. She grabbed the tennis racquet off the table and charged out the door.

***

"Shut up, you whore!" Arthur said. "And stop struggling. You're coming back to England with me!" He turned to the woman with the basket in her arms. "And as for you, you American bitch…" He raised his wheellock pistol. A blur from the doorway made him turn and a woman with a cookie in her mouth and some kind of club in her hand came at him. He fired just as the club came down on his arm.

***

It took less than ten seconds for Sergeant Rodriguez to run from the square, but he was still out of breath when he arrived. "Are you all right, Your Majesty?"

The queen watched the large American woman chase the man down the street. "I'm fine, Sergeant. I don't think the man really intended to attack me. A case of mistaken identity, apparently. And his shot seems to have hit nothing but air."

She looked at the Englishwoman. What was her name? Ah, Boyle, Rogriguez thought.

"Was that your husband, Arthur, you mentioned?"

The Boyle woman nodded.

"Do you wish us to pursue him, Your Majesty?" Rodriguez asked. "I am sure the Brussels militia can find him."

The queen looked at Boyle, who shook her head. "I don't think that will be necessary, Sergeant."

Everyone turned as the American woman came back up the street. She had half a cookie in one hand and a tennis racquet in the other.

"I hit him at least three times, but he just kept running. Damn coward!"

The Boyle woman's eyes narrowed. "Nicki Jo Prickett, where did you get that cookie?"

"Cookie?" The American woman stuffed the remains of the cookie in her mouth. "What cookie?" she mumbled.

***

Three days. Three days they'd had to wait for the hue and cry to die down before George felt safe to walk the streets of Brussels with Arthur again.

Even a brigade and barony weren't enough to put up with this, as far as George was concerned.

"Over here, Arthur." In the twilight the fog was just beginning to make its way down the streets of Brussels. George pulled Arthur into the alley.

"We've got to get you out of Brussels, Arthur. The militia may not be after you, but there are a lot of people who think very highly of their new queen. Given the stories circulating right now, you'll be much safer in Antwerp."

Arthur hugged his right arm to his chest and nodded. "The damn bitch hit me! Three times! It still hurts like hell."

George covered his smile with his hand. "You're lucky she hit you, Arthur. If you'd shot the queen…" Boyle would have roasted me alive, that's for sure. As it is, there's only one way to make amends with him now.

"Here's enough silver for a month in Antwerp," George said. "I'll follow you there as soon as I can. Now head for the docks. Remember, you're looking for the boat named Santiago's Curse. Your belongings are already on board."

Arthur nodded. " Santiago's Curse. Thank you, George. I'll repay you, I promise."

George pushed him out into the street. "Now, go." He watched Arthur disappear into the fog toward the city's docks. Two shadows detached themselves from the wall as he stumbled past. One followed him.

The other turned toward George Goring. "This will cost you extra," James Fallows said.

"I know," Goring said. "Part payment Arthur has with him. A purse with silver coin. Just make it look like an accident."

"That will be no problem. Plenty of drunks fall in the river during festivals. Especially when we have a fog at night."

Fallows disappeared down the street.

George began to walk back towards the Inn of the Silver Swine.

***

"Now what is that supposed to mean?" Nicki asked, pointing towards the tableau vivant on their left.

Their carriage had stopped once again and Katherine Boyle waved to the crowds around them. The Joyous Entry of King Fernando and Queen Maria Anna into Brussels had so far been a slow but wonderful pageant and Katherine figured they had only an hour left to go before the procession ended. As usual, the carriages of the higher orders of Brussels society, including the foreign guests like themselves, brought up the rear.

"Oh come on, Nicki. Even you can figure that one out!"

Nicki nodded. "Okay, okay. The big guy in the center has to represent King Fernando. But what's with the hole in the tongue and all the gold chains attached to the women below? Looks pretty kinky if you ask me."

Katy repressed a sigh. She loved Nicki. She loved most of the Americans she had met in Grantville. But for a society built on the foundations of western civilization, their lack of knowledge was truly appalling.

" Typus Herculis Gallici," Katy said. "The man represents Hercules. So Fernando is being depicted as a new Hercules both in terms of mental agility and physical strength. But if you count the number of women, you'll see there are seventeen."

She waited for Nicki to remember, then prompted. "Seventeen?"

Nicki smiled. "Oh! The seventeen provinces of the Netherlands. So the chains represent…" Her forehead creased.

"The need for Fernando to win the loyalty of his new subjects with gentleness and kind words, and not force of arms," Katy said.

" Righhhht." Nicki sat back in the carriage as it lurched forward. "Did you get a chance to speak with Maria Anna about Arthur before the procession?"

"Of course. As far as they can determine, Arthur was drunk. He slipped and fell into the river down by the docks during the night fog two days ago. No evidence of foul play. So George's story checks out."

"Miss him?"

"Oh no. Just… he wasn't a evil man, really. Just a weak one."

Nicki patted her hand. "Well, don't think bad of me, but I'm glad he's dead. If that had been me carrying the basket instead of Maria Anna, I'd probably have died, since there would have been no one to smack him with a tennis racquet. Hey, does this mean you keep your title? You're still Viscountess Ranelagh?"

"And I will inherit his estate," Katy said, "according to George. It's not much, but there are several houses in London that are mine now. And with Arthur dead it will be much easier to make amends with my family. Oh, and before I forget, Maria Anna has agreed to give us a royal patent for the factory, with two stipulations."

Katherine began waving again to the crowd. "First, we have to name it 'Royal Maria's Cheese, Chocolate and Cookie Factory.' Both she and Fernando think the cookies will be a big seller. Second-and this comes directly from Fernando himself-we have to name the cookie with chipotle 'Ring of Fire.'"

Nicki laughed. "'Ring of Fire' cookies? Oh my God, we're going to sell millions of them!"

***

Rachel's Plaint

David Carrico

Magdeburg

Late March 1635

It was early afternoon in the office of Paulus Bunemann. The door was closed, as the good Herr Bunemann was expecting no visitors. The merchant was, in fact, indulging in a post-prandial nap.

Despite Herr Bunemann's expectations, however, there was a visitor, one who walked on silent feet to where the merchant slept on the sofa which was across from the large desk. The visitor looked down at the slack face of the sleeping merchant, then leaned forward and placed hands around his neck. Bunemann's eyes flew open. A gurgle made its way from his lips, and his own hands strained and pulled at those of the visitor.

Unfortunately for the merchant, the visitor was stronger. The fingers sunk tighter into Bunemann's neck. Bunemann's complexion darkened, his eyes seemed to swell, and his feet drummed on the sofa for a moment. Then he sagged, his head lolled and his hands fell away.

The visitor retained his grip for some time, but at length released it. He straightened, staring down at the corpse for a long moment, then turned and made his way to the only door into the office. He gently tested the lock to ensure that it was still engaged.

Moments later, the corpse was alone in the room.

***

Byron Chieske and Gotthilf Hoch walked out the front of the building that was serving as the police and City Watch station.

"Do you know where this office is?" Byron asked.

"Yes."

"Close enough to walk?"

Gotthilf looked up at the gray sky that was beginning to drop water on them. "Not in the rain."

"Right." Byron stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly, waving at one of the horse-drawn cabs.

The cab driver pulled up in front of them. "Where to, Herren?"

"Herr Bunemann's warehouse, down by the river." Gotthilf slammed the door of the carriage.

The driver shook his reins and clucked to his horse. The cab lurched into motion.

"The captain's got to light a fire under the city council," Byron muttered. "I'm getting tired of having to hire a cab every time I want to go someplace. I know they had to spring for the fire equipment, but that was last year."

"We finally got the typewriter," Gotthilf reminded him.

"One. A typewriter, when we need three. And don't get me started, or I'll be ranting about a morgue again." The rest of the ride took place in silence.

***

"Bunemann's warehouse," the cabbie called. Byron and Gotthilf dismounted from the carriage into the rain.

"Pay the man," Byron said. Gotthilf dug into a coat pocket and counted out enough of the new copper pennies to pay the fare.

"Thank you, sir," the cabbie said with a tug at his hat. Gotthilf heard him cluck to his horse as he hurried to the warehouse to get out of the rain.

"Georg." Gotthilf nodded to the City Watch man standing outside the warehouse door. "Any problems?"

"None outside of a dead body inside." They both chuckled, and Gotthilf opened the door. Inside he stepped up beside Byron, who was talking to a tall, stooped man whose face was almost ashen. Gotthilf couldn't tell if that was because of the circumstances or if it was the normal complexion for the fellow.

"Gotthilf, this is Gerhard Lutterodt, the chief accountant for Herr Bunemann's business." Byron waved a hand in Gotthilf's direction. "Gotthilf Hoch, my partner."

"Good day," Lutterodt muttered. Gotthilf simply nodded.

"So," Byron resumed the interrupted conversation, "you were telling me that Herr Bunemann often closed his door in the afternoon with instructions he was not to be bothered."

"Perhaps twice or thrice a week." The accountant nodded. "Usually after a large lunch with much wine."

"He was taking a nap?" Gotthilf guessed.

Lutterodt shrugged.

"Was it usual that he would lock the door?"

"Yes."

"And how long would the door remain locked."

Lutterodt shrugged again. "At least an hour, sometimes two."

Gotthilf looked around while the conversation was going on. The space wasn't very large. There were two tall tables with stools, one of them obviously belonging to Herr Lutterodt. The other stool was occupied by a younger man, who appeared to be intent on copying something into a ledger book… except that Gotthilf had seen that his pen hadn't moved for some time. There was an open door behind the young man that opened to a small room with shelves and cabinets in it.

"Gotthilf?"

He switched his attention back to Byron. "Yes?"

"Any questions for Herr Lutterodt before we start going over the crime scene?"

Gotthilf thought for a moment. "Was Herr Bunemann a successful merchant?"

Lutterodt gave a thin smile. "Rather."

"So he had enemies?"

"Not in the battlefield sense. Competitors, certainly."

"Anyone he was afraid of?"

"Afraid? No." Lutterodt was definite. "He was concerned about the Praegorius family from Hamburg sending a factor here, but the man hasn't even arrived yet."

"Anyone he hated?"

Lutterodt frowned. "I do not know if hate is the right word, but Master Paulus would have nothing to do with Andreas Schardius. The man took advantage of him in one of his earliest deals. Ever since then the master would neither accept nor make proposals involving Master Schardius."

"Is this Schardius person dishonest?"

"Master Paulus would say that he made a dog's hind leg look straight in comparison."

Gotthilf underlined that name in his notebook.

"Do you know of anyone that would have gone to the length of killing him?"

Lutterodt all of a sudden yanked a kerchief from his left pocket and coughed heavily into it, almost a paroxysm. Afterward, he took a shuddering deep breath while shoving the kerchief back into its pocket. Gotthilf thought he saw spots on it.

"I doubt that there are many who will mourn his passing." Lutterodt's voice was hoarse at first, evening out as he spoke. "But likewise I doubt that any of the other corn factors despised him enough to try and murder him. Besides, as we told the first watchman, there was no one in the room when we broke in. I do not see how he could have been murdered."

"That's the door you broke?" Byron pointed to a door at the back of the room.

"Yes."

They moved in that direction. Byron fingered a splintered place on the door frame. "Why did you decide to break in?"

"I needed the master's signature on a contract, and it had been over two hours since he had gone in to the office. I tapped on the door, but there was no answer."

"Did you break in then?"

"No, next I rapped hard. After there was no answer, I pounded as hard as I could."

"And still no answer." Byron was pulling on his chin, a sign that Gotthilf recognized that meant the up-timer was thinking hard.

"Aye. I waited a few more minutes, not wanting to needlessly anger the master by destroying the doorway, but finally I sent Johan," Lutterodt gestured to the other accountant, "to bring one of the warehousemen with a pry bar."

"Is that the bar?" Gotthilf pointed to a length of metal lying next to the wall.

"Yes."

Byron picked it up and compared the end of the bar to the marks on the door frame. They matched. He handed it to Gotthilf. "Tag it." Gotthilf pulled a piece of heavy paper on a string loop out of one of his pockets, and a pencil out of another. He wrote "Bunemann" followed by the date on the tag, then looped it around the bar and tucked it under his arm.

The up-timer reached out and pushed the sprung door open, revealing a surprisingly large room dimly lit by two small windows set up high in the wall across from the door.

Gotthilf followed Byron into the office. The corpse was obvious, lying on a sofa across from the desk. One arm was folded up on the chest, the other trailed to the floor.

Byron stopped them just inside the door. "When you first broke in, Herr Lutterodt, did anything in the room seem strange?"

"Other than the body?"

"Other than the body." Byron's tone was dry.

"No, but I didn't take time to look."

"Take time now," Byron instructed. "Take all the time you need."

Gotthilf watched Lutterodt as he surveyed the room. The accountant, hands in pockets, made a slow turn as he scanned everything, even stepping forward to look over the desk and its chair. He turned again to face the detectives.

"I cannot swear that everything is as it was before he locked the door, but everything that I know should be here is present, and I see nothing that should not be here."

Byron turned to the door. "I assume this is the master's key in the lock."

"It must be. He never gave me a key to this door."

"Are there any others?"

"The master told me once that his wife has one, but I have never seen it."

Byron took the key from the lock, knelt and tried to pass the key on its ring under the door. The space was too narrow for the bulk of the key, not to mention the ring with the other keys on it. "Well, that didn't work. Not that it would prove anything or help us any if it did." He stood again and handed the keys to his partner. "Tag them." Gotthilf did so, and handed them back to Byron.

The up-timer now moved to the sofa and touched the face of Herr Bunemann's corpse, then lifted the trailing arm and set it on the sofa. "Hmm. Rigor mortis is already setting in. That would match death sometime after noon. Did you close his eyes, Herr Lutterodt?"

"Yes."

In Gotthilf's eyes, Herr Bunemann was not a prepossessing man. His frame was small; he wasn't much taller than Gotthilf, which made him short. At least Gotthilf was stocky, but the merchant by comparison was rather slender. His hands were small, short-fingered, and looked soft. His face was reasonably handsome, with regular features and no pock marks or other scars, but his hair was thin and receding, which left him looking like a dyspeptic school master. All in all, Gotthilf was reasonably glad he hadn't been on familiar terms with the man.

Gotthilf turned to Lutterodt, who was hovering behind them. "You said earlier Herr Bunemann had a wife?"

"Yes. He was married to Frau Sarah Diebes."

"Did they have children?"

"No."

Gotthilf pulled out his notebook again and made more notes. "Are there any legitimate kin that should be notified?"

"No. The master had a younger brother, Karl, who died when Tilly's soldiers sacked the city. He was not married. Their father was an only child. There may be some distant cousins somewhere, but I do not know who they would be."

Lutterodt pulled his kerchief out for another coughing spell. When it subsided, Gotthilf murmured, "Just a few more questions. Has Frau Sarah Diebes been notified of her husband's death?"

"I believe so." Lutterodt's voice was weak and shaky. "The City Watch said they would notify her." He stopped and took a heavy breath. "I am surprised she is not here already."

"And did the master have any illegitimate kin?"

Lutterodt grimaced. "Yes." He began coughing again.

"Children?"

"Yes."

"Can you tell me who they were?"

Lutterodt grimaced again. "No. I simply knew he had them. He made no great secret about it."

Byron had been crouched over the body this entire time, shining the beam of a small pocket flashlight on the neck and turning the head this way and that against the increasing stiffness of the advancing rigor. He flicked the light off and straightened. Gotthilf turned and raised his eyebrows.

"No doubt about it," Byron spread his hands. "He was strangled. And since there's no way that you can strangle yourself, we seem to have a murder."

The room seemed to darken at that pronouncement.

Byron looked to Gotthilf. "We've got to examine the body and see if there is anything else about it that might be important."

"Right." Gotthilf nodded, anticipating the next question.

"So, where do we do it?"

"There's that back room at the police house."

"I guess that's better than nothing." Byron muttered something. All Gotthilf could catch was "… city council…" He decided not to ask Byron to repeat it. "Okay," the up-timer said, "your drawing is better than mine, so you make a sketch of the body in the room while I get us some wheels."

Gotthilf turned to a fresh page in his notebook and began sketching as Byron left the room. He heard the outer door shut.

It didn't take long to make the drawing of the body and its placement. Gotthilf was actually pretty competent at sketching. He took a little bit of pride in that, smiling as he thought of how poor Byron was at it. On the other hand, he definitely sympathized with Byron's opinion of the city council; he wished they'd quit delaying and arguing and get the photography gear they had been promising the fledgling police department. It would be so much better than these drawings at showing exactly how things stood in a crime scene.

He turned to a fresh page, anticipating the next need, and began making a sketch of the room as a whole. Good progress had been made with it when the outer door opened again. Byron entered the room a moment later, followed by Georg the patrolman.

"How's it coming?"

Gotthilf flipped back and showed him the drawing of the body.

"Good. Well, I've got a cab, and the cabbie had a spare horse blanket, so we can wrap him up and get him out of here." Georg shook the blanket out on the floor, then he and Byron lifted the body and set it down on the blanket. A few moments later, the corpse was swaddled and not visible. Gotthilf watched as the two men bent. "Hup!" Byron exclaimed as they lifted the dead weight. Gotthilf returned to his sketching as Georg led the way out of the office, walking backward and looking over his shoulder.

A few minutes later Byron came back in. "Well, that's done. Georg's on his way to the police house with the body. He'll get somebody to help him carry it in, then he'll come back here."

Gotthilf finished the sketch of the room, closed his notebook and put it back into his pocket. "Well, I think we have an appointment with a corpse," he remarked.

"So we do," Byron agreed. "So we do, after we ask a few more questions."

They exited the office, and Byron turned and pulled the office door closed. Testing it, he found that it still latched well, so he took the merchant's keys from his pocked and locked it. "Keep everyone out of that room until we say otherwise." Lutterodt nodded just as the outside door opened. Framed in the doorway was a woman with a sodden cloak thrown over a green dress.

"Frau Diebes," Lutterodt exclaimed, stepping forward to take her arm and lead her in. "You did not have to come. You should have sent Philip." He nodded to the large man who followed her in, blanket draped over his shoulder.

"Is it true, Gerhard? Is Paulus really dead?"

Frau Sarah Diebes verheiratet -no, it was verwitwet, now, Gotthilf thought-Bunemann was by anyone's estimation a plain woman. She was short, no taller than her husband, with mousy brown hair and uneven complexion, which was not improved by the reddened eyes and nose that gave evidence to weeping.

"Yes, ma'am," Byron interjected, "he's dead."

She looked at him and arched an eyebrow. "And who are you?" Gotthilf tightened his lips to keep from smiling.

"Lieutenant Byron Chieske, of the Magdeburg police, ma'am. My partner, Gotthilf Hoch." Byron pointed to Gotthilf. "We were sent to look into the circumstances of the death of such a prominent man as your husband."

Frau Diebes brow furrowed. "Circumstances?"

"Yes, ma'am." Gotthilf replied. "It seems Herr Bunemann was murdered."

Her face paled to the extent that the redness seemed like streaks of scarlet. She wavered on her feet, clutching at Lutterodt's arm to remain standing. "Murdered?" she asked in a small voice. Gotthilf nodded in confirmation.

There was silence for a long moment. No one moved until Frau Diebes spoke.

"I trust that it is now your concern to find who did this." Her voice was firm; she was not asking a question.

"Yes, ma'am," Gotthilf answered.

"Good. I want to know what you learn." She swallowed. "Now, may I take my husband home?"

"Ah, I'm afraid that won't be possible," Byron said. "The body has been sent to the police house for an examination to determine exactly what killed him."

"Don't you know what killed him?" Frau Diebes' voice grew stronger, and her pale face began to redden.

"We think we know, ma'am, but we need to be sure."

"Is this indignity necessary?"

"We have instructions from Magistrate Otto Gericke," Gotthilf interjected, "to do a most thorough investigation."

"Oh." The news that the most prominent magistrate in Magdeburg was already involved in the situation set Frau Diebes back a bit. "Then when can we receive him?"

The two detectives looked at each other. "Unless we find something unusual," Byron responded after a long moment, "perhaps around noon tomorrow."

"Good. I will expect a message accordingly."

Byron nodded. "We will want a chance to speak with you as well, ma'am. Would it be all right if we come by tomorrow morning?"

Frau Diebes drew herself to her full height, such as it was. "I will look for you tomorrow, Lieutenant Chieske, Herr Hoch." In a moment, she was in her carriage and Philip was shaking the horse's reins.

Byron closed the door. "Okay, back to business. What happened today?"

"The usual routine," Lutterodt replied. "I arrived an hour after daybreak, opened the office and opened the warehouse as soon as the men started arriving a few minutes later. Johan came in about then as well."

"When did Master Bunemann arrive?"

"Perhaps a half hour after that."

"What did he do?"

"Went to his office and began working. He read and signed three contracts and dictated five letters to Johan. The contracts were sent out by messenger before noon."

"Anything unusual about the contracts?" Gotthilf asked.

"No, they were standard buy/sell agreements. He was spreading the risk of investing in this year's grain crop. 'Who knows what the Emperor's campaigns will bring our way?'" Lutterodt's voice took on a thin nasal whine; he was apparently imitating the deceased merchant.

"So a corn factor buys and sells grain?" Byron asked. Both Gotthilf and Lutterodt stared at him. Byron spread his hands. "Hey, I'm an up-timer, remember? I'm used to buying my cereal in a box in a store."

Lutterodt gave a sardonic twitch to his mouth. "Yes, a corn factor buys and sells grain. You could say he buys and sells life itself. The Germanies, all of Europe, lives on bread-wheat for the wealthy, barley and rye for those who can't afford the wheat. Grain is literally the stuff of life. The Roman emperors knew that; they had a fleet of ships dedicated to bringing grain from Egypt to Rome to keep the people quiet. And they had riots over bread if the supplies dropped or the prices climbed too high. It is not an idle analogy when our Savior said 'I am the bread of life.'"

Gotthilf smiled a bit. Of course a corn factor's establishment would know that verse from Scripture."

Byron took a new tack. "Do you keep any money on the premises?"

Lutterodt said, "The master sometimes keeps… kept a few pfennigs, maybe a groschen or two in his desk."

"Are they still there?"

The accountant's eyebrows went up. "I didn't think to look."

Byron unlocked the office and they all trooped in and witnessed as Lutterodt pulled open the desk drawer and counted the few coins. "Three pfennigs."

"Hardly enough to bother with, and since it's still here, obviously robbery was not a motive for the killing." Byron led them back to the outer office, locking the door again.

"Okay." Byron nodded. "So what did Herr Bunemann do at noon?"

"He took a meal with several of his business connections." Lutterodt looked to his assistant. "Did he say where he ate, Johan?"

"Not to me."

"Did he say who he was with?" Byron asked.

Lutterodt looked to Johan, who shook his head. "No."

"Who would he usually lunch with?"

Lutterodt and Johan between them named half a dozen names. Gotthilf jotted them down.

"How long was he gone?"

"An hour, maybe a bit more."

Byron was pulling at his chin again, Gotthilf noted.

"And was this a common pattern?"

"Oh, yes. More days than not, he would dine with his acquaintances, then return complaining of having overeaten or drunk too much." Gotthilf made note of that. It agreed with what the accountant had said earlier.

"And that's when he'd close the door to his office for an hour or so."

Lutterodt shrugged. "Usually."

"So today's events follow his normal routine?" Byron's voice had a note of resignation.

Lutterodt held up his hand and gave an almost Gallic shrug. "The master was comforted by routine. He disliked change."

"Yeah, well, his routine's been changed… permanently." Byron nodded to Gotthilf to take over.

"Did anyone enter Herr Bunemann's office between the time he locked the door and you had to have it pried open?"

"No."

"Did anyone attempt to open the door?"

"No."

Gotthilf noticed Lutterodt looked a bit put out by the questions. He continued. "Do you remember anything unusual happening at all, any time in the last few weeks?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Gotthilf saw Johan open his mouth, only to close it again when Lutterodt said, "No." He looked to Byron and saw from his narrowed eyes that his partner had caught that motion as well. He nodded toward the warehouse.

Byron straightened. "Herr Lutterodt, come show me the warehouse side of this space. I want to see the back side of the office." Lutterodt shrugged again, then led him to the side door that opened into the warehouse space.

Gotthilf turned to Johan. "Johan, is it?" The youth nodded. "And what is your surname?"

"Dauth, sir."

The pencil made jottings in the notebook again. "Johan Dauth. Good. Now, Johan, did you like Master Bunemann?"

Johan squirmed. "It's not for the likes of me to like or dislike someone like the master. He was mostly a fair man, and treated us okay."

Gotthilf nodded, and made notes. "Good. Now, I noticed you were about to say something about something unusual happening?"

More squirming. "I… don't know as I should."

"Johan." Gotthilf made his voice take on a stern note, smiling inside at the thought of being stern with anyone. "This is a murder investigation. Magistrate Gericke himself wants the truth found. Anything you know must be told to us."

"Well," the youth hesitated, then finally blurted, "it was about two weeks ago. It was late in the day when the master's wife came in. She nodded to me and walked on into the master's office, closing the door behind her. Gerhard left right after she came in. He was having one of his bad days."

"And what is Gerhard's problem?"

"Consumption."

Gotthilf's stomach lurched. Suddenly he was glad he had not made physical contact with the man. "Continue."

"She stayed for maybe half an hour. I was in the document room," he pointed to the open door with the cabinets in view, "when she came out. I didn't see her, but I heard her last words to him."

"Which were?"

Johan hesitated until Gotthilf frowned at him, then spilled in a rush, "'Paulus, if you bring that bastard child into my house, so help me, I'll kill you for it.' But she couldn't have done it! She hasn't been here for days."

Gotthilf shaped a soft whistle as his pencil flew over the page of his notebook. He looked up to see the youth almost quivering. "It's all right, Johan. You've done nothing wrong. But say nothing of this to anyone else until we tell you you can."

Johan gave a convulsive nod, and turned back to the papers on his desk.

Gotthilf looked around, just taking in the general atmosphere of the accountants' work area: papers pinned together lying on the desks, folders lying on top of the cabinets in the document room, spools of different colored ribbons for use as tapes in place on the desks and in the document room. He turned as Byron and Gerhard Lutterodt came back in from the warehouse side.

"Well, certainly no one could have gotten into Master Bunemann's office from out there." The note of resignation was higher in Byron's voice now. "How new is this building, anyway?"

"The original building was burned in 1631 by Tilly's army," Lutterodt said. "Very little was left of it. The master had this built to replace it."

Byron glanced at Gotthilf, who gave him a nod in return. Byron pulled up his sleeve cuff and looked at his watch. "Almost five. How much longer would you ordinarily work, guys?"

"The master usually let us go while there was still daylight in the skies."

"Then call it a day right now, if you will. We'll be back tomorrow morning, and we'll want you here then."

"What do we tell the warehousemen? They will want to know who will take over the business. Who will pay them?"

Gotthilf shook his head. "That's up to Frau Diebes."

Lutterodt returned to the warehouse while Johan tidied things up and closed the document room. Gotthilf picked up the tagged pry bar before Johan could lock it away with everything else.

The door to the warehouse opened again, and Lutterodt rejoined them. "The men are gone and the warehouse is closed and locked, but they were grumbling as they left. Someone needs to have answers for them tomorrow."

"Talk to the widow," Gotthilf said again.

Moments later, they were all out in the rain and Lutterodt was locking the front door. "Who else has a key to this door?" Gotthilf asked.

"Frau Sarah," came the reply.

"All right then, we'll see you in the morning." Byron waved at the others as they left.

Gotthilf turned to the watchman, who had made it back from his errand to the police house. "Go home, Georg."

"With pleasure, sir." Georg touched the rim of his hat, and left no time in striding down the street.

Byron and Gotthilf weren't far behind him. A horse came clip-clopping up as they walked, heads down. "Need a cab?"

Gotthilf looked up to see the same cabbie that had brought them here smiling at them. "By all means." They scrambled into the carriage which might be somewhat damp but was infinitely preferable to the heavy rain.

Byron muttered something.

"Hmm?" Gotthilf raised his eyebrows.

"I said, you do realize this case has changed, don't you?"

"What do you mean?"

Byron sighed. "At first we thought we just had a dead man in his office. Then we thought we had a dead man in a locked office. But now

… now we have a murdered man in a locked office."

"So?"

"So, there looks to be only one door into this room, right?"

"Right."

"If the door was locked from the inside," Byron continued, "if Herr Lutterodt and his assistant don't have keys to the door, and if they didn't see anyone enter or leave the room, how was the murder committed?"

Gotthilf started to answer, then stopped as he realized the implications of what Byron had said. "Oh."

"Yeah. Oh. We've got a real life locked room puzzle in front of us."

Gotthilf raised his eyebrows again. "Locked room puzzle?"

"Oh, yeah. We've talked about all the different kinds of books people used to be able to get in the up-time, right?"

"Yes."

Byron slumped down a little in the carriage seat. "One of the different kinds of books was called mysteries, and most of them dealt with stories about murders."

Gotthilf made a face. "Go on."

"No, really, these were really popular. People would read and re-read their favorite books, and even get together and have conventions… um, maybe conclaves would be a better word for you. .. about these books."

Up-timers were weird, Gotthilf reminded himself.

"Anyway, there was one whole type of these stories that was dedicated to murders that couldn't have happened. Murders that happened in impossible circumstances. The most popular variation was the locked room mystery, where a man was murdered in a locked room that no one has a key to and no one could get into or out of. Yet he was murdered."

"Sounds like what we're dealing with. But it's not really possible, right?"

"Right. The up-time writers would always have a way for it to seem like the victim had been killed when he was alone, but there was always a way for someone to have somehow gotten to the victim without anyone else being aware of it. A couple of writers actually developed lists of the ways it could be done."

"Well?"

"Huh?"

"What are the ways?" Gotthilf said, an impatient tone in his voice.

"Oh, I don't remember them all," Byron said, "although I did have a criminal justice teacher who made a list of them. It may be with all those papers I had Jonni send me. If this gets too weird, I'll go dig it out."

"But what do you remember?"

"Okay: one was that a man could have been injured someplace else, but the injuries weren't immediately fatal and he could have gotten to the room and locked the door before dropping dead. Another was that there was another entrance to the room, hidden or otherwise, which hadn't been accounted for."

"Any more?"

"Umm, that the victim was alone in the room, but that the murderer somehow set up circumstances so that he was still killed. That one usually involved poison."

"Hmm. Whether we need it for this or not, find that paper," Gotthilf said. "I want to read the whole list."

There was no further conversation. They each thought their own thoughts about their puzzle until they arrived back at the police house.

***

"Well," Gotthilf said as they walked in the door. "Your kindness to the widow means our day isn't done."

"Aw, you didn't have anything else to do tonight, partner." Byron grinned and gave him a light punch in the shoulder. "Come on."

Gotthilf followed his partner to the back room of the police house. They found the body laid out on a long table. Someone had already gathered three lanterns in the room and lit them.

"Come help me," Byron called out. In the light, Herr Bunemann's corpse seemed even smaller than Gotthilf had remembered it. They spent the next few minutes removing the clothing from the corpse, subjecting it to what would have been gross indignities if there was still life in it.

"What a struggle," Byron said as the culottes were removed, the last of the clothing. They gave the clothing a quick examination, finding nothing more than a couple of coins in one pocket, but nothing else. They left the coins with the clothing.

"Nothing," Byron pronounced at last. "Nothing unusual, nothing remarkable, no clues shouting out the name of the murderer. These tell us nothing more than that Herr Paulus was a sloppy eater. From the stains, it looks like he got more of his lunch on the outside than he did on the inside."

Gotthilf began rolling the clothing into a bundle. "Well, given how he died, I didn't expect to find anything." Shirt, vest, jacket, culottes, stockings, shoes; it seemed a small list to represent the end of a life.

"I didn't either," Byron replied, "but I had just a bit of hope that maybe something would be here. Oh, well, back to what we do know." He pulled the chin up and flicked his flashlight on. "These are the strangulation marks. Had to be a man. Look at how big the hands were." He laid his own hands over the marks for comparison. "That's unusual, too. Crime studies back in the up-time indicated that men don't normally strangle men. They usually use a weapon.

"Strong hands, too. Look at… hmm, I didn't notice that earlier." Byron lifted his hands and bent down to look at the right side of the neck. "Our man must have had a deformity-look at this, Gotthilf."

Gotthilf stepped closer and bent down to see what Byron was pointing at. He laid his own hand against the mark for comparison. "I see what you mean."

Byron's eyes gleamed. "A solid clue, at last. Can you sketch that?"

Gotthilf spent the next couple of minutes sketching the neck and its marks, all the while listening to Byron mutter about cameras and morgues and medical examiners and the city council. When he was done, they took the lights and examined the body closely, rolling it from one side to another as needed. At the conclusion, Gotthilf closed his notebook and put it back into his pocket, for nothing further notable had been found.

"Well, we could pack him in ice and keep him a while longer, I guess, but I see no need to. I'm no medical examiner, but that's as good a search as I know how to do. For this case, I think we're safe in saying that the obvious injuries are the cause of death."

Gotthilf looked down at the naked corpse. "There is no dignity in death."

"Only as much as we give it," Byron replied. "Let's get a messenger off to the grieving widow. Maybe they can pick the body up later tonight or first thing in the morning. And go put that pry bar on your desk."

The next morning

Otto Gericke was waiting on them when they arrived at the police house early the next morning. They followed him into Captain Reilly's office without even taking off their coats. He turned to face them. "Well?"

"Yes, Herr Bunemann was murdered," Byron began. "Strangled, in fact. Yes, it looks like it happened in a locked room that couldn't be entered. So we've got the beginnings of a good mystery here."

"Any problems with solving it?" Bill was tapping a pencil on his desk.

"We're not far enough into it to know for sure, but it's not open and shut at this point. We'll get it, Captain."

"Any suspects yet?"

Byron looked at Gotthilf, who shook his head. "Nothing very solid. According to Bunemann's accountant, Lutterodt, the man had commercial rivals, but he didn't think anyone hated Bunemann enough to do something like this. Besides, that doesn't feel right to me."

"Feel right?" Gericke questioned.

"Yes, sir," Byron replied. "If it was a business deal that caused this, I would have expected Herr Bunemann to have been shot or stabbed in the street or have his head bashed in in an alleyway somewhere. Something fast and impersonal, hire someone to do it and run. No, this was a crime of passion and premeditation. Someone has been very offended by Herr Bunemann. Someone felt strongly about this. Someone was staring into Bunemann's eyes as he died. Someone went to the trouble of staging this whole thing, of setting up the mystery of the locked room. I don't see that being a business acquaintance."

Gericke shook his head. "Go ahead with your investigation, Lieutenant. But please, bring me an answer as swiftly as you can. As I told you yesterday, Bunemann was an important man in town."

"Get at it, boys," Bill said.

"Send another watchman back to the office," Byron said as they ducked out of the office. They were back on the street in a moment. At least it wasn't raining today. They hadn't walked very far when their cabbie from yesterday pulled alongside them. "Ride, Herren?" Gotthilf shook his head at the cabbie's grin as they got in. "Where to?"

"Bunemann House."

The cabbie flicked the reins, and they were off.

***

A young woman opened the door to Bunemann's house when they knocked. "Yes?"

"Lieutenant Chieske and Gotthilf Hoch, to see Frau Diebes," Gotthilf said.

"Bring them in, Anna," they heard the object of their visit call from farther in the house.

"This way, please." Anna stood back out of the way until they passed, then closed the door and led them into what could only be called a parlor. It was a large room, surprisingly airy and cheery-except for the platform with a dead body on it. Master Paulus had been laid out in his own home, blanket laid over him and pulled up to his chin, leaving his face clear.

Frau Diebes, dressed in black, sat in an upholstered chair, primly, feet together on the floor and hands clasped in her lap. "Good morning, Lieutenant Chieske, Herr Hoch."

"Good morning, Frau Diebes," Gotthilf replied with a nod, echoed by Byron. The widow wasn't wearing black because of up-time custom. The black clothing was likely the best that she owned. He'd heard his mother complain often enough that black dyes were so expensive. "We are sorry to intrude on your grief, but if we are to provide answers to Magistrate Gericke and to you as well, we must first ask some questions."

"As you will, but please be about your business quickly. I have much to do this day."

Byron took the lead again. "Do you know of anyone who hated your husband enough to kill him?"

Frau Diebes shook her head. "No. He seldom talked of his work, so I know nothing of the people he did business with."

"What of the people who work for him?"

"I only know of Gerhard and Johan, and I don't see why either of them would have wanted to do this thing. Paulus was good to them." Gotthilf nodded slightly. That agreed with what Johan had said. Frau Diebes continued, "I know nothing of the men in the warehouse, but I think they had all worked for Paulus for some time."

"Your husband had no close kin?"

"No. His brother and father are dead. I think there may be a cousin or two down toward Leipzig. Herr Koppe would know. Paulus' attorney. He's to come by later today and we are to discuss the business. Part of the business is mine by the marriage contract, because of the money I brought to the marriage, and I have a dower interest in the rest."

Gotthilf pursed his lips and nodded his head in respect. Frau Diebes' thinking seemed to be very clear.

"Do you know the terms of your husband's will?"

"Not exactly. I know he left bequests to his workers, Anna…" She waved a hand at the maid standing to the side. "… a few acquaintances, and… others."

"Others?"

Frau Diebes looked away for a moment, then looked back with a glint in her eye. She pointed to a painting hanging at the far end of the room. "That is our wedding portrait, painted eleven years ago. I was twenty-six, Paulus was twenty-eight. There was no love in the match. Paulus had a reputation as being one who would chase anything in a skirt, but he was never less than respectful to me. He married me for two reasons, neither of which had anything to do with beauty I did not possess: First, I brought gold from my father, and Paulus needed gold just then; and second, to produce an heir. I'm not certain to this day which was more important to him, but he did desire an heir. He attended to his marital duties with vigor and… duty."

She looked down at her hands. "Perhaps if we'd had a child, it could have provided a bond, a foundation on which love could have been built. But after several years, it became increasingly clear there would be no child. And because of his past we both knew who was at fault. So he returned to his mistresses."

Frau Diebes raised her head and stared at the blanket shrouded body. "He would still come to me betimes. The intervening nights I would spend on my knees, beseeching God to give me a child, a son."

Gotthilf remembered a homily from a recent Sunday. "'Give me children, lest I perish,'" he murmured.

The widow's head swiveled to look at him, mild surprise on her face. "Yes. The words of Rachel. Oh, I know them well, the stories of Rachel, and Rebecca, and my namesake Sarah, and even Samuel's mother Hannah. How could I not? God intervened in their lives, but never in mine." The last sentence was uttered in a bitter whisper.

After a moment of silence, she continued in a normal voice, "But before long he stopped coming to me, spending his evenings instead with his whores. He gave me respect, but none of his love, none of his passion."

"And were there illegitimate children produced from his times with his mistresses?" Gotthilf tried to be delicate.

"Oh, please, use the old words. They fit so much better. Yes, both before and after the marriage, his whores gave him bastard children. He gave them gifts, you know: twenty groschen for a daughter, fifty groschen the one time a son was born. He told me about that one, celebrating. That was some time ago. But ever since then, I knew he was thinking. And finally he confronted me one night with a proposal: that we would take into this house that bastard son, adopt it into the family, so that he could have an heir of his body to take over the business when the time came."

"Was that when you went to his office and threatened to kill him?" Gotthilf asked.

Frau Diebes looked at him with eyebrows raised, then smiled for a moment. "You must have gotten that from Johan. He is such an honest boy. Yes, I told Paulus to his face that I would kill him if he brought that boy into this house. I may not have given him children, but I am his wife, and this is my house. As my namesake would not tolerate Ishmael, I would not abide that scandal in my own home."

"Would you have killed him?" Byron asked.

Her jaw set. "I would have tried."

"Did you kill him?"

She held up her small hands. "Do these look like the hands that left the marks on his neck? Oh, yes, I saw them last night as his body was bathed."

"You could have hired it done."

"No, Lieutenant, I did not kill my husband. The fact that I do not

… did not love Paulus does not mean that I hated him."

Gotthilf spoke up again. "Who will take over the business now? Herr Lutterodt?"

Frau Diebes sighed. "No. He grows daily weaker from the consumption." Gotthilf heard a sniff, and he looked over to see the maid Anna wiping tears from her face. "He is her father," the widow explained. "But I will probably have to rely on Herr Koppe to find a man to manage the business now."

Byron looked to Gotthilf, who shrugged. "Thank you, Frau Diebes. That's all the questions we have for now. One last thing-could we also borrow your set of keys to the warehouse?"

"Certainly." Frau Sarah stood, skirts rustling. "Anna will bring them." The two women left through the door under the wedding portrait.

Gotthilf walked closer to examine the painting. Herr Bunemann had obviously not been aging well-eleven years ago he had been a reasonably handsome man. Frau Sarah, on the other hand; well, the truth was as she had said-even on her wedding day she was not a beauty.

"So why is he laid out like this?" Byron asked. "I expected to find him on a bed or in a coffin."

"For the visitation," Gotthilf replied.

"Visitation?"

"For friends and family and acquaintances to come by and view the body and pay respects to the widow."

"Oh." Byron was silent for a moment. "I guess that makes sense. I mean, there are no funeral parlors here and now. But how long will they leave him here? He's already starting to smell some."

Gotthilf agreed. That sweetish odor of decaying flesh had touched his nose also. "I suspect that depends on how long it will take to get a coffin made and arrangements made to bury him. At least two days, maybe three."

"Yuck. Good thing the weather's cool, otherwise he'd be getting pretty high by then."

Gotthilf had to think about that statement, but after a moment he thought he understood what Byron meant.

"Besides," Byron continued, "if he's supposed to look pretty for the visitation, why don't they have him dressed up in his fanciest clothes? That's what we'd do in Grantville."

"The sumptuary laws."

"And what, pray tell, are the sumptuary laws?" Byron's eyebrows were elevated.

"Laws that decree who can wear what kind of clothing, including one that the dead are to be buried in nothing more than a shift."

"Why? Who cares how many clothes a body is wearing when it goes into the ground?"

"The paper makers care. They are in constant need of rags to use in making paper. They managed to get the emperor to make a law that it was illegal for bodies to be buried in clothes so that the clothes of the dead might come to them."

"Sheesh." Byron laughed. "Now I've heard everything."

"It's true, nonetheless," Gotthilf said. "Of course, I also understand that there is more than one lawsuit in the courts now, trying to have the laws annulled or otherwise declared invalid. That may take a while." He chuckled.

"What's so funny?"

"Even if the lawsuits do succeed, people may still get buried naked."

"Why?" Byron sounded very puzzled.

"Remember who I said caused the law to be made in the first place?"

"The papermakers."

"Right. Well, the papermakers do not care where the rags come from."

Byron thought about that for a moment, then his jaw dropped.

"You mean people would dig up dead bodies just to…"

"Steal the clothes off their backs. Yes, they would. It would be easier than digging up the dead bodies to sell to the anatomists, and that's been going on for a hundred years or more. Cloth is a lot easier to carry and hide than a body."

"That's just sick," Byron muttered.

"Welcome to the seventeenth century, my friend."

A noise distracted them, and Gotthilf looked around. Anna was standing in the doorway under the wedding portrait with a ring of keys in one hand. Something started fluttering at the edge of his mind, but it went away when Anna dropped the keys with a clatter. She stooped to pick them up, and averted her eyes from the body as she held out her burden.

"Thank you, Fraulein Anna," Gotthilf said as he took them from her. She bobbed a curtsey. Gotthilf slid the keys into his coat pocket. He noticed Byron was still looking at the portrait. He thought to himself that it was sad when a maid was prettier than the mistress. For that matter, it was sad when the husband was better looking than the wife in such a picture.

"Do you need anything else, Herren?"

"No, Fraulein Anna. We are ready to leave now." Gotthilf nodded to her.

"Come with me, please." She led them to the front door, opened it and stepped aside.

The two detectives moved into the sunlight, and the door closed behind them. They walked down the steps and out to the road. Byron looked around. "Where's that cabbie when you need him?" Indeed, the street was almost empty of wheeled vehicles. They started walking in the direction of the warehouse.

"So, we have evidence of a sort," Gotthilf said, "and we've interviewed the widow. What do we do next?"

"First we go hunt down the people in that list of names we got from Lutterodt and Dauth. We need to know who he had lunch with, and what happened. After that, back to the warehouse," Byron replied. "I'm going to go look at the hands of everyone who works there, and you're going to go into the office and try to figure out how the good Master Paulus Bunemann was murdered when the door to his office was locked and no one went in or out."

"Oh, thanks for giving me the hard part."

Byron grinned. "That's why I'm the lieutenant."

***

The warehouses of the other corn factors were also along the river, so they were able to walk down the river road from one to another. One by one they interviewed the men that Herr Bunemann's accountants had mentioned. The responses varied from smarmy to coldly polite, but they did at length identify two men who had had lunch with Herr Bunemann the previous day. Their stories matched in that they were the only ones who had dined with the victim, and that he was alive and well, if a bit tipsy, when they left him after the meal.

"So much for that," Byron said as they walked down the street.

"Did you expect to find something out?" Gotthilf was curious.

"No, not really. Hoped, maybe, but I didn't expect any more than what we got. They had lunch, he got half-drunk, and they all went back to their offices. Strangulation is just not something you can set up ahead of time. Now, if he had been poisoned, they'd be the number one suspects, let me tell you. But not for this."

"So now what?" Gotthilf asked.

Byron put his hands in his pockets. "Now I think we need to make a call on Master Andreas Schardius."

It didn't take long to find the warehouse of Master Schardius. The layout of the building was similar to Master Bunemann's, with an office on the street side. There were four men at work in the front office when they entered the building, indicating that Master Schardius was perhaps more affluent than Master Bunemann. When they announced who they were, one of the men went through another door, then reappeared a moment later to beckon them.

They entered another office, surprisingly small. "Good morning, Herren." The man behind the desk stood. He was of middling height and build, with brown hair brushed back from his forehead and a neatly trimmed beard. His hands were large, Gotthilf noted.

"Master Schardius?" Byron asked.

"I am. And who are you, if you please?"

Byron introduced himself and Gotthilf, then continued with, "By order of Magistrate Gericke, we are investigating the murder of Master Paulus Bunemann."

Schardius waved at chairs, and said, "Please, be seated." He resumed his own seat. "I had heard that Master Bunemann was dead. I will send my condolences to his widow. I had not heard," the merchant frowned, "that it was murder. Do you know who did it?"

"That's what we're investigating. We'd like to ask you a few questions, please."

"By all means," the merchant responded. "I have nothing to hide." He leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers together over his stomach.

Gotthilf pulled out his notebook and pencil. Byron pursed his lips for a moment, then began.

"We've been told that Master Bunemann disliked you. Was the feeling mutual?"

Schardius chuckled. "No, Lieutenant, it was not. Not long after Bunemann began making contracts under his father, he accepted a proposal from me. It did not work out the way he thought it should, and he accused me of fraud and theft. It was nothing of the sort. Everything I did was in accordance with the provisions and terms of the contract. It was not my fault if he was not as cognizant of the full possibilities of those provisions and terms as I was."

"So you took advantage of him?"

The smile left the merchant's face and he leaned forward. "Be careful of what you say, Lieutenant. I do not tolerate slander or libel." He leaned back again. "No, I did not 'take advantage of him,' or whatever simile you want to use for cheat. His own father recognized that I was within the letter of the contract, or he would have taken me to court. If anything, I helped Master Paulus gain an education in the only school that counts-the school of experience."

Gotthilf made more notes.

"I… see," Byron said. "But you bear… bore… Master Bunemann no ill will?"

"No more so than any of my competitors. If anything, I admired him somewhat. He learned his lessons well. After his father's death, he took their firm and built their business until he was second in Magdeburg in terms of contracts and amount of grain factored."

"Who is first?"

Schardius smiled again. "Why, that would be me. Our family has been the largest corn factor for Magdeburg for three generations, now."

Byron steepled his fingers in front of his chest. "So you had no reason to want the man dead?"

The merchant's smile disappeared again. "Lieutenant, let me be very plain. I did not hate Bunemann. He was a competitor, yes, but I did not hate him. And trust me, if I did want him murdered, it would not have happened in his own office. He would have simply disappeared and been found floating in the river a day or two later with nothing to point to me."

"So you won't mind telling me where you were yesterday afternoon?"

Schardius made an exasperated noise. "Right here in this chair. The men out front will confirm that."

Byron lowered his hands. "Very well. We will ask them on the way out. Thank you for your time, Master Schardius."

All three men stood. Gotthilf put his notebook back in his pocket. "You've hurt your hand in the past, haven't you, Master Schardius?" Byron asked.

The merchant held up his left hand and bent his fingers into a fist. All except the ring finger obeyed him. "This? This is a memento from early in my career, the result of leaving my hand between a barge and the pier it was homing in on. Crushed the finger and left it useless. I sometimes wish I had let the doctor amputate it as he wanted to. It does nothing but get in the way."

They did stop and ask the office men if the merchant had been in his office the previous afternoon. They confirmed his statement.

Outside the building, they began walking toward the Bunemann warehouse.

"So," Byron said, "Master Schardius has a deformed left hand. That means he could be our killer. He also has an alibi, which means he probably isn't our killer." They walked on a few steps. "What did you think of our esteemed merchant?"

Gotthilf snorted. "I would not want to buy a used carriage from the man."

Byron chuckled. "I think I agree with you, partner."

***

Georg was posted back on the front door to the warehouse office. They nodded to him and went on in.

"Lieutenant Chieske, Herr Hoch." Lutterodt greeted them, echoed by Johan Dauth. They returned the greetings.

"Herr Lutterodt," Byron said, "come introduce me to the head man in the warehouse. I need to talk to the men, and I might as well begin with him."

The accountant pushed off from his desk almost in slow motion, gathered himself and walked toward the warehouse door. Midway a coughing spell hit him, and he stopped, one hand on the wall to support himself, the other holding his ever-present kerchief. After it passed, he straightened and led the way out.

Gotthilf looked to Johan. "Bad day?"

"Bad day," Johan nodded.

Gotthilf pulled Frau Diebes' keys from his pocket, walked to the office door and tried the keys until one of them opened the lock. He looked up to see Johan staring at him with wide eyes. Grinning, he placed a finger against his lips, went into the office and shut the door.

It was brighter in the room today compared to yesterday, because of the sunlight flooding through the small windows. The room still couldn't be considered well-lit, however. Surely there was some kind of light… ah, there it was.

On the desk stood an oil lamp. Gotthilf looked around the desktop and found the expected box of the new-style matches. He lifted the chimney, rolled the wick up in the frame, struck a match and in a moment had light. Replacing the chimney, he lifted the lamp by its handle and looked around.

Right. He was supposed to figure out how someone entered and left this room without the two men sitting out front noticing it. Okay, first things first. The windows: could someone come and go through them?

Gotthilf walked over to the window frames and stretched his arm up. He could put his fingers on the sill, but he couldn't touch the window. A taller man could, but looking at the size of the windows and how near they were to the ceiling, he didn't see how even a taller man could get out that way without something to stand on, which there wasn't. And if a chair or something had been moved to provide that, it would still be here. And if it was possible for someone to come into the room and move the chair back after the killer left, then the killer could have come and gone by that way and not bothered with the windows. Right. Windows were out.

Holes. Any holes in the ceiling? Gotthilf lifted the lamp up and spent quite some time walking back and forth, looking at the ceiling in between the beams. There was no evidence of holes or panels that he could see. After a lengthy examination, ceiling access was provisionally crossed off the list. He still might have to come back with a ladder and look at it closely if nothing else was found.

Gotthilf looked around. Walls. Any secret openings in the walls? And how would he find them if there were? With a sigh, he started at the corner nearest the desk and began a process of tapping on the walls, listening for a change in sound.

When he was almost half-way around the room there came a knock at the door. "Gotthilf?" Byron's voice was muffled by the thickness of the door.

"The door's not locked," Gotthilf called out.

Byron entered the room. "How are you doing?"

"Close the door," Gotthilf responded. Byron did so. "Did you find anything among the warehouse men?"

"Having talked to one and all and inspected several sets of very grimy hands, I can say with assurance that none of them have a deformity or damage that would have caused the mark we saw on Bunemann's neck. Now, what have you unearthed?"

"I looked for other ways into and out of this locked room." Gotthilf pointed to the floor by the wall. "There is no way anyone could go out those windows without leaving evidence that they did so; a chair, a table, a stool, something."

Byron looked at the empty floor, and nodded. "Agreed."

"So, I gave the ceiling a visual inspection. Without going over every square inch with a magnifying lens, from down here I see no evidence of a hole, a trap door or a secret panel of any kind."

Byron looked around, pursed his lips, and nodded again. "Also agreed."

"So now I'm looking for secret doors in the walls."

"Any luck?"

"No. I'm starting to get both bored and depressed."

"So where did you start?"

Gotthilf pointed. "At that corner, and I've worked around to here."

Byron nodded. "I'll start there and work the other way. We'll meet somewhere in the middle."

And some time later, they indeed met somewhere in the middle with tender finger tips and knuckles. What they did not have, however, was evidence of a hidden door.

"Okay," Byron muttered, "now I'm getting frustrated. Bunemann was alive until after lunch. He locked the door. Someone strangled him, but according to the front office men no one entered or left the office by the locked door. We have no reason to doubt them, so… how did the murderer get in? There has to be another way into this room. It's against all the rules of mysteries for there not to be another way in."

Gotthilf rolled his eyes. Crazy up-timer books. " We just have to find it. And I still want to see that list when this is over."

"Yeah, yeah." Byron waved his hand as he frowned at the offending walls that would not give up their secrets.

Gotthilf looked around. Had they checked every bit of the wall? A light dawned in his mind. No, in point of fact, they hadn't. "Byron."

"Hmm?"

"Did you check the walls behind the furniture?"

A sheepish look came over his partner. "No."

"Neither did I. Let's try again."

"I don't see any reason to," Byron said. "If it blocks the wall, it would block a door."

More time passed. Gotthilf checked behind two tables, a wine rack and a wardrobe before he came to a heavy coat rack. He shifted the coat rack out into the room and tapped on the wall behind it. It sounded solid, but something didn't feel right. He lifted the lamp up and looked at the wall. There were two hooks mounted on the paneling of the wall, but they weren't quite level with each other. He reached up and grasped the left hook. It was solid, well anchored, didn't move.

The right hook, on the other hand, moved as soon as he touched it. It seemed to slide down a bit. What really caught Gotthilf's attention, however, was the click that sounded from inside the wall. He pushed on the wall; nothing budged.

"Byron."

"What?"

"Come look at this."

With his partner watching over his shoulder he went back to the right hook and pulled on it. It swiveled at the top away from the wall, the click sounded again, and the wall moved toward him a fraction of an inch.

Gotthilf pulled on the hook, and the wall became a narrow and short door. He stuck his head through the opening, and saw what appeared to be a narrow hallway with doors at each end. It must be part of the warehouse area, he thought. Byron squeezed beside him. "Okay, I know where we are. That door goes to the warehouse, and the other one goes outside. I wondered why the inside door to the warehouse was there, and now I know."

They ducked back into the office. Byron slapped Gotthilf on the shoulder. "You were right."

Filled with warmth, Gotthilf lifted the lamp high and examined the door and its frame. It didn't take long to see that it was well made. The hinges in particular were hidden with artifice and cunning. He ran his hand along the top of the opening, stopping when he felt something brush his fingers. In the lamplight he saw what looked to be hairs waving by the edge of the opening. With care he reached up and grasped them, pulling them down and holding them before his face.

They weren't hairs. They were threads, fibers from cloth, all of the same dark color. He held them close to the lamp, and discovered they were green. He knew that color.

Gotthilf stood and looked at the very slight rough spot they had been caught on, and pondered. After a moment, a smile began to grow on his face as he understood what their presence meant.

Gotthilf pushed the secret door closed with his foot, hearing the snick as the latch caught, then moved out to the desk in the office. He set the lamp down and pulled one of the waxed paper envelopes that he always carried now out of his pocket. Moments later, the fibers were carefully captured and preserved.

Byron's eyebrows climbed his forehead. "So, what is it that's got you grinning like a Cheshire cat?"

"A what? Never mind." Gotthilf waved the thought away. He held the waxed paper envelope between the fingers of both hands. "I have the second piece of real evidence in this crazy case."

"Nice work," Byron said. Gotthilf felt a surge of warmth at the compliment from his partner. "But what do you think they mean?"

Gotthilf unveiled his suppositions. "I think they are how the door was opened from the other side."

Byron took them in without comments, spent some obvious time chewing on them, and at length said, "I can buy that. I can see how that would work. And no one would probably ever have known about it if the door had just latched tightly the last time it was used."

"Probably not," Gotthilf agreed.

"So," Byron declared, "we're pretty certain we know how it was done. Do you know who our killer with the deformed left hand is, though? No one we've looked at matches the hand prints."

Gotthilf shook his head. Left hand, left hand. Hadn't they seen every left hand of everyone involved in the case?

Something seemed to strike Byron. He stood up straight and his eyes widened. Gotthilf noticed the change in posture. "What?"

"I think I know who did it. Even more importantly, I think I know why"

"Who?" Gotthilf was anxious. He hadn't been able to figure it out.

"Mmm, you should be able to see it. The pieces of the puzzle are all there."

Gotthilf felt a bit of resentment. "I do not see it."

"Think about it," Byron replied. "Meanwhile, I've got to figure out how to bring the killer in."

"What about confronting him with the evidence?" Gotthilf asked.

Byron sighed. "Yeah, I'm thinking about that. If Gericke wants this thing wrapped up quickly, that may be the fastest way. Okay, let's do it. Set it up for tomorrow, here, in this room."

"Right."

The next day

They arrived early, just as Gerhard Lutterodt was unlocking the front door to the office space. Georg was already there, and they exchanged nods. Once the door was open, they followed the accountant in. Johan appeared just as the door was swinging to.

"Herr Lutterodt," Byron called out as Gotthilf headed over to unlock the door to the inner office.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"We'll be having a meeting here this morning with Magistrate Gericke and Frau Diebes to discuss what our investigation has determined. We will need some of your time and Johan's as well."

"Very good. We are certainly available."

And soon the other meeting attenders began to trickle in. Master Gericke showed up first, soon followed by a burly man of middle years who turned out to be Master Jacob Koppe, the dead merchant's attorney. The two obviously knew each other and at once fell into conversation. After a few minutes, Master Schardius appeared and was shown into the inner office.

They were still waiting for Frau Diebes. Byron drifted over to Gotthilf. "Just like a woman; always late."

"Do you say that about your wife?" Gotthilf grinned

"Not in her hearing." Byron looked around with guilt on his face. "Did you tell her to bring the maid?"

"No." Gotthilf shrugged. "You didn't tell me to."

At that moment, Frau Diebes' carriage arrived in front of the warehouse. Her man Philip set the brake, then dismounted to open the door and help his mistress out of the carriage. No maid followed her.

"Okay," Byron muttered, "that's not good. I need the maid. You head out and get her while I take the good Frau in and keep the others occupied."

"Right." Gotthilf was out of the office and through the front door so fast that Georg barely had time to move out of the way.

He hit the street. "Cab!" The driver looked up; it was the same man that had driven them around several times in this case.

"Good morning, sir. Where to?"

"Bunemann house. Schnell! " Gotthilf jumped in and slammed the door.

***

Gotthilf jumped out of the cab before it stopped rolling. "Wait," he shouted. He ran for the front door and pounded on it as if a horde of demons was after him.

The door opened and Anna the maid appeared. "Herr Hoch?" She sounded surprised. "Frau Diebes is not here."

"I know that," Gotthilf said. "I'm here to see you." Now the surprise showed on the maid's face, and a touch of wariness as well. "We need you at the meeting your mistress has gone to."

"Me? Why?"

"Don't ask questions, and come with me."

The cab made the trip back to the warehouse even faster. Gotthilf again dismounted from the cab before it stopped rolling and threw a pfennig to the driver. Georg got out of his way again as he almost dragged the maid through the outer door. He did manage to slow down so that they entered the inner office at a walking pace. He held up his thumb and found the maid a chair behind her mistress. Byron nodded and looked around at everyone.

"I believe we're ready to make our report now. We promised Magistrate Gericke and Frau Diebes that they would know the results of our investigation as soon as possible.

"The facts of what happened begin in a straightforward fashion. Two days ago, Master Paulus Bunemann returned after lunch, having perhaps drunk more than he should have. He entered this room alone, closed and locked the door. He lay down on that sofa…" He pointed to the object in question. "… to take a nap. A few hours later, concerned about the welfare of the master, Herr Lutterodt had the door forced open, whereupon they discovered Master Bunemann dead. Do I have that correct, Herr Lutterodt?"

"Yes." Lutterodt coughed slightly.

The magistrate was seated behind the merchant's desk, and the others were in various chairs around the room. Gotthilf watched as Byron paced around.

"It was at that point that my partner and I were called in. And we discovered a puzzle. Master Bunemann was apparently alone in the room, yet he had been strangled, so he couldn't have been alone in the room. Our whole investigation has dealt with the problem of how someone else could have entered a locked room. We believe we now know how it was done, and we intend to demonstrate."

Gotthilf walked over and laid down on the sofa.

"My partner represents the sleeping Master Bunemann," Byron said as he walked toward the door, "and I shall represent the murderer. Please wait and watch patiently." He closed the door behind him.

Gotthilf kept his eyes open and his head turned slightly so that he could see at least part of the room. The magistrate was sitting without an expression with his hands clasped together on the desk. Frau Diebes was pale and motionless. Master Koppe was frowning and tapping a finger on the arm of his chair. He couldn't see the others very well, but they seemed to be still.

It seemed like a long time but couldn't have been more than a minute when the secret door opened and Byron stepped through. He said nothing, just walked with silent tread over to the sofa and leaned over and placed his hands around Gotthilf's neck. Gotthilf gurgled and let one arm slip over the side of the sofa. Byron straightened and retraced his steps, just as silently as he had come. The door closed behind him.

"What…" Master Koppe began.

Magistrate Gericke held up a hand. "Wait and see."

A few moments later the main door opened and Byron stepped through. Gotthilf rolled and sat up on the sofa. "And that was how it was done," the up-timer announced.

"I take it that is a hidden door?" Gericke asked.

"Yes, and it took some very good work on the part of Gotthilf to find it."

"I can believe that," Master Gericke said. "So this is how you believe it was done. Do you likewise know who did it?"

"We know from the marks on his neck that Master Bunemann was strangled. We know from the size and severity of the marks that the killer was most likely a man. We also know that the killer had a deformed ring finger on his left hand."

Heads turned to look at Master Schardius. His face turned a little red, but his voice was even when he replied, "A not uncommon injury. There are probably tens, if not hundreds, of men in Magdeburg about which that can be said."

"True enough, Master Schardius, true enough." Byron started pacing again. "So we had to find some other information to help us determine who the killer might be." He stopped. "Fraulein Lutterodt…"

She straightened in shock. "Ye… yes?"

"Had Master Bunemann been making advances to you?"

This time everyone in the room jumped in shock, especially Frau Diebes. The maid paled, and for a moment Gotthilf thought she would faint. She was made of stronger stuff than that, though, and gathered herself enough to give a convulsive nod. "Yes."

Lutterodt lurched to his feet, only to come to a complete halt at the sight of Byron's. 45 automatic pointed at his nose.

The tableau lasted for several heartbeats. The magistrate's mouth was pursed, the lawyer's eyebrows were raised in surprise; Frau Diebes' hand covered her open mouth and her eyes were wide. The picture broke when Johan tried to scoot his chair farther away from his fellow accountant.

Lutterodt began coughing-deep, rasping, barking coughs-and collapsed back into his chair. He fumbled the blood-spattered kerchief from his pocket and held it in front of his mouth as the paroxysms shook his frame. This time it didn't hide the left hand, and Gotthilf could clearly see the ring finger missing its final joint.

At length the coughing died down and Lutterodt sat slumped, eyes staring at nothing, fighting for breath. When his breathing had finally calmed, he raised his head.

"Herr Lutterodt, did you kill Master Paulus Bunemann?" Byron asked in the stillness.

"Yes, I killed him."

"Will you tell us why?"

The accountant's mouth twisted. "It is what you think, and it isn't." He straightened in his chair.

"I married late. I had Johan's position then, under Master Marcus, Master Paulus' father. I had a cousin, younger than me, who was a maid for Frau Esther, Master Marcus' wife. Nineteen years ago, it was, when Master Paulus forced himself on her and she wound up carrying his baby. When she told him, he laughed, and told her that she should be proud to be the mother of his child."

Frau Diebes' face twisted as Lutterodt continued his story.

"Ursula was not from an important family and had only a few pfennigs to her name. She had no hope of help from the law, where it would be her word against the word of the son of one of the wealthier families of the city."

Master Koppe's mouth pursed, as if he tasted something sour.

"Ursula came to me for help and advice. I was always fond of her, and it didn't take long for me to convince her to marry me. Three months later, Anna was born." Everyone reacted to that bit of information. Lutterodt's smile was most bitter. "Indeed, she is a legitimate child, born in wedlock. Ursula and I raised her until Ursula died five years ago, then I carried on alone. She is my daughter," Lutterodt leaned forward, eyes blazing and a drop of blood trailing from the corner of his mouth, "but she is of his blood and bone. I can be some protection while alive, but I am failing fast, and I could see what would occur after I am gone."

Gotthilf nodded. Much now became clearer.

Lutterodt's head turned toward him. "Yes, Herr Hoch, now you see. It is what you think, and it isn't. If Master Paulus were to succeed in his advances, not only would he be ravishing my daughter, but he would be committing incest as well. God knows his heart must have been black with the sins he had committed, but I would not let him drag my daughter down with him. I would not let him taint her with the sin of the daughters of Lot." He slumped back in the chair, and his voice dwindled to a hoarse murmur. "And so I killed him."

"Anna is Paulus' child?" Frau Diebes was bewildered. "I don't believe it. This was happening in my own house? With my maid?"

"Have her stand under your wedding portrait and compare her face to your husband's," Byron said. "The likeness is strong."

"And what will become of my daughter?" Lutterodt murmured

Frau Diebes lowered her hand. "She will be safe with me, Gerhard. Have no fears of that."

The accountant straightened enough to make a seated bow to her.

"Two questions," Byron said. "How did you get into this office, and how did you find out about the secret door?"

"I knew that Frau Sarah had a copy of the key," Lutterodt responded, "so I had Anna make an impression of it in wax and had another key made. And the master would sometimes have women to his office. I saw one of them leaving by that side door one day, and knew that meant there had to be another way into his office. I poked and pulled and pushed on things until I found it."

Lutterodt looked over to Frau Diebes again. "Johan knows everything there is to know about the business. I have been preparing him. I do not have much time left." He shifted his gaze to the magistrate. "Indeed, the hangman's noose might be a mercy."

Master Gericke's mouth tightened. "Thank you, Lieutenant Chieske, Herr Hoch. You have done what I asked for. Now I must discuss this with Frau Diebes and Master Koppe to determine what should be done. Please take Herr Lutterodt to the police house." He transferred his gaze to Johan. "Herr Dauth, please resume your place in the outer office. And you, Master Schardius, may go or stay as you please."

"With your leave, I will stay," the merchant replied. "I may have words for Master Koppe when you are done."

Byron and Gotthilf stepped to Lutterodt's chair, each took an arm and lifted him to his feet. "Let's go, you." Johan led the way out of the inner office, and Gotthilf closed the door behind them.

Lutterodt pulled back as they passed the desks. "Wait," he said in a hoarse voice. They stopped for a moment. He pulled a set of keys from his pocket and gave them to Johan. "You must open and lock up now." That prompted Gotthilf's memory. He dug in his own pockets and produced a set of keys. Byron produced yet another set of keys and tossed them to Gotthilf. Lutterodt gave no resistance as Byron led him from the office.

Gotthilf returned to the inner office. All four faces turned to him when he entered. "Frau Diebes, your keys," and Gotthilf returned them to her. Then he turned to the attorney. "And Herr Koppe, the keys of Master Bunemann." He handed him the keys Byron had passed him, then bowed to Magistrate Gericke and closed the door behind him.

"Come along, Georg," Gotthilf said as he stepped outside. "Back to the police house. We're done here."

"It's about time," Georg replied as he followed. "A fellow could get flat feet from all this standing around."

Gotthilf looked around for what he was beginning to think of as "the cab," but it wasn't in sight. They handcuffed Lutterodt's hands in front of him so he could cover his mouth when he coughed. It was a long walk back to the police house at Lutterodt's slow pace, but at last they arrived. Georg took the prisoner over at that point while they went to report to the captain.

"So the butler didn't do it this time," Reilly said after they finished the report. Gotthilf rolled his eyes. Some other crazy Americanism he had to figure out.

"Nope. It was the accountant all the way. We could see evidence the strangler had a malformed left hand, and he's missing the last joint of his left ring finger. He did a good job of hiding it with his kerchief, though. So that was the first thing. The second was when Gotthilf found the fibers on the door frame that turned out to match the color and consistency of one of the ribbons they were using to tie together documents and folders. He'd used it to loop over the hook and hang out in the hallway. All he had to do was pull on it and it would open the door. But the last was when I noticed how much Anna looked like a younger Paulus Bunemann. If it hadn't been for the wedding portrait, we might still be scratching our heads."

"Well, good job, both of you. And speaking of that," Bill tugged open a drawer and pulled out a couple of wallets, which he tossed to the other men. "These are the new badges for the City of Magdeburg Police department. Cool, huh?" Gotthilf opened the wallet to see a lion's face cast in brass staring at him, with Magdeburg Polizei and the word Sergeant and a number embossed at the bottom.

Byron's hand came in to view and pulled the folder around where he could see it. "Sergeant, hey? That's great!" Gotthilf was staggered by the slap on his back that Byron delivered.

"Now, since you two are my best detectives, go out there and detect something for me." Bill waved his hands in dismissal.

Outside the building, they turned in unison in the direction of The Green Horse.

"Need a ride?" It was "their" cabbie. They looked at each other, then climbed in.

A few minutes later they climbed out again. This time Byron paid the cabbie. "Are you by some chance trying to become our personal driver?" The cabbie grinned and nodded. "Okay, that's cool. Come by the station first thing tomorrow, and let's talk to the captain about it."

The cabbie grinned again, threw something like a salute to them, then clucked to his horse and drove off. The lieutenant and his newly-minted sergeant walked into the tavern, collected their ales and moved to their favorite table.

"Well, that's one crime solved and one bad guy caught," Byron said after he sampled the ale.

"And we didn't have to shoot anyone," Gotthilf replied.

"Amen to that."

Gotthilf turned to his partner with an expectant glance.

Byron sighed. "Okay, now what?"

"What's a Cheshire cat?"

Northwest Passage, Part Two

Written by Herbert and William Sakalaucks

The last patron had left the inn and Anna was in the kitchen, washing the last of the pots. Luke and Mette sat in front of the fireplace in the dining area staring at the flames. Luke's shirt was open and Mette was playfully tickling his gray hairs.

"Mette, how can I concentrate if you keep distracting me?"

"You need some distractions. Your problem with Bundgaard is wearing you down. You need to relax. If you don't, you might not make it to the wedding." Mette joked about it, but her concern was evident. "You've been so worried with the food problem, we still haven't figured out how to tell the children we're getting married. If we don't tell them soon, we may have the first surprise wedding in history."

"I know!" Luke looked chagrined. "I just want to make sure that we do it the right way. Your late husband was a good father to them and I don't want that memory to be an obstacle. I've never had children and, quite frankly, it scares me more than a nor'easter. I'm afraid I'll disappoint them."

"Nonsense. You're wonderful with them and they love you! I'm sure if you just relax it will come to you." Mette kissed him and then went to check on Anna.

With the expedition's departure date rapidly approaching, Luke was overwhelmed with critical issues and just didn't seem to find a moment to solve the announcement problem. During the following week, small shipments of supplies continued to arrive, but no foodstuffs were included in the loads. Mette worked with Luke to review the supply lists. She discovered that he had overlooked many of the small, domestic items that the housewives would need. She pointed out that not only were these items needed, but they might also be good trading items with the natives. She asked Luke to come along with her went she went to buy them. It would give him a needed break and they could discuss the upcoming wedding without interruptions.

***

After the eighth stop, Luke wasn't sure how good an idea going shopping had been. He was in a daze and his feet hurt. As Mette dickered with a clerk for needles and pins, he started to daydream. Eventually his thoughts led to the one question still outstanding about the wedding, how to tell the children. As he stood there and pondered, the answer came. "Mette! I know how to tell the children!" Mette and the clerk looked at him as though he had lost his mind.

"Just what do the children have to do with pins?" As soon as she said it, Mette realized what Luke was talking about. "Men! Can't you ever concentrate on what's at hand?" Mette finished the dickering and paid for the sewing supplies. When she got Luke outside, she asked, "All right, what's the plan?" Luke explained as they continued walking home. By the time he had finished, Mette nodded agreement. "I just hope it works."

Luke reached over and took Mette in his arms, "I couldn't have done this without you. I can run a ship, but trying to handle children is something I have no skill with."

"You'll do fine, Luke. You just need a little more experience."

A child's shout caught their attention. "And speaking of experience, here's a chance for you to get some." The children came running up to greet them.

"Did you get us anything?" cried the smaller McDermott children.

"Not today, little ones. Now be good and go with the captain into the family room and maybe he will tell you a story. I'll have supper there soon."

Little Ilsa hugged Luke's leg. "Can you tell us the story of the bear? I missed it when you told it last time."

"All right, but first everyone get ready for dinner. If you do it quickly, I should have time. After supper, your mother may have another story to tell you.

The children scattered to get the table ready for dinner. When they were finished, they gathered in a circle around Luke and he recited the story of his ship's encounter with the polar bear. The children were entranced until the final scene, when, on cue, Svend let out a bear roar. All the children squealed and laughed. Shortly afterward, Anna came in with the dinner meal, followed by Mette with flagons for herself and Luke.

***

Ilsa and Sean clapped when Mette sat down in the "story" chair after dinner. The two little ones climbed in with her. The others settled down around Luke.

"And now, my story. It's very short and I'm not sure how it will end, but you can help finish it. There once was a widow with five children."

"Just like us, Momma?"

"Yes Ilsa, just like us." Mette continued, "She loved her children, but had been lonely for a long time. One day, a foreign prince stopped, seeking shelter. He was there on a quest to visit the king, but it took a long time to get in to see His Majesty. He was a good prince and treated the whole family well. Eventually, his great quest would lead him to seek an assistant to help with the journey." Svend looked from his mother to Luke, as he realized where the story was leading. He smiled, but Luke motioned for him to hold his thoughts. "The prince was lonely and he came to love the family. One day, he asked the widow to marry him. The lady sat her family down after supper that night and told them a story to see how they felt about having a new father. The end."

Luke rose and stepped over behind Mette. He took her hand in his and continued, "Children, your mother is the lady in the story. I've asked to pay court to her, but before we decided, we wanted to see how you felt first."

Luke was suddenly buried in a mob of happily crying children, hugging him. A smothered, "I think they approve," sounded from the bottom of the pile.

***

Luke and Mette planned for a small wedding but their friends decided otherwise. Time became a precious commodity. Two days before the wedding, Luke and Mette agreed that Mette would remain in Copenhagen until the resupply fleet sailed the following spring. That would give her time to sell the inn and for Luke to get a solid house built. They left unsaid the other reason for delay, the chance for famine the first winter. Luke was worried that the land near the planned site for the fort might not be productive enough. If none of the farmers chose to accompany the miners south or the crops failed, the first winter would be tough.

The day of the wedding arrived, bright and clear. Crews from the three ships, the stockholders, the settlers, and all of Mette's friends filled the nave of For Frue Kirk, the Lutheran cathedral, to overflowing. After a brief ceremony, everyone returned to the inn to celebrate; even the local watch stopped by to join the celebration. However, when John Barrow showed up later in the evening, Luke knew something was amiss. "John, I know you love a good party, but you told me you would be tied up all night loading the latest shipment of gunpowder. What's happened?" Luke had never seen John look so angry.

"We better go someplace quiet, sir. You're not going to like the news I just got." Luke motioned for John to follow him out the back door.

When they got outside, Luke said. "We should be able to talk here without being interrupted. Spit it out! What's happened?"

"That bastard Bundgaard has sold all our food! With the hoarding that's started from all the war rumors; on top of all the refugees already in town, Bundgaard says he won't be able to supply us with food until June. No extra cost, but we have to wait!"

Luke slammed his fist against the doorpost. "Damn! Mette said we shouldn't trust that scoundrel. I'll need to meet with our backers in the morning to decide what we can do. In the meantime, I want you to sniff around and see what really happened to our food. This could seriously jeopardize the entire expedition."

Trying to maintain calm expressions, they returned to the party. Luke walked over to Mette to join the circle of her friends. He did notice John leave the party with the sergeant of the watch.

***

John stepped up nose to nose with the heavier of the two toughs at Bundgaard's office. "My captain is here to see Fister Bundgaard."

The guard glanced back at the door. "He's not available."

Bundgaard gave lie to the statement as he stuck his head out to call for a clerk. When he spotted Captain Foxe, he immediately put on a hang dog expression. "Captain Foxe, I assume you're here about your food stores. You have my apology. I've been forced to extend the delivery date. What with the war and such, prices and demand have gone up so much I would be foolish to deliver them now. I should have sufficient excess by June."

Luke was furious. He stepped forward but John caught him before he got to the guards. Luke shouted, "We have a contract and you've been paid! We have to have the food now!"

From behind the safety of his guards Bundgaard replied. "Captain, I would hate to have to call on the authorities. You will get your supplies, when I say so! Until then, don't come back here! Now get out!" The guards reached for their weapons.

John gently pulled Luke around and whispered in his ear." Not now, Captain. This plays right into his hand. We'll find a better way."

As they turned to leave, the guards laughed and jeered. John glared at them and muttered, "You haven't heard the last of this! We'll get even."

***

Bundgaard laughed. Sailors never learn. They're all naive and so easy to gull!

He entered his office and closed the door. A short, overweight, but well-dressed visitor stepped out from behind it. Giscard de Villereal had been waiting for Captain Foxe to leave. He had just finished negotiating with Bundgaard for supplies for the French fleet blockading Luebeck. They had also discussed France's concern with the Hudson's Bay Company. Luke's arrival had interrupted the discussion.

"I congratulate you, Monsieur! A secure source of food for the French fleet and this annoying enterprise foiled in one act. If they can't sail until summer, they will surely fail. I will deposit the funds in your account today, as agreed. The minister was right in recommending you to us."

After he checked to make sure that Captain Foxe was gone, Bundgaard escorted his visitor to the door. Villereal winced as if his shoulder hurt, but after rubbing it, continued out the door. Visions of future commissions brought a smile to Bundgaard's face. He watched his visitor disappear down the street.

***

Later that evening after transferring the promised funds, Villereal walked back to the house where he lived alone. As he walked, the pain in his shoulder returned. This time, it seemed to spread down his arm. Suddenly, his chest felt like someone was sitting on it. Gasping for breath, Villareal looked around for help. The street was dark; even the moonlight seemed to be failing. He landed face-first on the sidewalk.

The next morning, a partially clad body was found in the snow by the city watch. All items of worth and identification were gone, but there was no sign of violence. When no one claimed the body in three days, it was buried in the potter's field outside the city.

Bundgaard didn't mind this at all. Pure chance had delivered him an opportunity to sell those supplies three times.

***

"You were right Mette. Bundgaard is nothing but a thief! The whole expedition is in trouble," John said.

Mette looked to Luke, who just nodded.

Just then a cabin boy from the Wilhelm entered the tavern and stepped over to Luke. "Captain de Puyter's compliments, sir. I was sent to tell you that the Kristina and the Hamburg have been sighted. They should be docking with the tide." He twisted his cap in his hands. "Is there any message I should take back?"

"Yes. Please inform Captain de Puyter to expect messages for himself and Captains Johannson and Rheinwald for a meeting here tomorrow evening. He's to deliver the messages to the other captains when they dock."

The arrival of the two ships helped Luke reach a decision. "Mette, I'll be up in our rooms. Would you send Svend up to help me prepare the messages?" Then he looked at John. "John, I've seen that look before. Usually about the time some sailor learns a hard lesson in seamanship. What are you planning?"

"With the captain's permission," John said, "I would like to bring an outsider to the meeting tomorrow."

"John, I've trusted my life and my ship to your judgment too many times to count. If you feel it's necessary, then by all means, bring your guest." When John didn't volunteer any more, Luke asked, "Do you want to at least give me a hint what it's about?"

"I need to talk to someone tonight about our problem. I think we may be able to use our problem to solve one of his. If it doesn't work out, then you can't be implicated."

***

Karl walked over and threw his cape over the back of the chair across from his friend. "I'm not surprised to see you, John. I hear our mutual 'friend' is up to his old tricks." John motioned to the barmaid for a beer for Karl and nodded. Karl sat down and took a long drink before continuing. "You're not the first ship he's played tricks on. You're just his biggest scam. His cousin, the minister, gets a cut from all his thefts. The minister has the local magistrate bought off so no one can touch them. The word is that he still has your food but plans to sell it to a new buyer for a higher price. It's all stored in his warehouse down by the docks. I wish I could help, but my commander has threatened my job if I interfere with Bundgaard again. If I had an alternative, I'd give up this job in a minute."

John smiled broadly. "Maybe I have an answer that can help us both. My captain is meeting with our backers tomorrow night and I'd like you to come with me." John set down his stein and fixed Karl with a stare. "Are you serious about taking a new job? We've been looking for a commander for our guard force. I'm confidant Captain Foxe would be interested in your skills."

Karl stared at the fire for a few minutes. This was exactly what his wife had already told him, Try something new and turn the house over to Johann. The chance to tweak his commander's nose was very appealing, too. "My wife has already said she was interested in going. I just wasn't interested in farming. What you've proposed changes everything. I will be there tomorrow night."

***

The following day was a flurry of activity. The captains of the Kristina and Hamburg reported that when they unloaded their cargos for the forces besieging Luebeck, rumors were running rampant. The most prominent ones indicated that a naval relief force, commanded by Admiral Simpson, was expected once the weather moderated. The French were confident they would repel the force, but there were the fantastic claims about the strength of Simpson's new style ships. If they were to be believed, the combined fleet could be annihilated and Copenhagen would be next. The time to depart was getting short.

Word arrived on a French merchant ship that there were serious political problems in England. Charles was gravely ill, the Queen was dead and Wentworth was in the Tower. No one seemed to know where these events would lead. Sir Thomas was a very close associate of Wentworth and he seemed troubled by the possibilities.

All the news wasn't bad. With the new plans to reopen settlements in Newfoundland, two fishing ship captains had contacted Sir Thomas to base a fishing port there. They would sell their catch to the colonies and ship the excess back to Denmark. If the current food problems with Bundgaard could be solved, resupply would no longer be a problem.

***

Karl arrived early, and John escorted him to the back room where Luke planned to meet with the others. "Captain, this is the man I spoke to you about, Karl Andersen. He's a sergeant in the local city watch and a former captain in a mercenary company. He's interested in the guard force commander's position. I told him he had to talk to you about it. For what it's worth, my sources highly recommend him."

Luke motioned for Karl and John to sit down. "You've come at an opportune time, Mr. Andersen. We plan to leave soon, if some current supply problems can be solved. We were looking for a good man to handle our guard force. Initially, there will be fifteen men permanently assigned to keep the peace among the settlers and act as a main defense in case of attack. There are also four trained gunners to serve the cannons that will be landed. All able bodied men will be trained by the commander to serve as a militia. We have forty arquebuses for weapons. We don't expect any trouble with the local natives. Captain James had a local Cree tribal member return with him on his last voyage. He will act as an interpreter and the native has assured us his tribe will welcome us."

Karl was pleased with what he heard. This job wasn't much different from combining his current work with his previous duties in the mercenary company. When they reached an agreement, Karl and Luke shook hands. "Pending approval of our backers this evening, welcome aboard, Commander Andersen." Luke turned to John, "I'm still a little mystified about your request last night, John. I know we were running short on time to find a good guard commander, but that didn't call for all the mysterious comments."

"Now that Karl is on board with us, we can go over that part. Tell him about the warehouse, Karl."

Karl checked to make sure they couldn't be overheard by any patrons in the tavern. He then laid out all the information for Luke about Bundgaard's operations. He finished by saying, "Just as I told John, Bundgaard still has all of your food supplies stored in his dockside warehouse, but he is planning to sell them to someone else. Just how badly do you need those supplies?"

"If we don't get those supplies before April, the expedition will not sail and a lot of people will go broke! We have to have those supplies, now. That's what the meeting tonight's about. We need to find some way to solve this crisis."

John leaned forward. "Karl and I have a plan we think will get you those supplies. It may mean roughing up some of Bundgaard's men. I know personally, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to wipe those smiles off of his guards' faces. Our ships are already docked close to the warehouse. If we can wait until we have a moonless night and Karl is on patrol in that area, we should be able to, ah… liberate the supplies."

"That warehouse normally has only two night watchmen," Karl said. "I can make sure we don't patrol that area when the time comes. If anything should happen, I can come to check it out, but I don't want my men involved. They'll still have to live and work here and my conscience could not allow them to be hurt because of my actions."

"We should have enough men," Luke said. "With the sailors and miners, we can move all the supplies quickly. But let's keep it quiet until the time, just us and the men coming tonight will know. Too many with the details too soon could let the plan reach the wrong ears."

Mette's knock on the door announced the arrival of the rest of the attendees. "We'll settle this immediately." Luke introduced Karl as the new commander and then laid out the problem with the food stuffs and the proposed solution.

There was unanimous support for Karl and the plan.

Saul turned to Reuben, "Brother, I think we may want to plan a long business trip to somewhere else, shortly. It may be too hot here for us." He turned to Sir Thomas with a grin. "I guess that leaves it up to you to hold the bag."

"If the rumors I've heard about conditions in England are true, I may be joining Captain Foxe. If I'm not welcome in Copenhagen, I may be returned to England to see what the Tower looks like from the inside. Wentworth was my patron. I have enough enemies that my position is in peril. If Christian wants a scapegoat, I may be a convenient sacrifice."

Luke wasn't surprised by Sir Thomas' statement. "We can always use someone with your talents. We said to that man from Grantville that we would help those fleeing injustice."

Sir Thomas winced. "I just never imagined I might be the first!"

Luke tried to settle his fears. "If it comes up, I'm sure we can handle it. But first, we have to settle accounts with Bundgaard."

"Agreed!"

"The new moon is in ten days. Do we have all of our people and supplies ready?" Luke looked at the Abrabanels and Bamberg for the answer.

"Right now, we have one hundred and sixty seven settlers and soldiers. Karl and his wife add two more. We'll collect our head bonus when we move them on the ships. That timing could be tricky if Christian holds off payment. We probably should load them this week to make sure we get paid." Bamberg added, "Outside of food, the supplies are ready. Your suggestion to take on extra livestock and passengers when you stop for wood and water at the Orkneys will give you an extra month's food."

***

After the meeting broke up, Luke took Bamberg aside. "Adolphus, you aren't officially part of the company, so you should be all right. I have a favor to ask. It would be better if Mette and the children waited to come with our resupply ships in the spring. Can you watch over them and help her settle her affairs? She means so much to me, if anything untoward should happen, I could never forgive myself."

"You needn't worry, Captain. I've known Mette for a long time. I'll make sure she shows up safe and sound."

"Thank you!" Bamberg extended his hand to shake, but Luke grasped it with both hands, like a drowning man would grasp a rope. "A friend like you is hard to find."

***

Eight days later, a warship arrived from England. Immediately after docking, two sets of messengers disembarked. The first headed directly to Rosenborg Castle to present the new ambassador's credentials. The second set was an officer and two men who asked at the dockside for directions, then strode off toward the house of Sir Thomas Roe. When they arrived, the officer pounded on the door with the hilt of his sword. Michael, the doorman, cracked the door to see who it was.

"I am here, by order of King Charles. Is Sir Thomas Roe in residence?"

Michael realized the worst had happened and stalled for time. "Sir Thomas is not here at the present. He's not expected back from his trip until late tomorrow night." Michael didn't bat an eyelash at the lie. Sir Thomas had actually just stepped out for his morning walk and would return within the hour.

"Very well, I shall return then. Please give him these documents when he returns." He handed over a sealed packet, turned and left abruptly. The two soldiers lingered behind, down the street from the house.

Agnes came out timidly from the library. "I heard what he said. Is Uncle in trouble?"

"I fear so, child. You know the pastry shop where he stops on his walk. Put on a cape and fetch him back quickly. He needs to see this right away. Make sure he comes in the back way, in case the two soldiers are still there." He held up the packet so that she could see the wax seal with the King's stamp on it.

Her eyes went wide, but she did as she was told. Five minutes later, Agnes reached the pastry shop where Uncle Thomas was chatting with the owner and eating one of his favorite kringles. Agnes paused to catch her breath and then entered the shop. "Uncle, Michael sent me to let you know that your expected visitor from England has arrived."

Sir Thomas successfully fought the urge to flinch. Agnes had thoughtfully phrased the message so that Inge, the gossipy pastry cook, wouldn't have anything to pass on to someone who might ask later. "I'll be right along, Agnes. Why don't you pick out a pastry? A brisk run deserves a reward."

"Thank you, Uncle." Once they left the shop, Agnes whispered. "Michael suggested that you might want to use the rear entrance. Two soldiers were left to watch the front door. He told the officer you weren't expected back until tomorrow night." She stopped and looked up at her uncle. "The soldiers scared me, Uncle. Are we going to be all right?"

"I hope so, Agnes, but we won't be staying in Denmark. What do you think about a long sea voyage?" The smile that lit up her face told Sir Thomas a lot.

***

Michael handed Sir Thomas the packet. Matilda, the cook, stood by with clenched hands. Sir Thomas broke the seal and quickly read the summons. "What we've feared has happened. I've been summoned home to be questioned. With Wentworth gone, England isn't safe for me. I will not return, but will travel with the expedition. You are both welcome to accompany Agnes and me."

Matilda answered immediately. "If Agnes is going, then I go, too. She's like a daughter to me and I won't leave her. Someone needs to make sure you're both fed well."

Michael paused before answering. He hung his head, "I've met a lady, sir, and we were planning to get married. Her parents need her. I'm sorry, but I need to stay. I'll help to cover your departure if needed."

"Very well. I'll leave funds for you with Factor Bamberg to close up the house and store what we can't take with us. He'll also have a pension for you." Sir Thomas reached for the door. "I need to see Captain Foxe and let him know what's happened. Start packing. I'll be back late this evening with help to finish."

When Sir Thomas arrived at the Kobenhavn, he was met by John Barrow. "The captain is at the warehouse going over the plan with the miners, Sir Thomas. Can I help you?"

"It appears my niece and I will be joining your voyage. Do you have someone that can help load us tonight? We will need to do it discreetly. There may be watchers who want to interfere."

"Captain Foxe said this might happen. I'll have a wagon and five of the miners at your back door after sunset. We've kept a cabin for you on the Hamburg." He paused, and then grinned. "I'll send two sailors to distract any watchers."

"Thank you, Mr. Barrow."

"Think nothing of it. It will be good practice for the bigger job tomorrow night.

***

"Now remember, no knives! The guards must not be killed. There should only be two of them. We'll surprise them and swamp them with numbers. We need to be able to come back here, so we take only what we paid for, nothing else!" Luke looked around to make sure there was no misunderstanding.

At a knock on the front door, everyone went quiet. Adolphus went to see who it was, then opened the door and motioned the visitor in. "It's one of your crewmen, Luke."

The man made his way through the crowd to the captain. "Mr. Barrow sent me to tell you, Captain, that Sir Thomas will be sailing with the expedition and that if you could spare them; he needs five strong men and a wagon to help load their belongings. He said there is some urgency and a need for men who can work quietly."

Luke turned to Steinbrecher. "We're done here. Would you choose five of your men you can depend on to work quietly and send them, with one of the wagons, to the ship?"

"Certainly, sir." He motioned to a group standing nearby. "Hermann, you and your brother Augustus, Hans Kleindorf, Johan Becker and Wilhelm Amtmann, come over here. The captain has a job for you. Hermann, you're in charge. Your brother will drive the wagon. Go with this sailor and follow whatever instructions Mr. Barrow gives you when you arrive at the ship."

***

Everything went smoothly at Sir Thomas' house. The soldiers had left as soon as the sun went down and the temperature started to drop. The miners arrived with the wagon a short time later. Sir Thomas and Agnes were safely aboard the Hamburg before six bells. Svend helped with the unloading at the ship. He offered suggestions for what might be useful day to day and what could be stored in the hold. He was ecstatic that Agnes would be sailing with them.

It was a bittersweet night for Luke and Mette. When they married, they knew the parting would come quickly. They spent their time storing up memories for the months of separation that were coming.

***

Just after supper, Svend donned a shabby set of clothes and an old boat cape and wandered down by Bundgaard's warehouse. He settled into a protected opening between two shops, a half block down from the warehouse; just like a street urchin trying to find a place to spend the night. His job was to watch the warehouse and warn the advance party if there were more than the usual two guards and play decoy for the raid.

Shortly after sunset, five sailors from the Henriette Marie came carousing down the darkened street past the warehouse. The two warehouse guards were stationed in front by the main doors, with a warming fire for heat and light. As they passed the fire, one sailor got boisterous. "We sail in the morning! I intend to spend this whole bonus tonight, drinking and wenching!" He shook a full money pouch and then a half empty bottle to emphasize the point. Fifty feet later, as they passed Svend, Svend signaled that no extra guards had been spotted. He waited a second and then darted out. He grabbed the sailor's pouch and ran back toward the guards. The victim yelled and then the five took off after Svend yelling, "Stop that thief!"

Svend appeared to trip on a cobblestone right in front of the warehouse guards and spilled the coins. The guards had only laughed when the sailor was robbed, but the sight of the coins spurred them to action. They pounced on Svend, just as the sailors caught up. They shoved Svend toward the sailors and scrambled for the few gold coins that glistened in the firelight. Two solid "thumps" and the warehouse was secured. The sailors picked Svend up, and congratulated him. "Nice piece of acting, sir. You nearly had us believing it." They picked up the rest of the coins, gave Svend a better cape to wear, and sent him off to bring in the rest of the raiding party.

While Svend was gone, they proceeded to truss up the two guards and gag them. They relieved the guards of the door keys and dragged them inside so they were out of sight. Two sailors stayed out front to assume the guard's station in case someone wandered by. Ten minutes later, the rattle of four wagons could be heard approaching the warehouse. A silent group of men appeared at the rear of the building at just about the same time. Torches were lit and the loading of the supplies began.

***

At a tavern six blocks away a farewell celebration was in progress. All of the district watch that was on duty was there to bid Karl farewell. He had resigned from the watch and would sail in the morning.

"To Karl Andersen, the best sergeant in the whole watch!" Gunnar, the new watch sergeant raised the toast, "I just wish I could have seen the commander's face when you told him you resigned."

"Oh, he was happy. No more complaints from Fister Bundgaard. I'll be glad to never have to deal with that bastard again. He's your problem now, Gunnar!" Gunnar looked like he couldn't decide whether Bundgaard or the commander was the bastard. Karl laughed and downed the last of his drink. He thought, Captain Foxe, I just hope you appreciate the hangover I'll have in the morning and that the seas aren't too rough when we sail. Two hours of drinking to go yet!

***

At the warehouse, the supply loading was nearly complete. John checked off the items as they were set in the wagons. When the last keg of flour was loaded, the two thugs were tossed in behind. John leaned over and whispered to them. "Cheer up. We have plans for you boys yet." The trip to the docks took only minutes. After the wagons were emptied for the third time that night and the supplies stored on board, John called for any empty barrels and crates on the Kobenhavn to be loaded into the wagons and covered with tarps. He then reported to Luke, "All secure, Captain. We're ready for the last phase. I'll head to the tavern. The wagons can start in five minutes." The sounds of the Henriette Marie, the Wilhelm and the Hamburg as they cast off in the darkness could be heard. "I hope your subterfuge with the ships works, sir."

"I do too, John. I hope the two fishing boats and the Kristina get back in time to rejoin us before we sail. In the confusion of sailing, people should only see the four ships they expect to see. If this masquerade works, we may throw suspicion elsewhere. If anyone tries to search us for missing supplies in the morning, our departing ships will be in the clear. We'll all rendezvous at Stromness Harbor in the Orkneys "

John headed down the gangplank to the dock. The two guards were now seated in the last wagon with three sailors as guards. Knives were out, but hidden. "You boys thought it was funny when Bundgaard threw us out." John had recognized the two from his visit to Bundgaard's office. "You're both in a lot of trouble for stealing Fister Bundgaard's supplies." The two started to protest, but a sharp prick with a knife silenced them. "We've left evidence and witnesses that you planned this theft. If you cooperate, you'll live and even profit for the experience. Otherwise…" John gestured with his knife, leaving the threat unsaid. "All you have to do is sit up here and drive a few blocks. When we reach a certain point, you will be met by some men with horses and money, who will escort you out of the city. And you'll be far away by sunup, if you know what's good for you." John's appearance from a lifetime of bar fights in foreign parts accentuated his threat. As he strode away, he called back over his shoulder, "I told you we'd get even."

Ten minutes later, John entered the tavern where Karl was partying. When he spotted John, Karl took his cue to start preparations to leave. When the group left the tavern and their eyes had adjusted to the dark, they had to wait for four canvas covered, loaded wagons to pass. Karl pointed to the last wagon, "Aren't those Bundgaard's toughs? I wonder what they're doing moving stuff this late at night?"

"Maybe someone needed a delivery before sailing early in the morning?" Jens suggested.

Karl watched the last wagon disappear around the corner. "But they aren't heading toward the docks. Gunnar, you may need to watch them. Moving goods this late at night… maybe Bundgaard is up to something no good. Those two look like a couple of thieves"

"I'd chase them down now, Karl, but I don't think my legs would be up to it." Gunnar was only standing upright because of Jens' support. "I'll check around tomorrow, when we report for duty."

John came out behind the group after they left. Karl started to stagger so John gave him a supportive shoulder to lean on. Karl said, "You know, Magda is going to kill me for getting this drunk." He staggered a little, but kept walking. John chuckled softly as they trekked back to the ship.

***

The next morning, an irate merchant reported a major robbery to the watch commander, only to find out that the commander was already aware of the circumstances. An off-duty watch sergeant had seen two of the merchant's guards with a group of loaded wagons heading further into the city the previous night. The commander concluded that the guards stole the goods. The culprits were never found. Since he had already been paid twice for the goods, Bundgaard let the matter drop.

At the home of the former English ambassador, the officer tasked to escort Sir Thomas Roe to England arrived to an empty residence, with only some carters loading furniture for storage. No one knew where the ambassador had gone. The officer returned to his ship empty handed.

Down at the harbor, four ships weighed anchor and set sail for the new world. Only a small group was at the docks to see them off. A mother and her children stood there until the ships were out of sight. She would see her new husband and son again in the spring.

***

Homecoming

Karen Bergstralh

January 1636, Dover, England

Four large bay mares walked quietly down the gangplank and on to the quay. Their heads lifted, nostrils widened, and ears swiveled taking in the new sights, odors, and sounds but they showed no signs of distress. Wilfram Jones smiled in relief. The mares were his gift to his family and the last of his group's horses to be off-loaded. The English Channel had been choppy and not all of the horses had been as phlegmatic.

"That's it, Wilf," Reichard Blucher said, coming up behind him. "All our gear and animals are off that miserable excuse for a ship."

"It got us here without charging a king's ransom," Wilf answered, "and the captain didn't overcharge us for what your horse did to his ship." He glanced up at the clouds and frowned. "We need to get on our way. It's a long ride to our destination and yon clouds look like they hold snow."

Wilf directed Christian du Champ, Dieter Wiesskamp, and Reichard to manage the packsaddles and packs. Mike Tyler joined him in saddling the riding animals. In less than an hour all five men were mounted and each held the lead of a packhorse.

"Okay, let's go," Wilf called out and started his horses off through Dover.

"You should say 'Move 'em out,' Wilf," Christian said with a wicked grin.

"No, no!" Dieter chimed in. "It's 'Head 'em up! Move 'em Out!' but only if you're leading a cattle drive or a wagon train. Ask Mike."

"Don't look at me," Mike Tyler replied. "Westerns never were my favorites. You guys are the ones who spend all your spare time watching Rob's old tapes."

Wilf ignored the banter and concentrated on winding through the crowded streets. Once clear of the town he led them off the Dover to London road and onto a smaller lane leading west. He kept them moving for half an hour before calling a halt to check cinches and give the horses a rest.

Dismounting, Wilf drew in a deep breath of cold, damp air.

"Ah, the smell of England. As we're upwind of the town, the worst stink is cow dung."

"How long has it been," Christian asked, "since you've had a lungful of English air?"

"Years. I came back once, but never made it past the docks." Wilf frowned at the memory. "I was just turned twenty and thought to show my father and grandfather that I'd survived and even had money in my pockets." His memories of that aborted visit stirred up a number of other unpleasant memories.

"What happened to stop you?" Christian asked softly

"At a dockside inn a whore reminded me that mercenaries are the scum of the earth. She did find my money as good as any other's, though." Wilf faced his old friend and lifted an eyebrow. "No doubt, someone similarly informed you."

"None so kind as a whore. My grandfather ordered me out. Ordered that my name be removed from family records. He told me that I wasn't even fit to beg on the streets so that left becoming a mercenary."

The quick smile that crossed Christian's lips didn't fool Wilf. His own memories still festered and he suspected that Christian's did so, also. Movement among the horses drew his attention.

Reichard's gelding had his head up, a clump of grass hanging forgotten from his mouth. The horse's attention focused on the road behind them. One by one the other horses lifted their heads and subtly tensed.

"Get mounted," Wilf ordered, "someone's coming." Before he was fully settled in his saddle his right hand had moved his up-time pistol from its holster to his coat pocket. "Michael, take the packhorses and stay behind us. If a fight starts, ride off down the road as fast as you can manage. We'll catch up."

"Are you expecting a fight?" Tyler asked calmly. Wilf smiled at the sight of the pistol ready in Michael's hand. The young man had come a long way from the shy, nervous boy he'd first met. Briefly Wilf wished that Rob Parker was with them. Rob had several times proved capable of handling a pitched battle. Michael was still green when it came to a life-or-death fight.

"No, but I picked this road because there shouldn't be much traffic." He paused, listening. "Our visitors are mounted. That could mean soldiers or an organized band of thieves. Not that there's always a difference between the two." When Tyler nodded thoughtfully Wilf turned away and moved to the front of his little band. He noted that Christian held an up-time style shotgun instead of his usual blade. Dieter had his pistol out, but held it down along his leg, hidden from a casual glance. Reichard's pistol looked like a toy in his big hand and it, too, was held out of sight.

Satisfied, Wilf reined his horse to a spot ahead and to the right of Reichard. The first of the approaching group came around a bend in the road and Wilf allowed himself a smile. They were soldiers and he recognized the man in the lead.

"Ho, there!" the leader called out. His eyes went wide when he saw Reichard and he broke into a grin. "God's Blood! If it isn't Wilfram Jones! I should have known when the city guard reported a giant and a dwarf rode through." The soldier turned to the man beside him. "Sergeant, hold the men here. These villains are old friends of mine, dangerous only to beer and wine kegs." He rode forward and shook hands with Wilf.

"Robert Masters, you pox-ridden, out of luck whoreson! What are you doing here and who is the idiot that put you in charge of more than a pike?"

"Good to see you, too, Wilf," Masters replied genially. "And it's Lieutenant Masters now. Captain Bryce put together a company and, being a man with vast military knowledge, he begged me to join him."

"Your Captain Bryce wouldn't be Thomas Bryce, would he?" Wilf asked innocently. When Masters nodded, he added, "Then your band is lead by a drunken fool who's named the village idiot as his second. What are you doing in England?"

"Aye," Masters sighed dramatically, "that sums us up. Now that jobs are scarce on the Continent we'd have been more fools to not take the King's coin." Masters paused and looked back at his troopers. Lowering his voice he continued. "It's said that King Charles is pissing himself in fear over those supposed histories from the future. He's hired a number of mercenary companies, our amongst them, to keep what happened-what is going to happen…"

"What happened in another universe," Wilf finished for him. "We all get tangled dealing with four hundred years of future history." Scratching his chin, Wilf regarded Masters. "Hasn't anyone explained that just because it happened in that other universe doesn't mean that it will happen in this one?"

Masters shrugged. "There are those who say that speaking sweet reason to the king is a waste of one's breath. Such talk may be moot. Rumors have the king at death's door. Whoever it is giving orders, be it the king or some other, he's as vicious as Satan. I've seen people gaoled on the slightest suspicion. God's Blood! What were we to think when Archbishop Laud ended up in the Tower?" Shaking his head, Masters smiled and gave Wilf a speculative look.

"Still, a job is a job. We're waiting for the last of our company to come across before heading up to London next week. Most of the company is green as grass. Thomas and I could use some dependable old hands."

"Sorry, Robert," Wilf said, returning the smile, "but we aren't mercenaries anymore. No, now we're respectable horse traders. Christian's become so respectable that he's married and has children. Dieter and I are courting a pair of widows. He's made more progress with his suit than I, but I have hopes."

"So that rumor is true," Masters mused. "You are living in the town from the future. Do they know that you were mercenaries?"

"Aye, we live in Grantville. They know very well that we were mercenaries considering that they captured us on the field of battle. Among their strange ideas is that a man's past shouldn't be held against him if he wants to change. When you tire of the mercenary life come look us up."

"I may do that. What, pray tell, brings you to England in these troublesome times?"

"I've a client who thinks that a certain stud farm has some interesting stock. The client is paying for us to come and fetch a few choice animals. As the stud is near my family's village, I intend to see if any of my family still lives."

"Walk softly, Wilf, and keep your thoughts to yourself," Masters counseled. "Especially if they are about the king. Stay well clear of London, too. It sounds like your new friends made a right mess of the Tower. Some of the rumors have Satan sending the Angel of Death to strike men down with an invisible sword and then five hundred fiery demons emerging from the very gates of Hell to pull down the walls. Impossible, of course, but how else could they bring down even part of the walls without siege cannon?"

"Ah, yes." Wilf grinned wolfishly. "But then, you've never met Harry Lefferts and his wrecking crew." He hesitated for a moment. Considering all the talk and wild tales he'd heard across Europe, it was certain that Robert had heard about Julie Sims. Wilf didn't know where Julie was but, should she be in England, it wouldn't hurt to polish up her reputation. He lowered his voice and, in a solemn tone, cautioned the mercenary. "The 'Angel' is a slip of a girl with the eyes of an eagle and a rifle from the future. Her targets never see her. Pray that you never, ever give her cause to hunt you. I helped bury eighty Croats she killed when they attacked the school at Grantville."

Robert Masters blanched. "May God preserve us! I'd thought those tales were wild exaggerations."

Wilf shook his head. "When you come to Grantville you can see the grave for yourself." He waved a hand at the rest of his group. "Neither you nor the king have any reason to worry about us. Our destination lies well away from London. We're no more than a company of simple horse traders."

"That should do for anyone who doesn't know you." Masters nodded and smiled grimly. He glanced back at his men. The sergeant was haranguing a pair of troopers over loose girths. Judging from their faces neither man understood what the sergeant was saying. "Given what I've seen and heard, you may find me at your doorstep within the year."

"You'll be welcome, Robert." Wilf said.

"I'll be off, then. That is, if Sergeant Donaldson can get yonder whoresons mounted and whip them into some kind of order." He motioned to the sergeant and turned his mount back down the road.

The horse traders waited in silence until the soldiers disappeared.

"What now, Wilf?" Reichard asked mildly.

"We change roads. I hadn't planned on going by the London road." He shrugged. "But now I think that we'll join it for a bit and swing west north of where I'd planned."

"Why change roads?" Michael asked, his face showing nothing more than curiosity.

"Ah, well, not to put it too nicely, I don't completely trust our old friends Robert and Thomas. They may feel the need to prove themselves to their new paymaster. It could cross their minds that an easy way to do so is by arresting us. We'll change roads to avoid them. By the time we return to Dover they'll be in London." Wilf sighed. England was the land of his birth, his home. Perhaps it was just the perspective of his years as a mercenary, or perhaps because he'd left England at sixteen, but England now felt like a foreign land.

"The regular Dover authorities shouldn't be a problem. We landed legally and carry all the right papers. From the look on the customs clerk's face, we are probably the only people ever to pay our fees without arguing." He stared down the road before continuing. "When chaos stalks the land, strangers are easy targets. We might appear suspicious to those who don't know us."

"Actually," Michael replied with a wide grin, "those who know you guys best have no trouble considering you suspicious."

"Ah, Young Michael," Wilf replied lightly, "You wound me! Come on, daylight is burning." He ran a critical eye over the group as they started up the road. God help anyone fool enough to tangle with them, even young Tyler.

***

"Nine days, given our detour, the state of the roads, and the weather, isn't bad time for the distance we've come." He peered at the map in front of them. "Wylye lies here. Stonehenge lies there, north and a bit east of it. Avebury is another twenty, twenty-five miles from Stonehenge. The stud farm we want is just north of Avebury." Wilf traced the route on the map. " We're twenty miles or so from Wylye tonight, about here. My family's farm is just outside a village about here." His forefinger thumped the map. "Too small to appear on Rob's map. Or, mayhap, long gone to plague or war by the time this map was drawn." He settled back and lit his pipe. Reichard and Christian looked at the map and nodded. Michael leaned forward, peering closely at it in the dim light the inn's candles offered.

After a moment Wilf took pity on the young man. "You'll get to see Stonehenge and Avebury, Michael. While neither are presently a tourist destination, people do visit them to gawk at the stones. One more band of awestruck yokels won't stand out. Unfortunately, the same doesn't hold for these other piles of stones we've passed. Dolmens, I think you called them. Many consider such stones cursed or the Devil's altars, and poking about them would draw the kind of attention you don't want. "

Things had indeed changed since he'd left England. The villagers had been always been a bit wary of strangers but now suspicions ran dark and deep. Even the innkeepers greeted travelers warily. Foreigners were watched closely.

Since they'd left the Dover-London road Wilf had insisted that everyone speak only English. People were used to travelers from elsewhere in England having odd accents. After four years in Grantville even Dieter's English could pass for "not from around here but not foreign."

Wild statements about the king's health and mental state floated on every breeze. Each new rumor seemed to bring a spasm of activity by military patrols. The group had been stopped and questioned half a dozen times.

After knocking the dottle out of his pipe Wilf reached out and carefully folded the up-time map. He got up from the table and pointed to the stairs. "Enjoy your sleep tonight. There's no inn where we're going so tomorrow night we may end up sleeping in my grandfather's barn."

***

"Who be ye?" the voice trickled out from behind a solid oak door.

"Wilfram Jones. Second son of William Jones, grandson of Paul Jones, the horse breaker."

"Wilfram Jones be long dead," the voice muttered. "Dead and gone in some foreign land."

"I've been a long time in foreign lands but I'm most certainly not dead." Wilf stated firmly. He couldn't puzzle out if it was a man or woman behind the door. The voice and phrasing sounded elderly. It had been too many years since he'd heard his family's voices and he had no idea if the voice was family or a servant.

"Be ye Wilfram, ye must be a foul specter." The sound of the door's bar dropping into place signaled the end of the conversation.

Wilf looked around in frustration. The day had started out cold and dark and damp. By midmorning a light snow began falling. Now, with dusk upon them, they found his family's house shut tightly against them.

"That barn you spoke of last night," Christian's voice broke the silence. "Perhaps your grandfather's cattle will give us a kinder greeting. It'll get us out of this wind."

"Aye, though we'll need to watch out if he's got a stallion or two in there." After a last look at his family's front door Wilf led the group to the barn. He was dismayed to find it empty save for a single cow and half a dozen sheep. Snow sifted through a hole in the roof. What had happened here? Grandpa never allowed repairs to go undone. Da was swift with a cuff and words when Wilf or his brothers skimped on their chores. Were all his family dead?

"It appears that hard times have overtaken your family." Christian remarked. "That might explain the barred door."

"Someone's kept the stalls in good repair." Reichard's tenor came out of the dimness. "There are enough for our animals and, if we double up, for us, too."

"There's fresh hay in the loft. Straw, too." Michael's voice came from overhead. Wilf could see the beam of his up-time flashlight sweeping the loft. "I'd guess that there's enough hay to see a dozen cows or horses through until spring. There's a tin grain bin up here. It's only about a third full and the grain's musty. Jo Ann would not approve."

Dieter joined in, slapping Wilf on the shoulder. "It's fine, Wilf. We've slept in far worse places."

A flash of shame surprised Wilf. He'd come home at last and his family barred the door in his face. That was bad enough, but to have it happen in front of his friends… What was the quote Rob Clark had tossed off before they left? Something about never really being able to go home again?

***

"Are you a ghost?" a child's voice woke Wilf. A boy of five or six squatted beside him, peering intently at his face. "You look like Papa."

"Is Papa's name Andrew?"

"No," the little boy shook his head, "his name is Papa."

"Ah, is your Papa is called Robert or Robin?"

The boy stared at him and nodded solemnly. This boy was the son of his youngest brother, then. It didn't seem possible. Robin had been scarcely older when Wilf had last seen him. There was the look of hunger in the boy's face.

"Reichard, is that bacon I smell?" Wilf called softly, not wishing to wake any of the others that might still be asleep.

"Bacon, a bit of salt pork, and the bread we bought yesterday. There's also half a wheel of cheese and a few onions."

"Do you think that there might be enough to spare for my nephew, here?" Wilf watched joy spread across the boy's face when Reichard agreed that there was enough for their visitor, too.

"Don't eat too fast," Wilf cautioned the boy a few minutes later. "Or you'll get sick."

"You have a lot of horses. Are you very, very, very rich men?" The question was mumbled around the cheese and bacon sandwich Michael had handed the boy.

"Nope, not rich at all." Michael answered. He flipped open his folding knife and sliced an onion to add to his own cheese and bacon sandwich. The boy watched closely, reaching out to touch the knife. Michael pulled out his flashlight and showed him how to crank the handle. A squeal of delight greeted its illumination in the dim barn.

"No, nephew." Wilf added. "We're not poor, but we aren't rich. We've so many horses because we're horse traders. When we find good horses we buy them and then sell them to other people."

"You aren't a ghost." The boy made it not quit a question.

"I'm not a ghost." Wilf agreed. "Ghosts don't break their fast by eating bacon, cheese and bread." He took several big bites and chewed vigorously to prove the point.

"Your Papa is Robert Jones, youngest son of William Jones," Wilf stated after taking a sip of beer.

The boy nodded. "Momma calls him Robin. Granny Digby calls him Robert."

Relief washed over Wilf. From the way that the boy spoke of him, Robin was alive.

"Robin is my brother. That makes you my nephew and me your Uncle Wilfram."

"Uncle Wilfram is dead." The boy's voice wavered a bit and he looked uncertain.

"Touch my hand." Wilf extended his right hand toward the boy. Hesitating, the child finally reached out and poked Wilf's hand with a finger.

"Now, put your hand on top of mine. I'm no ghost, but solid flesh."

The boy inched closer and placed his small, grubby hand on top of Wilf's.

"See? Flesh and bone."

"Will? Where are you, boy? You better have watered the cow…" A woman slid the barn's door open and stepped in. She halted, taking in the presence of the five men. Her eyes widened when Wilf stood up.

"Andrew? It was you at the door last night. Your drunken jokes go too far. What have brought upon us now?"

"No, mistress, I'm Wilfram, Robin and Andrew's brother."

"He's not a ghost, Mamma." Little Will piped up. He reached up and poked Wilf's arm. "We're having a feast."

"Will, come here, now." Cold or fear made her voice tremble but she held her ground. No one moved and she took a few steps toward the men. She faced Wilf and looked him over carefully.

"You have the look. Enough like Andrew to be him when he's sober." Her eyes swept the interior of the barn, taking in the filled stalls and the cooking fire. That last held her attention. "I suppose I should thank you for cleaning out the old forge instead of burning down the barn."

"Give us a day," Dieter gave her his most charming smile, "and we'll set the roof right, ma'am."

"Why bother?" She said bitterly. "It won't be ours much longer."

"Because the Hampfords have demanded that it be fixed." A man's voice answered. A younger, taller version of Wilf maneuvered through the door. He leaned on a crutch, his free hand holding a pistol. His left leg was heavily bandaged and his face lined with pain. "Blessed Lord, this has to be Wilf!"

"Robin! Grown a bit haven't you, boy?" Wilf embraced his brother gingerly. "What's happened to you?"

"That thrice damned roof." Robin winced. "I fear that my attempts at repair only enlarged it and put the seal of death of me."

This close, Wilf could smell the infection in his brother's leg and his heart sank. He'd seen more soldiers die from infected wounds than in battle. By the time you could smell the wound there was nothing to be done save start digging a grave. Except… He glanced at Dieter. Dieter had medical skills and he'd taken some additional training in Grantville. The group's first aid kit held several up-time style medicines, too. Together they might be enough.

"Mayhap not, little brother. Dieter?"

"I'll do my best," Dieter agreed. "As long as he's still alive there's hope. The kitchen is probably the best place. I'll want boiled cloths for bandages and he'll need to be kept warm. Michael, you've had the advanced first aid course?"

"Yup. Should I break out my first aid kit?"

"Yes, and I'll need your assistance, too." Dieter turned back to Wilf. "Don't just stand there. Get your brother to the house."

Wilf picked Robin up, dismayed to find how thin and light he was. When Robin protested, Wilf scolded him.

"Save your strength. You'll need it to curse Dieter while he cleans up your leg."

***

"What happened here, Robin?" Wilf asked. He was pleased to see the change in his brother this morning. The pain in the younger man's face was less, the fever flush replaced by a healthy pink.

"Do you remember how it was when you left? Grandpa and Da constantly yelling at each other?"

"Aye, and at everyone else. It's one reason I left."

"The fighting continued until Grandpa died two or three years later. Then everything started to go to pieces." Robin's eyes lost focus and his voice sounded very young. "Why did they fight? I was too young to understand why they fought so."

Sighing, Wilf stared at the fire. He'd been old enough to understand and the memories were painful.

"Our great grandfather trained horses for battle and tournament. He was very good at it. So good that he had a reputation throughout England. People paid him well to have him train their warhorses."

Wilf paused, gathering his thoughts. "He was the one who built this farm. Grandpa told stories of it needing ten stable hands to care for the barn when Great Grandpa was alive."

"I remember some of those stories." Robin said. "What happened to change things? Da never told the old stories after Grandpa died."

"What happened was that war and fashions changed. Muskets put an end to armored knights on the battlefield. Tourneys went out of fashion. A fully trained destrier no longer has a place on the battlefield. Some officers still ride warhorses but few of those are fully trained in the old style. It's too expensive and takes too long. Our great grandfather was a trainer of destriers. He couldn't bring himself to train lesser breeds."

"But Grandpa trained all kinds of horses."

"Aye, Grandpa did indeed. He would train any horse for any man who had the coin. He had the reputation for succeeding with horses others deemed impossible. The income wasn't as great but it was enough." Several memories surfaced and Wilf continued. "Great Grandfather taught Grandpa his training methods. Before I left, Grandpa hadn't passed his knowledge on to Da. Said Da wasn't ready yet. That was one of the things they fought about."

"I think I remember that part. When Grandpa died Da didn't have Grandpa's secrets. He tried so hard to do what Grandpa had done but it never worked for him. It was a horse that killed him."

Robin paused and Wilf offered him a sip of broth. The hand that grasped the mug didn't shake today and there was some strength in its grip.

"How did Da come to die?"

"Geoffrey Hampford had a vicious mare. She'd killed three men. Because she was out of the king's stud, gifted to the Hampfords, they dared not put her down. Pa boasted that he could train her." His eyes closed and tears leaked out from under the lids.

"Andrew and I got ropes on her and pulled her away from Da but it was too late." Robin's eyes opened and he stared up at his brother. "If Andrew had just slit her throat and been done with it, things might not have gone so wrong. He went mad and tortured that horse for hours."

"I think I can guess the rest. The Hampfords demanded recompense." Wilf dredged up what he could remember about them. Some service to Queen Elizabeth had made their fortunes. There'd never been a title, but some of the family took on noble airs. Geoffrey, he vaguely remembered, was one such.

"Yes. Jane and I were newly married." Robin picked at his blanket, sadness filling his face. "Mamma took sick and died that fall. Andrew lost himself in drink. What could be sold was, but each time we thought to have paid in full, Geoffrey's added another charge. Come next month's end the farm will be his."

"Vindictive, is he?"

"Oh, yes. He's told us that we must indenture Will to him. Others have heard him brag that he'll make my son a stable drudge. He says that it's all any of our family is fit for. I'd rather see Will dead than in his hands."

"Nay, that'll not happen. I will see to that. You rest now. Let me worry about things."

Wilf left his brother's side and sought out Dieter. He found him in what had been his grandfather's room. The room was bare, stripped of the furniture that Wilf remembered. Robin's wife, Jane and Granny Digby were making up pallets along the walls.

"The wound is clean," Dieter smiled confidently, "and we got all of the splinters out. He's responded well to the antibiotic. It should be just a matter of time and care. If I could find the right kind of maggots it might help keep the wound clean and let it heal a bit faster."

"How long before he can be moved?"

"A couple of weeks would be best, but if need presses he'll be able to bear riding in a cart or on a quiet horse in a couple of days. Given the state of the roads we've seen, I'd suggest a horse."

"Good. I'm thinking we can spare a few days for him to heal."

Jane came over and grasped Wilf's hands. "Thank God that you came when you did. If Robert died…" She looked away, tears flowing. "Granny Digby-" She looked over at the ancient woman fussing with a blanket. "-has a grandson in the village. He's offered her a place. I know not where we will go. My mother is dead and my father remarried. His new wife has made clear that we aren't welcome under her roof. If Robin lives he will be able to find work on one of the farms."

"I've an idea to take you back to Grantville with us. My present home isn't palatial but you'd all be safe there." Wilf watched hope flood his sister-in-law's face.

"There's plenty of room at Herr Parker's." Dieter suggested. "Or we can build ourselves new homes along with proper stables on that land below New Hope. Rob's gotten the land leases to the last of it. That's were he's intending to build his riding school and Michael's museum. Strelow's been dickering to use some of the land to extend New Hope. He figures it will become a good sized town someday."

"Aye, that's a thought. Marta has hinted that a converted milking shed isn't her idea of a proper house." Wilf grinned at the thought.

Jane stood silently, her eyes large and an expression of wonderment on her face. "You must be angels sent by Our Lord in answer to my prayers. You've brought healing for Robin and hope for our future."

Both ex-mercenaries broke out in laughter. In the far corner Granny Digby muttered about foul specters sent by Satan.

***

"So, what's the plan?" Michael asked at dinner that night.

"Tomorrow Christian and I will go into the village and look for Andrew. We'll go on to Wylye, too, if needs be." Wilf mopped the last of the stew in his bowl with an end of bread. "We need to buy more supplies in any case. Past that, Dieter stays here to keep an eye on Robin's leg and Reichard to watch over the place."

Wilf paused, calculating distances and travel times. "The day after, you, Christian, and I will find this horse breeder and see what stock he has. I rather we not stop in Avebury." He saw the disappointment on the young man's face and added, "You will get to spend time at Stonehenge, that I'll promise."

"Just the chance to take some pictures for my lectures will be fine." Michael agreed. "I didn't expect to do any archaeology."

"We should be back here in four or five days. Then we pack up everyone and head back home. If the weather holds we could be in Grantville by mid-March. How soon you get back to the University depends on your family and Jo Ann." Wilf grinned at the young man's blush. He gave Michael a bland look.

"I'd considered buying a cart but we've no harness and Robin would do better on a soft-gaited horse."

"Okay!" Michael smiled and held up his hands in surrender. "Macho's the softest gaited horse we've got. I'm assuming that the mares will go back with us, so I'd be willing to trade his services in return for Sasha." He smirked before adding, "Jo Ann was really upset when you wouldn't sell Sasha to her. Will we have enough horses and saddles?"

"Ah! We'll make a horse trader out of you, yet! Agreed. Sasha goes back to Grantville and Jo Ann. Between the horses we have and what we pick up for Rob, we should do fine. If not, we can pick up extras along the way. There are three or four saddles in the barn. Dieter and Reichard can check them over while we're gone. I would like to find another couple of packsaddles-maybe in Wylye or at the stud farm."

Wilf leaned back in his chair. He'd walked around the farm earlier in the day. There had never been enough land to support the family by farming. The fields were small and enclosed. They'd been laid out as paddocks for horses, not for crops. That hadn't stopped his great grandfather and grandfather from hiring men to harvest hay from any paddock not being used as pastures. In his own youth, with money tight, he'd scythed and forked hay alongside the hired laborers.

The barn was ridiculously big. His great grandfather had built it to withstand temperamental warhorses and impress their owners. The house been built to impress, too. Thinking back he realized that half the rooms had stood unused and empty when he'd lived there. The servants' rooms up under the rafters had been filled with odds and ends of broken furniture when he was Will's age. The two house servants had slept in a room used by family during his great grandfather's time.

He did know Granny Digby, but as Mistress Digby. She'd run the household and served as his mother's maid. A large room at the end of the second floor hall had been hers. Now, she and what remained of the family huddled in the three rooms nearest the kitchen.

It took a lot of wood to heat those rooms and that went far to explain why so few trees still stood on the farm's land. After looking at the woodpile he and Christian had cut one of those remaining down that afternoon.

***

"I'd not thought to ever set eyes on you again." Toby Beresford rumbled thoughtfully. "Heard tell you'd died someplace foreign."

"Fortunately, the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." Wilf smiled, carefully keeping his voice neutral. There was no point in arguing with the man. After the Hampfords, Toby Beresford was probably the richest and most influential man in the area. Wilf vaguely remembered that Toby Beresford and his father had not been friendly. Some long past dispute had put the men at odds. The only reasons Wilf had come to the Beresford farm were the four hams and three slabs of bacon Christian was loading on his horse. In Wylye they'd come across Toby's oldest son, John, who had offered the hams for sale.

"Heard tell that you went for a soldier."

"Aye, I did so for a bit. I trade in horses now." What did the man want? The dispute should have died with his father but there was an odd edge to the man's voice.

"They say that there's a town filled with witches that appeared somewhere in German lands. Know ye about it?" Beresford looked Wilf in the eyes.

"Aye, if you mean Grantville. It isn't full of witches, though, just ordinary people."

"No witches, you say." Beresford looked doubtful. "Mayhap the Devil has deceived you. Vicar Wheatly has information directly from. .." He paused and an odd look came across his face. He shut his mouth firmly and looked away.

Wilf shook his head. No doubt that Vicar Wheatly's informant had been Archbishop Laud. Given that Laud was now an enemy of the king, Beresford was afraid to say his name.

"I've been in the town and spoken to a number the people. Up-timers they're called," Wilf said quietly. "They are ordinary people. The extra centuries of knowledge they brought back with them allows them to craft things we've not learned to yet. They openly share the knowledge behind their work."

"Mayhap you've been deceived by Satan's minions," Toby Beresford replied. "We are good Christians. Best you not tarry hereabout, least some of Satan's taint clings to you."

"I came to England to buy horses and to see my family. I found my family in distress." When Beresford started to speak Wilf held up a hand to stop him. "I hold no one to blame for their state and pass no judgment on the level of Christian charity shown them. Robin, his wife, and son are under my care now. They will go with me when I leave England."

"You've another brother. What do you intend for him?"

"Can I find him, he goes, too. So far none I've spoken with know his whereabouts."

The elder Beresford turned away and walked off stiffly. Wilf watched him go, wondering what to make of the strange conversation.

"Best your family leaves quickly, Wilf," John Beresford spoke. He didn't speak again until his father walked around the corner of the house and out of sight. "There's been much talk of magic and witches from the vicar." He paused and looked around. In a low voice he asked, "Have you really been in Grantville? Do they have carts pulled by magic?"

"Aye, I've been there. The carts are called cars or automobiles and there's no magic to the way that they work. No more magic than there is in the way water, a wheel, and the gears of a mill move its millstones."

John looked doubtful and Wilf pulled out his folding knife. "This was made four hundred years in the future. Or so the man I got it from said. It could have been made last year to an up-time pattern. The only magic in it is good steel. Once a blacksmith has one to use as a pattern he can make copies as good as the original."

"Is the town as strange as rumors paint it?"

"Yes and no. Some of the houses look strange at first. Some customs seem strange. Perhaps the strangest is that each man is free to worship as he wishes be he Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, or Jew."

"I would that I could see such a place."

"Mayhap someday you will." Wilf took the reins Christian handed him and mounted his horse. Remembering some long ago conversations, he added, "Grantville has a library with more books than you can imagine in it. Anyone is free to come and read them. S'truth, John."

Christian remained silent until they were well away from the farm.

"I saw the look on his face. Your last shot was tossing a bone in front of a starving dog."

"I liked John when we were boys. Then he wanted nothing greater than to go to a university. All he could talk of was the great libraries at Cambridge and Oxford. His father forbade it, wanting John to run the farm."

"The talk of witches and witchcraft bothers me. Such can make the best of men do things…"

"Aye," Wilf agreed grimly. "We leave at first light tomorrow. I'll not begrudge Michael time at Stonehenge but we can't tarry in Avebury. If the stud has them, I'm of a mind to buy two or three extra animals."

***

Michael ran his hands along the massive stone. Above him a capstone connected the one he touched to its neighbor. Stonehenge had seemed awesome as they approached. Here, touching the stones, he understood the fascination people had with them.

Stepping back, he took out Rob's camera and started taking pictures. For an hour he stalked about, trying to capture details as well as the over-all scene, stopping only to change the memory chip in the camera.

Christian, sitting on one of the fallen stones, watched their horses graze. Wilf fussed fitting a newly bought packsaddle to one of the new horses. Both men covertly watched the area around them.

"The camera still works, then." Christian commented as Michael approached.

"Yeah, it works great. I really owe Rob for letting me use it." Michael sighed contentedly and brushed snow off a corner of Christian's stone before sitting beside him.

"Don't you need a computer? When I've seen Rob and Lannie use that camera they've always had it fastened to a computer."

"Sure, that's when they're taking pictures of horses. Rob's got it rigged to dump the pictures directly to his breeding database. He's also got it rigged to a converter so he doesn't need batteries." Michael checked the camera's display. "When we get back, Rob will download these pictures for me." He snapped off a shot. When the flash went off he frowned. "I didn't realize how dark it was getting."

Christian tapped the hand holding the camera and pointed. "The clouds are lowering. We'll have snow by nightfall."

Michael glanced up. "Looks like it. Think we can make it to Wilf's home by tomorrow?"

"We'll need to leave soon."

Wilf stalked up, frowning. "Can you keep from making that flash of light?" His voice was low and he sounded worried.

"Ah, I think that there is a way. I just don't know if I can figure it out. Is there a problem?"

"Out there, just behind those two bushes, there are men watching us. I've spotted at least two more creeping along behind us. If they are horse thieves, we can handle them. What I fear is that they might be witch hunters. A witch hunt is the last thing my family needs."

"There are two or three or more to our right," Christian said casually. "Do you think that your neighbor Beresford set them on us?"

"I don't know, not after so many years away. When I was a boy Beresford was known for taking time to study a problem before coming to a decision. Unless he's changed greatly he'd not have made up his mind this soon. Yon men are more likely to be thieves attracted to our horses." Wilf sighed. "Or they may be local men watching us simply because we're strangers. The horses are ready. We'll leave now and if they are thieves we'll know shortly." He looked around and turned back to Michael. "Should we be attacked, don't bother aiming, just point your gun at anyone close and shoot."

"Ah, why not aim? I'm a pretty good shot."

"No one is atop a moving horse. With luck you might hit one. The fact that we're better armed than we should be might give them pause. The new horses may spook at gunfire, so be ready for that."

Michael turned the camera off and stowed it in his pack. His pulse began to race as their situation sank in. He walked to his horse and carefully tied his pack behind his saddle. Wilf had already tied the extra animals into strings of three. He quickly tied the lead rope Wilf handed him to his saddle horn, then mounted and reached under his coat for his pistol.

Wilf and Christian mounted quickly.

"We ride out quietly," Wilf said in a low voice. "Christian first. Michael, you stay close behind him. Whatever happens, keep moving. Should they be honest men and want to talk, I'll do the talking. If an attack comes, Christian targets anyone in front. Michael, shoot only at those to your right. I'll handle any on the left or behind us."

They started off and Michael didn't see any signs that they weren't alone. That lasted until Christian's horses slowed to pass over a trickle of water. Two men rose from the ground and stood. Three more appeared to Michael's right. None of the watchers said a word.

Christian shifted his shotgun subtly as he passed the first two men. Michael's back and shoulders tensed. His own hand and the pistol in it rested openly on his thigh.

Once past the men, Christian set a fast pace. Michael found himself profoundly thankful for both Rob and Jo Ann's riding lessons. Jo Ann's especially, as hell-bent-for-leather was her favorite way of riding. Finally Christian slowed his horses to a walk. Relieved, Michael slowed his and looked around.

"Thieves, I think," Wilf answered his unasked question. "Honest men don't walk about armed with clubs. When they saw we had guns and were ready for a fight they decided not to attack."

Michael nodded thoughtfully and holstered his pistol. He hoped that Wilf would think that the tremor in his hand was from the cold.

***

Late the following day the three approached Wilf's family home. Wilf stiffened and cursed. A horse blanket fluttered on the tree near the barn.

"Arm yourselves. Something's not right down there. Reichard's left us a signal."

Christian pulled his shotgun from its scabbard and Michael drew his pistol.

When they entered the stable yard, Reichard stepped out of the barn and waved them to him.

"What's happened?" Wilf asked, trying to keep the worry out of his voice.

"We've had a couple of visitors. Nothing Dieter and I couldn't handle, but one of them did threaten to return with help. I thought it prudent to give you some warning in case we were busy when you arrived."

"Who where they?"

"First was your neighbor, Beresford. He came with his son. They questioned your brother, his wife, and the servant woman at length about us. Beresford seems troubled by rumors of witchcraft."

"Aye, such he addressed to me."

"You'll be glad to hear that he heard nothing to support such rumors from your brother and his wife. The old woman did keep calling you a 'foul specter from Hell.' Once it became clear that she refuses to believe that you aren't years dead and thus you and the rest of us must be ghosts, Beresford ignored her. He and his son were much taken by Dieter's explanation of the proper cleaning and care of an infected wound. He cleaned and redressed Robin's leg in front of them and afterwards bored them with descriptions of the best ways to make and use willow bark tea. They seemed satisfied that there was nothing and no one unnatural here."

"That's a relief. Toby Beresford has always been influential around here. If he turned the authorities against us we might well be hard pressed to get to Dover." Wilf drew in a deep breath. "Who were the other visitors?"

"Ah, they arrived this morning and were a bit less open-minded. Five men, led by a man who fancies himself a noble."

"Geoffrey Hampford, then."

"So he informed us." Reichard grinned wryly. "I fear that we failed to show the proper deference toward his most august personage. We also refused to hand the boy over to him and handled his four stout men a bit roughly when they attempted to seize the boy."

"Good for you. I take it he's the one threatening to return?"

"We had help. Your sister-in-law swings a mean milking stool. The man she hit was carried off by two of his friends. Little Will did his share. The lad can bite something fierce." Reichard's grin widened. "Our gentleman visitor was rude enough to draw first a pistol and, when I relieved him of that, a sword." The big man pointed to the roof of the barn.

"If he wants them back he'll have to find a ladder."

"That must have put him in a foul mood." They entered the kitchen. Robin was dressed and sitting in a chair beside the fire. Jane tended a pot hanging over the fire and Will kept watch on the doorway, fire poker in hand. Dieter was tending a man stretched out on Robin's pallet.

"If you are speaking of Geoffrey Hampford, then yes, he was cursing wildly when he rode off," Robin Jones replied to his brother's statement. "I've never seen him so furious. Not even when Andrew killed his horse." Robin's eyes were focused on the man on the pallet.

Wilf walked across the kitchen and found himself looking at his older brother. His breath hissed between his lips and he felt the hair on his neck rising. The man on the pallet had been severely beaten. Welts crossed his chest and arms and one lay across where his left eye had been. There was barely an inch of flesh without a welt or bruise or abraded patch. His ears had been cropped and his lips were cut and battered.

"Dieter?" it was all Wilf could manage between his rage and fears.

Dieter shook his head. "I've given him some opiates to ease the pain. They must have dragged him after beating him. Half of his ribs are cracked or broken and he's got internal injuries. He was both pissing and coughing blood. Dr. Nichols couldn't save him were we in the hospital in Grantville."

"Why now? Was it because I came back?"

"No, from the state of the bruising I'd say that most of this was done well before we arrived."

"How long does he have?"

Shrugging, Dieter looked at his patient. "Not long. He was awake enough to know he was with his family and safe."

"Geoffrey brought him," Robin spit out. "He said he'd exchange Andrew for Will."

Red rage rose in Wilf. He stood still, forcing it back down. Now was not the time for blind rage.

Dieter placed a hand on his shoulder. "This had nothing to do with your decision to come here. It would have happened without our presence. Something else provoked it."

From the hearth Jane spoke. "It's not just revenge for the mare. James Hampford is the oldest brother. When the father dies it will be James who inherits, leaving Geoffrey with all his ambitions and no land. He's a bride in mind but 'tis said that her father won't agree to the marriage without Geoffrey having his own property. This farm borders on Hampford lands. The land may not be much but this house is as large and once was as fine as any in the county. So it could be again, given money." She sighed and looked Wilf in the eye. "Envy is indeed a sin. This house, this farm, stirs envy in the breasts of others than the Hampfords. Your da turned down half a dozen offers. Offers that could have bought a place better suited to farming."

"Jane has the right of it, Wilf." Robin said. "Da and Andrew talked about selling. Andrew even had a place picked out, one where Da could still train horses and Andrew and I could farm. Then Da was killed and everything went bad."

Wilf nodded, acknowledging their words. He didn't trust himself to speak. The fires of his rage died back a bit and his mind began to work again. He dragged a chair next to Andrew's pallet and sat down heavily. He took his brother's hand and stared at his smashed face. Memories churned in his head.

Reichard, Christian, and Michael came in, knocking snow from their coats. Dieter took them aside and brought them up to date with events. Jane offered the men stew and bread.

An hour or so later, Wilf gently placed his brother's hand back on the blanket and stood up.

"Where's Mistress Digby?" he asked.

"Gone," Jane replied. "Her grandson came and fetched her the day before yesterday." She hesitated and Wilf saw a flash of fear cross her face as she glanced at Robin. "We… I, I gave her your grandfather's bed."

"As payment for the grandson taking her? No," Wilf half laughed. "That bed always fascinated her. I suspect that she'd often shared it with Grandpa."

Robin laughed. "Surely not such a crone as her?"

"She's younger than our mother would be. And, from comments I heard, was as good looking in her youth. Nay, Jane, I've no objection to her having it. We've no cart to haul such away." He looked around the kitchen and noticed the neatly tied bundles stacked in a corner.

"We packed what we want," Robin said, "and are ready. Dieter said that you would want to leave quickly."

"Aye, Robin. I've a mind to get you and yours out of harm's way at first light. How early might we expect Geoffrey and his helpers?"

Dieter and Reichard exchanged looks. It was Dieter that spoke.

"He arrived just before noon today. The four men he had with him seemed farm laborers, not bully boys. Your brother may have a better idea who his help could be."

"I'm not certain. Those with him today I've not seen before. It's possible he found them in Wylye. I know of four indentured male servants, three stable hands, and five farm laborers on the Hampford farm. If James comes along there could be eighteen here in the morning."

"The one your brave wife struck won't be in any shape to go visiting." Dieter smiled and bowed to Jane. "The other three may not be inclined to come back, either. They seemed rather scared when Reichard tossed them bodily out of the barn. So we're left with fourteen to seventeen men. I'd not expect them until an hour or so after daybreak."

"Take Jane and Will and ride out tonight. Get them safely away. I'll stay with Andrew." Robin said.

"Nay, brother, I'll not leave you to face them alone." Wilf smiled. "There's no need." His smile and his tone gained an edge. "Four mercenaries and an archaeologist can handle five to one odds. Especially when none of our foes have experience beyond a few drunken brawls. Get some sleep now. Tomorrow will be tiring."

Reichard tapped Michael's shoulder. "Christian says that you handled yourself well. As your reward you can help me watch the barn."

"Thanks, I think." Michael answered, gathering up his coat and gloves.

"Thank him you will, Young Michael." Wilf rumbled. "If you ask politely maybe he'll teach you some of his tricks. Someday, one or more of them might save your life. We'll start saddling and packing two hours before dawn." With that he sat down beside his dying brother.

Jane handed him a bowl of stew and a hunk of bread. He thanked her absently. Dieter waited until the rest had left. He checked his patient before seating himself at the table.

"You should sleep, Dieter."

"Keep watch over your brother. Christian and I will watch the house."

"Thank you."

The hearth fire flickered and popped as silence settled on the house. Wilf watched Andrew, listening with a soldier's ear for death's approach. Some time later his head jerked up and his eyes opened. Christian was kneeling in front of the hearth, adding a log. Ashamed to have dozed off, Wilf peered down at Andrew. His breathing was shallow but he still lived.

Christian stood beside them, crossed himself and muttered a prayer. Wilf looked up in surprise.

"Some habits never die. On Sundays I go to church with my wife and children."

"I'm not sure that I still believe God exists. Besides, I've forgotten how to pray."

"I'll say one for you."

A rattling sound brought Wilf's attention fully back to his brother. After a half-gasp and a last sighing breath there was silence. Wilf found himself crying.

"He's at peace now."

Wilf nodded, unable to speak. Christian pulled the blanket over Andrew's battered face.

"You should get some sleep, Wilf."

"What time is it?"

"Just after midnight."

"I'll sit here with him a bit longer. It's been so long since we last were together."

Christian patted him awkwardly on the shoulder and left him alone in the kitchen.

***

Lanterns hung about the open space in the barn, illuminating an assembly line of horses, saddles, and packs. Little Will bounced about, asking questions. His mother, exasperated, sent him to join his father in watching for the Hampfords.

"This is the last one," Reichard said. "Rob is getting some nice stock."

"Aye," Wilf answered. "Here about they're known as good packhorses, being both steady and sure-footed."

"But why did you buy the mule?"

"I couldn't resist." Wilf's mood lightened at the thought of the look on Ev Parker's face when presented with a sixteen-hand-high mule. "According to Herr Parker mules this size don't exist at this time. It takes a big jack donkey and a big mare to produce them. That's why he wants a couple more of those French donkeys and a Spanish jack or two."

Jane passed around bread and cheese. Reichard took some for himself and left the barn to relieve Robin and Will. When the father and son joined those in the barn, Wilf called everyone together.

"Dieter, Christian, and Michael-you'll take Robin, Jane, Will, and all of the horses save Reichard's and mine. Make for that inn we stayed at. Reichard and I will hang back and take care of anyone inclined to follow us. Once we're sure no one is following we'll catch up with you. If, by some chance, we aren't at the inn by sunrise tomorrow, ride on toward Dover."

Christian stirred. "It would be better if I remained with you, Wilf. Reichard's size makes him easily identified if a hunt gets up."

Wilf shook his head. "You are the best to get everyone across France without delays. Dieter." He held up a hand, stopping Dieter's comment. "Robin's leg still needs care. And Michael needs to be back at Jena, or, at least to Jo Ann." That last brought a blush from Michael and grins from the others.

Robin limped forward and confronted Wilf. "What about Andrew? Where will you bury him?"

"I won't. For now this land, house, and barn still belong to our family. The papers you showed me say nothing about their condition."

"What do you mean to do, Wilf?"

"I'm going to give Andrew a magnificent funeral pyre. The Hampfords can have the land but the house and barn will be naught but piles of ashes."

Robin stared at him and then nodded grimly. "Andrew would appreciate that, I think. Be careful, Wilf. I don't want to lose you again."

"Reichard is a master at field and woodcraft. We'll not be seen except when we want to be."

The horses were led from the barn and everyone mounted. Jane, Wilf was glad to see, made no fuss about riding astride. Little Will sat behind his father on a pad Reichard had made for him. It had hooded stirrups and a strap for his waist. Gray lightened the eastern horizon as the train of horses started off.

Wilf and Reichard busied themselves in the house. They worked in silence, piling wood and tinder in strategic places. Finishing up, Wilf took a candle and lit the tinder under his brother's body.

"Fare thee well, Andrew. I know not if we'll meet again in Heaven or Hell." He watched until satisfied that the fire was well established. When the trail of tinder leading out of the kitchen lit, he went to the barn.

Reichard had turned the cow and sheep out into the farthest paddock. The horses stood patiently in the yard while the men lit hay and straw in the barn.

By the time the sun had risen above the horizon the house was engulfed in flames. The barn roof, burning fiercely, collapsed suddenly, sending sparks and embers flying. A section of house wall wavered, and fell outward. With the added oxygen the fire intensified.

Well upwind and hidden by some trees, Wilf and Reichard watched.

"Michael was right." Reichard mused. "We should have opened all the windows and doors to give it air."

"Aye, but no matter. The fire's done it for us now. Ho! What have we here?" Wilf pointed to several men coming down the lane at a trot. "That's Toby Beresford leading them."

"They've come to fight the fire. They're carrying buckets." Reichard passed over his binoculars.

The two watched as the newcomers stopped well away from the burning structures. Beresford set his men to searching around the yard.

"Looking for your family, I'd wager" Reichard muttered.

Just then, a large piece of the kitchen wall fell and the flames parted. Through the binoculars Wilf could make out the outline of his brother's burning body before the flames roared up again. From the stir amongst the men in the yard, they'd seen it, too.

"More men coming." Wilf handed the binoculars back to Reichard. "And from the direction, it's Hampford."

"Yes, Geoffrey is the one on the horse. He's only got eight men with him. Two of them were here before. The rest are new. They don't look happy."

They watched as Toby Beresford approached Geoffrey Hampford, every stride telegraphing anger. Beresford reached up and hauled Hampford off his horse. Between gestures and the occasional shouted word that they could hear, Beresford was accusing Geoffrey of murder and arson.

"Well, that's interesting." Wilf mused. "I think we'll not have to worry about pursuers now."

"Your neighbor has given you a better revenge than you'd planned." Reichard chuckled.

***

Wilf leaned against the stable wall, watching his brother and Lannie Clark in the round pen. A smile threatened to split Robin's face. The horse circling them had stopped and turned back to run the opposite way when Robin stepped toward him. Lannie was grinning, too. Robin stepped forward and the horse switched directions again. A minute later the horse stopped and faced Robin and Lannie. Joy radiated from Robin.

"He's a natural, Wilf." Rob Clark spoke quietly. "Lannie's already got him doing stuff it took me months to catch onto. I'm going to have to change his job description."

Wilf glanced at the up-timer, uncertain about what he meant.

"I'll bump him up to assistant trainer in a couple of weeks. By summer he'll be ready to take over training the young stock. His riding needs polishing but he's quick there, too, and we're working on it. When the riding school opens he'll be my senior instructor."

"His future's settled, then."

"As long as he wants. Heck, Wilf, in four or five years he could set up his own riding school."

"I don't think that he's likely to. Jane loves this place and so does Little Will."

"I hear that your new house and stables are well under way. What does Marta have to say about it?"

"A great deal." Wilf smiled gently. "She's fussing over the plans."

"Ah, and do I now get to tease you about your upcoming wedding?"

Wilf turned his attention back to his brother, ignoring the grinning young man beside him.

***

Don't Cry Over Frozen Milk

Terry Howard

August, 1635 Grantville

Arch Pennock looked at the balance sheet and wanted to cry. Yes, he knew. Up-time for sure, and probably here and now also, restaurants were the number one most failed business. Still, opening a restaurant had seemed like a great idea back in March.

He'd let a young chicken plucker use his kitchen to make the Hungarian dumplings he was homesick for one Sunday, after he'd fed the boy southern-style chicken and dumplings and been informed that, while they were good noodles, they were not dumplings. It happened to be Arch's turn to host the poker game and the guys scraped the pot dry of the rich broth after they scarfed down the ravioli-like dumplings stuffed with three kinds of meat and savory vegetables. The boy had two requests to cook for upcoming events on the spot. Well, Arch Pennock knew a good thing when it was sitting on his kitchen stove. So he fronted the money to set Janos up vending dumplings on the streets of Grantville. From there things went well, very well.

By March six pushcarts were bringing in money hand-over-fist and prep work was spilling out of the kitchen onto card tables in his living room. Arch wanted his house back. If he had to build or buy a commercial kitchen, he might as well add a dining hall and open an eatery.

Getting a construction loan was easy. After all, he had good credit and collateral. He wiped out his savings to pay cash for the land so he would have lower monthly payments on the loan. But that was fine. The business had a solid, consistent, positive cash flow for the last four months, and the loan was on a drawing account so he didn't have to make payments, or pay interest, until he used it. It was a bitterly cold, early March with frequent, howling winds and plenty of snow, so Arch assumed construction would have to wait for spring and he would have time to build up a cushion. But when he lined up the contractor, the man wanted to start right away.

"Herr Pennock, I have big work, sorry, many, no much work, come spring. I have sm-little work now. The men, they need to pay bills in winter, too. You buy big tent. We build you kitchen under it. I have natural gas burner so the tent stays warm and is not smoky and you use the tent for your dining garden come spring. In fall, we build you dining hall for winter. Okay?"

The contractor built a bonfire several nights in a row to thaw the ground enough to dig the foundation in the daylight. When the trenching was done they pitched the house-sized tent and started building. Arch had his kitchen and living room back by the end of April. The contractor rented the tent from Arch for the rest of the spring. Still, everything seemed to cost more than he planned on. Arch put the cars up for collateral on an increase in the drawing account, to get things wrapped up by June first. With great fanfare, and a rush of success, they opened the Dumplings Garden.

The pushcarts were all the advertising Arch figured he needed for the grand opening. Each cart had a colorful sign over the Nagyany Nokedlik/Granny's Dumplings, logo detailing the great dumpling cook off. People were invited to come and taste and then vote on which country had the best dumplings. Of course, the Hungarian dumplings which were the pushcart's trademark were on the top of the list. They were followed by Southern Chicken and Dumplings, Yankee Chicken and Dumplings, German Chicken and Dumplings, three kinds of Italian Dumplings (Arch called them ravioli in private) in white sauce, red sauce and a garlic butter white wine sauce, Vietnamese/Chinese dumplings and apple dumplings for desert. A cavalryman read the sign and objected so Arch happily added Scottish Dumplings to the list. When he agreed to add a kosher dumplings dish he couldn't pronounce, he never dreamed of the trouble it would cause.

"No, Herr Pennock, we will cook it at the synagogue in an inspected kitchen. We can warm it here before we serve it."

"No, Herr Pennock, the dishes and eating utensils must be kosher, also. We will bring them."

"No, Herr Pennock, please to stack the dirty kosher dishes in a dry tub to be washed in a kosher kitchen."

Fortunately, that hassle was just for the grand opening contest. About the last thing Arch wanted to do was build a second kitchen and hire a second staff and pay for a certification by a qualified inspector. Out of the question! Too much work to be kosher.

June went well. By July the novelty wore off. In the end it didn't mater what the vote tally came to. Anybody who had a strong opinion on what constituted a real dumpling was not about to give way. What they all said was, my grandma's were better."

July was slow, and worse still the pushcarts' sales volume started dropping in June. Now it was August, the push carts were just breaking even and the garden was losing money. If it weren't for the hot dogs, chips and drinks, the carts would be done for. It looked like the whole dumplings business was a novelty whose time had come and gone. After paying for the supplies and wages there wasn't anything left to make the loan payments. He was late with last month's installment and if he was lucky he would be late on this month's installment, it was really looking like he wouldn't make it all. Arch stared at the numbers. His stomach was in a knot. He had no idea what to do.

The garden's staff had high hopes for the new, more varied menu. They would keep the Hungarian dumplings. They would keep one chicken and dumpling dish. To Arch's sadness, it would be the Yankee/German dish which was pretty much the same thing and not his grandmother's recipe. They built a charcoal grill and would push salads and fresh vegetable dishes while they were in season. It was helping, but it would not make the loan payment. Grilled steaks and sausages could be had almost anywhere in town. Ribs in barbecue sauce were nearly Grantville's trademark meal.

"We need a new draw, another grand opening rush. If things keep going like this, we're doomed. I've got to find a gimmick," Arch said to himself as visions of total ruin ran rampant through his mind. "Even if I move into the garage and rent out the house, it won't be enough." He sat at the desk in his study and stared at the tally sheet. A drop splashed on the papers in front of him. "Don't cry, Archy. Be a man," he said aloud. No one had called him Archy since his mother passed away.

Another drop splattered.

"No, I'm not crying. It's sweat. Damned Freon!"

The air conditioner blew hot air when he turned it on this year. It lost its charge and the wherewithal to fix it was nowhere to be found. Even with the windows open, the dog days of August were hot and humid.

Arch listened to the children playing stickball in the street. Motor traffic was picking up since petroleum was beginning to trickle into the gas stations but traffic was still light. So it was safe to play in the street. Arch sat and stared at the bottom line and listened to the children play outside. "At least we don't have to put up with a damned ice cream truck playing the same dumb tune over and over."

Then it clicked. August. Ice cream. Trucks. The ice cream parlor had a line out the door every evening. The grocery stores with an ice cream counter had a line in the afternoon. Arch rushed out the door with eureka written on his face in a grin. He felt like Archimedes running through the streets of Syracuse. But at least he had his clothes on.

When he got to the restaurant, he couldn't help himself. He stepped through the door and shouted, "I've got it," first in Greek then in English and finally in German.

***

Janos Tamas, Arch Pennock's chief cook and business partner, was in dishwater up to his elbows and just about jumped out of his skin. The young Hungarian was as tense with worry as an over-wound spring. He could see things were not going well as easily as Arch could. He was used to having money now, and did not want to go back to plucking chickens twelve hours a day for three dollars an hour.

Worse, he had written home about his good fortune and been reminded in a return letter of the girl the family had arranged for him to marry years ago. She was waiting for him to come home.

Grantville was a strange and wonderful place. If the women here could marry anyone they chose, so could a man. Janos thought about it and realized he had never stopped assuming he would marry the lass from back home. With further thought, he figured out she was who he wanted raise children with. Now she was on her way-expecting a house, maybe even a servant, since she would be marrying a wealthy business owner. She was not going to be happy plucking chickens when she got here.

"John Ose, I've got it!"

"What have you got, Mister Pennock?"

"The answer to our problem! Nobody wants hot food in this weather. That's why sales are off. It'll pick back up come fall. What we need to be selling right now is what people want to be buying right now and that is ice cream bars and popsicles."

Janos looked at the man he tried to remember to address as Arch. He was sure the man was speaking English. Janos thought he understood English but, once again, Arch had lost him completely. "Mister Pennock, they sell ice cream downtown."

"Yes, but not at the market, or the train station, or the ball park, or the play grounds, or at lunch time outside of the factories. We can clean up."

"But, Mister Pennock…"

"There you go again, John. How many times have I told you to call me Arch?"

Amidst all of his worrying and trying to understand what his partner had planned, Janos thought, Maybe I should tell him my name isn't John Ose but Janos Tamas. For the hundredth time, he let it go. "But Arch, they sell ice cream out of the freezer. We can't take a freezer to the market. Even if we had one, where would we plug it in?"

"Ice box, John. Ice box. We pull the hot water bath off of the pushcart and replace it with an ice box."

"Well, we have bowls and spoons and…"

"Forget that. We'll sell ice cream sandwiches and popsicles."

"Ice cream sandwiches?" Janos tried to imagine it. "Mister Pennock, it does not sound good, and won't the ice cream melt all over the bread?"

"It won't last long enough to melt, and you don't put it on bread. You put it on a graham cracker."

Janos' eyebrows met over his eyes like two caterpillars imitating big horn rams in mating season. "A what?"

"Graham crackers! Picture two thin cookies with ice cream between them. Freeze them solid and put them on ice, they'll sell like hot cakes."

"But, Mister Pennock, you said people don't want hot food."

"Right. Which is why we go frozen. Come on. Let's go shopping."

"I've got to finish the dishes and then open for lunch."

"Where's your dish washer?"

"He thought we would fire him because there was not enough work so he found another job."

"I thought we agreed not to lay people off."

"He found a better job. I did not want to match the difference. Besides, things are slow."

"So, if they're slow, let the staff handle lunch. Let's go shopping."

Janos shrugged and took off the apron.

***

The first stop was the bakery. Arch looked over the display case and bought a dozen each of three different cookies. He spoke to the manager and asked, "If I buy these by the thousand, can you make them square?"

Then they walked out to the icehouse where ice cream was being made. There he asked, "How's business?" And, "Can you increase production another hundred gallons a day?" Then, "If I buy in five or ten gallon containers can you set aside some ice cream before it's rock hard like they sell it down at the parlor?"

"You mean semi-soft like we had it up-time? You know they put in a kelp extract to keep it like that?"

"Semi-solid, harder than soft serve but not much," was how Arch answered the man's counter question.

"Yeah, I can do that and put it in the cold room instead of leaving it in the freezer, but it won't keep well."

Arch acted almost as if he didn't hear the answer. "How's the ice box delivery system working? If I increase my order by another two hundred pounds a day can you meet it?"

The last stop was at a papermaker's stall where he bought a ream of waxed paper. Then they were back to the kitchen where Arch grabbed a tub of ice cream out of the walk-in ice box.

He made two ice cream sandwiches out of each of the three types of cookies he'd bought while Janos watched with dawning understanding. His partner wanted to sell cookies and ice cream with no bowls or spoons and no need to dip a cone. They could be made the night before and sold out of the carts.

Arch wrapped one of each in waxed paper and put them and the ice cream back in the frozen room. Then he quartered the three which were left. "Try a piece of each," he told Janos. "Which one's best?"

Janos tasted. "Arch, they are all good. I like this one best but I think this one will sell better."

"Okay. Have the baker make up a thousand each of those two in squares and order fifty gallons of soft ice cream. I'll stop at the tinker and get some square molds made up and then I'll go to the lumber yard and get some boards to use as freezing trays. I'll need to stop at the carpenter's and have an ice box made up for a cart." Arch seemed almost to be talking to himself. At last he focused on Janos. "Whose cart has the lowest sales right now?"

"Angus."

"Tell Angus he's a dishwasher and kitchen helper for a few days. We'll convert one cart and do a trial run. Oh, and stop by my house on the way back. Look in the cook book for Baked Alaska. I'll have signs made up for all the carts advertising it."

"What is Baked Alaska?"

"Baked ice cream."

"How do you bake ice cream?"

"Look in the cook book. It's easy really. But in this weather baked ice cream should be a curiosity and we need a new signature. It won't last, though. So start experimenting with some fruit-filled dumplings boiled in light syrup. We'll serve them over ice cream when the baked Alaska fad passes."

"This will work?" Janos asked.

"John, all we have to do is survive the heat wave." Arch's enthusiasm once again pushed all obstacles aside. "Come fall we're back in the dumpling business."

***

The ice cream sandwiches did indeed sell like hot cakes for a week while the other pushcart vendors in town scrambled to compete. Arch caught up the late loan payment. Then popsicles made with fruit pulp, fruit juice and sugar brought in a bundle for another week and actually left a small cushion. With the cold menu, the carts would make enough to get by until it was time to go back to a hot menu. But Arch, sadly, had to admit the Dumplings Garden just was not going to fly.

Maybe it could have worked in a better location, but maybe didn't pay the freight. The Baked Alaska was a big hit but faded. Fruit dumplings became a staple item for the catering end of things and home deliveries put that part of the business over the top. But, when the contractor announced he was ready to build the dining room Arch said, "No! Build a garage to hold the pushcarts instead. We can make a living as caterers and street vendors but this town isn't big enough to support a dumplings restaurant year 'round.

"Besides…" Arch mumbled.

He could admit it to himself at least even if he couldn't bring himself to admit it out loud.

"It just isn't right to have a place called the Dumplings Garden and not serve real dumplings." By which, of course, he meant, like his grandma used to make.

***

Silencing the Sirens' Song

Kerryn Offord

Meloy, Nordland, Norway,

April 1634

Nikulas Anderson woke with the sun streaming through the open window. The air was still and he could hear the roar of the waterfalls at the head of Glomfjord-the noisy fjord. He hated those waterfalls. Three years ago they had claimed his parents, his younger brother, and his baby sister. Brigitte, his baby sister, was the person he missed the most.

For as long as he could remember the waterfalls had held his father in their thrall. His brother Peter had shown an interest in the waterfalls in an attempt to be noticed by their father, but Brigitte had been happy to stay on the farm with Mama and Nikulas. Until that day three years ago. Then Father had dragged all of his family except Nikulas, who couldn't be spared from the estate, out on that last fatal expedition. How Nikulas hated those waterfalls, and how he hated his father for being seduced by their siren song and taking his family with him.

Nikulas got dressed and collected the rucksack he'd prepared the previous day, then left the house. He didn't need to tell anybody where he was going. The household would know. Today was the third anniversary of that fateful day.

He set off in his small sailing boat for the waterfalls of Glomfjord.

***

Nikulas sailed deep into the fjord, heading for the top, where water from Fykanvatn cascaded.

He beached his boat, then pulled it up onto the stony beach. The steps the rescue party had cut into the rock when they recovered the bodies of his family weren't far away.

After a steep climb of nearly six hundred steps Nikulas was able to look across the body of water that was Fykanvatn. Somewhere in the lake's depths lay the remains of his father, may he rot. He followed the track his father had formed over the years, keeping the lake on his right, until he came to the Fykanaaga, the river that flowed into Fykanvatn, and followed it further up the mountain. A few minutes later he came across the cairn of rocks he was looking for. This was where they'd found his sister's bloody and broken body. Other cairns marked where Nikulas' mother and brother had been found.

Just beyond was a meeting of two streams. To the left was the waterfall Father had been most interested in. The other stream was barely a trickle in comparison, and of no interest to his father. Nikulas started climbing, following the path his family would have followed. Eventually he made his way to the top of the waterfall and looked down. Was this where his family had fallen to be swept down the river to their final resting places? Behind him the river continued up mountain. He turned and followed the river upward.

The waterfall was fed by another lake, called Nedre Navervatn by his father, but this wasn't Nikulas' objective. He turned to the north and followed the ridge line to the top of the mountain known locally as Reben. From this vantage point he looked around. In every direction except to the west, where the fjord lay, there were lakes large and small feeding the waterfalls that flowed into the fjord. The noise was oppressive. You couldn't hear a man scream.

Nikulas sank to his knees and buried his head in his hands. They'd found signs that his sister had been a long time dying. How long had she lain on the bank of the river screaming for help that never came? He would often wake in the night, sure that he could hear his sister pleading for him to come and rescue her.

Nikulas spat on the ground, rose to his feet and looked down at the waterfalls his father had thought so beautiful. Their siren song had killed all that he held dear. He prayed to the Old Norse gods to care for his mother, his brother, and most especially, his baby sister. And he cursed his father, and the waterfalls whose song had seduced him.

Arendal, Aust-Agder, Norway,

July 1634

Magnus Kristjanson waited impatiently for his sister-in-law to call him and the others into her office. In a properly run family he should have been in charge, the one giving the orders. But Inger was a law unto herself. Magnus' brother had spoiled her, pandering to her belief that a woman had the right to speak out. Everybody knew women had no head for business, except for Eilif. And now Inger occupied the place he should have had when Eilif died.

"What's keeping the old witch?" Magnus muttered.

"Her nephew from Meloy is here," Mikkel Aamundson answered.

"Her favorite sister's only surviving child." Agmund Torgeirson placed a hand on his son's shoulder. "Mikkel here thinks she might be planning on sending him with us to Grantville."

"What can a farm boy want from the up-timers?" Magnus demanded.

"Who cares? Just as long as she can get permission from the king for us to go to Grantville and buy the up-timer technology we need," Olav Ravaldson, the fourth man, said.

Magnus gritted his teeth. Inger might not have the ear of the king, but she did have the ears of the wives of many of Christian's top advisors. "I'm sure the witch has everything in hand. She wouldn't have called all of us to meet her unless the trip was approved."

The door opened and Nikulas Anderson appeared. "Gentlemen, if you'd please follow me. Tante Inger will see you now."

USE Steel, just outside the Ring of Fire,

Late July, 1634

Nikulas waited patiently while the other men in his party questioned their guide. Personally he had no interest in making steel. Unlike Arendal, where the others were based, there was no iron near Meloy. All they had was cattle and sheep. Even the fishing was little more than subsistence, at least compared with the fishing around Lofoten to the north.

Pete Pierce, the guide, explained what they were looking at to Mikkel, who translated for everyone else. Olav, the master metal smith, seemed to be soaking up every word he heard, while Agmund and his son seemed interested in the generalities. Magnus, well, he was just being his normal waste of space.

Pete looked over at Nikulas, and through Mikkel asked if there was anything he wanted to look at.

"I'd like to see the farm implements, but take your time."

Pete looked like he was going to say something, then he glanced over at Mikkel and nodded. Nikulas guessed that whatever he'd been about to suggest had been stymied by the language barrier. Mikkel was the only one of them who was familiar with the dialect of German the up-timer was using.

***

"Did you get what you wanted from the steel mill today?" Nikulas asked his companions.

"Oh, yes, definitely," Olav Ravaldson said. "I have employed two qualified men from USE Steel to help introduce the new processes and I will be talking to Heinrich Roentgen of Ziegelhuette Schwarza Refrakteknik und Feuerfest about buying a supply of their special bricks for my new blast furnace."

"What are you going to use as fuel? Charcoal or this new 'coke'?" Nikulas asked.

Olav waved his hands. "That's already well in hand. Agmund here has already sent his new ship to England for a load of coal."

"What about you two?" Nikulas directed the question to Agmund and his son.

Agmund swallowed the food in his mouth. "We have decided to build a roller mill, so much more efficient than hammering out sheets of iron, and a new drop forge, and…" He smiled. "Many more interesting things. And yourself, have you seen anything of interest?"

Nikulas noticed that Agmund had ignored Magnus. So even he had little opinion of his uncle by marriage. "I ordered metal components and plans for several farm machines. They should make the estate more productive."

"Components and plans?" Magnus scoffed. "Why not buy complete machines. It'd be so much easier."

Nikulas bit back his first response. He counted to ten, slowly. "Uncle, why should I waste the estate's money buying expensive wood components from Grantville when there is plenty of cheap wood back home and any number of skilled woodworkers who would be glad to have the work? It is only the steel fittings that I can't get locally."

There was a definite snigger from Mikkel, who hid the smirk on his face behind their itinerary. "After lunch," he read, "we are scheduled to visit the 'power plant.' It is said that no visit to Grantville is complete without seeing it."

"What is so special about this 'power plant'?" Magnus sneered.

Nikulas was stunned. Even he knew how important the power plant was to Grantville. It was the source of much of their wealth. It produced something called electricity which powered many of their machines, and it meant that the machines weren't tied to sources of water power or animal power. Grantville's power plant was surely one of the great wonders of the modern world. His uncle's inability to understand this was another sign that the family was right to continue to place its trust in Tante Inger.

***

The power plant was an immense structure, surely one of the biggest in the world, but it was just a building, and inherently boring. There really wasn't much to see. Even the generator room was a non-event. It was just a massive room with a few men walking about tending to the machines. There was nothing to show that electricity was being made there. Nikulas was most disappointed.

Gannon Emerson, the man assigned to guide the group around, pointed toward a small, solid looking, brick building near the main power plant structure, but separated by a wire fence. "That's Brennerei und Chemiefabrik Schwarza 's electric arc nitric acid experimental facility. It uses electricity to extract nitrogen out of the air. It's been a good source of pure nitric acid for some of the chemical industries, but its dead end technology. When the scientists manage to reproduce the Haber process we'll be able to produce more nitrogen than we can ever need at a fraction of the cost." He waited while Mikkel translated.

"So it's a waste of time," Magnus said.

"Not a waste of time, but they started work on the process back when we still had the original turbine running. Back then we had a surplus of electricity and were glad of any load we could get. But since the turbine was decommissioned we're down to a fraction of our old production capacity, and well, the process just isn't economic when we have to burn coal to produce the electricity. What you need is something self-replacing, like a hydro development." Gannon waited for Mikkel to finish translating. "If you'll follow me, I can show you a hydro development."

Nikulas heard a familiar sound when they walked out of the power station. A waterfall. He could see that when the Ring of Fire happened it cut right across an existing stream and a waterfall of some size had been created.

Nikulas stared at the waterfall. What are those structures running alongside it? He pointed towards them. "What are they doing?"

Gannon grinned. "They're erecting penstocks so they can harness the power of the water to generate electricity. When it's complete it'll add another couple of megawatts to the local power grid. The Greenies are going to be up in arms when theydiscover all the water from the falls is going to be diverted."

Nikulas pondered Mikkel's translation. He had no idea what "Greenies" were, and he had little interest in finding out, but he was interested in the suggestion that the up-timers could take all the water in the waterfall and force it into a set of pipes. "Why do you want to pipe the water down the cliff? It'll fall just as easily on its own."

"Sure, but if they pipe it down they not only don't lose any of the potential energy it has at the top of the cliff, but they can also deliver it right where they want it to extract the maximum amount of energy from it."

"This energy that you extract, is this electricity?" Nikulas asked.

Gannon nodded. "It will be. The water will spin a water wheel, which in turn spins a generator, which produces electricity."

Nikulas smiled. Maybe this was the answer to his prayers. "Can you tame any waterfall?"

Gannon shrugged. "I don't know. I guess so. All you need to do is build a dam and lay penstocks to guide the water into a power plant."

"Why the interest, Nikulas?" Mikkel asked after translating Gannon's explanation.

"Just an idea. I know of some waterfalls back home." He nodded toward Gannon. "Can you ask him how I can tell if they are suitable for 'hydro-electricity'?"

"Hey, just a minute, Nikulas," Magnus said. "I'm sure these hydro-electric systems cost a lot of money. What's the payback? Any waterfalls you know are way up near Meloy and isn't enough people or industry that need electricity."

Mikkel conversed with Gannon for a few minutes before reporting back. "Gannon seems to think that if you have electricity industries will beat a path to your door, especially if it is hydro-electricity. Apparently a hydro system only needs a steady supply of water, and that's free as rain or snow melt."

"What kind of industries?" Nikulas asked.

Mikkel turned back to Gannon and repeated the question.

"Well," Gannon answered, "there's the nitric acid process for a start, and back up-time we used electricity to smelt a lot of metals. Aluminum and nickel especially, and of course you can electro refine copper like we're doing here. Back up-time they used to say the value of the gold and silver recovered paid for the electricity used, and you ended up with electrical grade pure copper to boot."

Nikulas could see Mikkel's eyes widen at Gannon's words. He waited impatiently for him to translate, and then he understood. Gold and silver were worth a lot more here and now than it had been up-time. Surely this was a way to profit from producing electricity. "How do I find out if the waterfalls I know are economic?"

Mikkel translated. "Gannon doesn't know, but he suggests his boss might be able to help.

Glomfjord,

August 1634

Bill Porter had served Nikulas well. Not only did he recommend a man who had trained at Leiden and Utrecht, but Johann Rademacher, originally from Hamburg, spoke proper German. Sure he dropped a lot of American loan words into his conversation, but he could explain them when asked. It was certainly a lot better than working through an interpreter.

Nikulas trailed behind Johann as he walked along the edge of Fykanvatn. He'd expected Johann to be interested in the waterfall, as surely that was why they were here, but he'd all but ignored it. "Why are you ignoring the waterfall? Surely that is the most important part of any hydro development?"

"I've detailed a team to calculate the flow rate. What I'm most interested in is the seasonal history of the lake." He stopped and pointed to the water. "Is this high or low water? How much does the water level vary, and what's the catchment area like?"

"What do you mean, 'catchment area'?"

"The area of ground where rain and snow melt contributes water to this lake." He looked up at the surrounding mountains. "I don't suppose you know anything about the rain patterns around here?"

"Well, I have records for rain and snow on Meloy. For this 'catchment' area, what you want might be in my father's journals. He was very interested in the waterfalls and the lakes feeding them and spent years recording his findings.

"How often did he visit the waterfalls? I'd like to have at least a whole year worth of data. Several years would be even better."

"Father used to visit weekly, even in the depths of winter." Nikulas saw Johann's eyes light up. "This is good?"

"Good. It could only be better if your father made a lot of drawings of the area."

"Oh, he did that too." Nikulas said, to Johann's obvious pleasure. "There are hundreds of his drawings in storage back home."

"Can you bring them to the camp some time?" Johann asked.

"Of course."

"Right, you do that."

Nikulas watched in shock as Johann turned and continued walking. Surely if they had his father's journals there was no need to continue climbing. He hurried after Johann. "Johann, where are you going?"

"You can't beat seeing the ground yourself, and besides, I have a camera." Johann patted the small container hanging from a strap passed over his head.

"What is so important about your camera?" Nikulas asked. Actually, he wasn't sure what a camera was. He'd heard of the camera obscura, but the container was much too small to hold one of them, unless the up-timers had managed to make them smaller.

"It records an accurate image without me having to draw it. If I can get high enough I should be able to get shots of the whole catchment area. If nothing else it'll make the mapping survey easier."

Nikulas sighed. That meant climbing the Ruben. He pointed up the mountain. "From up there you can see all the lakes surrounding the peak."

"Perfect. Lead the way."

***

Johann inhaled the clear mountain air and looked around. From the top of the peak he had a three-hundred-sixty degree panoramic view. It was a pity he didn't have a tripod for the camera, but the thing was heavy, too heavy for him to drag up this mountain. Better to leave that to the survey team photographer with his large format camera and his small army of laborers to carry everything. Instead he'd have to make do with his specially adapted walking stick. He unscrewed the hand grip to reveal a threaded bolt which he screwed into the tiltable clamp he had carried in is rucksack. After he screwed his 35mm SLR camera to the clamp, he was ready to start taking some photographs. He tilted the camera a few degrees and locked the clamp, then, using the pair of bubble levels to keep the walking stick vertical, he rotated the camera taking overlapping photographs. He'd be able to develop them later, although he'd have to view the negatives through a viewer rather than print them out, but they'd do until the team photographer took his survey photos.

With his photographs taken Johann made a quick sketch map showing areas he wanted surveyed properly. Even with just the naked eye he could see this area had good prospects for hydro development. Just south of the lakes feeding into Fykanvatn were another group of lakes. He pulled out his telescope for a better look.

"What are you looking at?" Nikulas asked.

"The area beyond your Nerde Navervatn. Did your father show any interest in that area?"

"Not that I remember."

Johann swallowed his disappointment. The area looked like it could be a natural basin. If dams were built in the right places, and there was sufficient inflow, it could be the site of the greatest hydro system in Europe, which would of course be designed by none other than Johann Rademacher, Baccalaureus artium (Leiden), Magister Artium (Leiden).

Eight days later

"Well?" Nikulas demanded.

Johann shuffled his papers into a tidy pile and placed them on the camp desk he was working from. "The current estimated flow rate from Fykanvatn would, if harnessed, justify construction of a power house capable of producing up to five megawatts. That is sufficient for the project to be considered economically viable. However…" Johann paused. "Nedre Navervatn could, if we added the flow out of Ovre Navervatn, justify building a second power house with a capacity of fifteen megawatts. Together the whole scheme could produce over twenty megawatts." Johann smiled at Nikulas. "That is more than the new Grantville thermal power plant is producing, and the power will be. for all intents and purposes, free."

"Once we've paid to build it all," Nikulas added.

"A minor technicality," Johann said, waving his hands as if the cost was of no importance. "And even better, my estimates suggest the region south of the Nedre Navervatn Falls scheme could produce significantly more power. Of course, we'd have to send the water straight into Holandsfjord, which would reduce the primary scheme's capacity by maybe four megawatts, but the Holandsfjord scheme would have a fall of nearly six hundred meters and could potentially produce more than three hundred megawatts. Of course, this would all take years to complete."

"How may years?"

"At least fifteen years given existing machinery," Johann answered.

"That's too long. What about the smaller schemes at Fykanvatn and Nedre Navervatn?"

"Fykanvatn we can probably get producing inside eighteen to twenty-four months. First we'll have to build a diversion, as the current outflow is landing on the best place to build a power house. If we build sluice gates into the diversion we can then dam the waterfall and start work on the power house and penstocks. Nedre Navervatn will take longer. Fykanvatn is more accessible and the fall is only eighty-eight meters, while the place I'd like to place the Nedre Navervatn power house is on the other side of Fykanvatn, and the fall is nearly four and a half times greater. There is no way we'll be able to move complete penstock sections. So we'll have to use prefabricated sections and rivet them together on site."

Wouldn't it be quicker to just have one power house?" Nikulas asked.

"Maybe, but building the second power house saves us nearly two kilometers of penstocks. One day, when iron is cheaper…" Johann shook his head. "Until then, we plan on a second power house and hope to have everything running inside four years."

"You're saying that inside four years you could tame the waters of Glomfjord?"

Johann nodded. "Subject to weather conditions of course, and events beyond my control, such as war or acts of god."

Nikulas smiled. Just four years and the siren songs of Glomfjord could be silenced. Maybe when the falls were silenced he'd stop hearing Birgitte's cries. "When can you get started?"

"First we need to raise the funds. These sorts of things are never cheap."

"My Tante Inger can do that; she knows everyone. If, as you said, the scheme makes economic sense then she is sure to give it her support."

"That's what I like to see, a landowner with an interest in making things better for his people."

Nikulas struggled to keep a straight face. He'd totally forgotten about the possible economic benefits to the people of Meloy. He'd been more concerned with silencing the siren song of Glomfjord.

It might take a few years, but soon his sister would rest in peace, and her cries for help would be forever silenced.

***

Turn Your Radio On, Episode Five

Wood Hughes

Chapter Fifteen

"Thank you, Jacob! That was wonderful.

"And now, before we introduce this week's talent contest winner, I wanted to let all of you listeners in the Jena area know that the Grantville Pentecostal Church will be holding our first revival of the season this Wednesday through Friday in the field just south of Jena and west of the new railroad tracks. We'll be welcoming all our listeners and their friends to come on down to hear your favorite music and a new take on the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. What's more, starting at three PM on Wednesday, we'll be holding try-outs for talent from the Jena area to win a chance to be featured here on the Ole Timey Radio Hour!

"That's this week right by the tracks just south of Jena on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! It's a revival for Lutherans, Catholics, and all believers in the Lord. I'm especially looking forward to seeing you there!

"And now, this weeks featured winner of our talent hunt. They're a new band from Badenburg and they'll be performing the song "This Old House." Now, let's give a big hand to a wonderful group that I think you'll be hearing a lot more from, The Bad Bath Boys!"

March 1634, outskirts of Jena,

State of Thuringia,

United States of Europe

The surrounding valley seemed to form a natural bowl around the bustling university town. In fact, the Saale River Valley widened out with gentle slopes in forming itself out of the low-lying hills surrounding it. It was easy to see the loveliness of the setting that had inspired a twentieth century poet to comment, "Jena before us, in the delightful valley."

You could tell the impact the rail line was having on the city's growth. The caravan had arrived by midmorning and once they were diverted to the rail siding, it only took a couple of extra hours to finish the wheel changeover so they could drive to the campground that Elder von Eichstedt had arranged for them to use.

The first order of business was to set up the main tent, which was done so the three RV's were parked directly behind where the altar was to be positioned inside the main tent. That way all three onboard generators could be used for lighting in the tent and the surrounding area. While part of Slater's roadie crew worked on this project, the rest set up a canvas curtain surrounding the main tent, forming a courtyard in front of it about four times its size. As planned, this area was set up with two entrances and a section of the canvas wall designed to be removed at the end of the services so their congregants could easily vacate the area. This took at least two more hours than planned. By the time the altar and benches had been reassembled and the lighting was finished and working, not to mention the latrines dug and prepared, it was already after seven with the sleeping tents and equipment still to be finished.

"It looks very good, Brother Dobbs. You've done a great job here."

"Thank you, Reverend Fischer. I don't think Pete would see it that way though. We missed our deadline by three hours."

Fischer grinned. Then, with his dead on impersonation of Pete Enriquez's Cuban accent, replied, "Chu can't make men drive nails two at a time!"

Slater laughed. "Yeah, that's true. The big hang up was the wheel swap. Next time we'll load all the jacks on the lead RV. That way by the time the following train gets here, if they don't have jacks at the siding like they are supposed to, we'll have the vehicle finished and moved off so the siding's ready for the next."

"Next time we'll have done a better job of packing everything so it can be put up as soon as it's pulled out of its carrier vehicle as well. But…" Fischer shrugged. "… that's why we decided to make the first trip to Jena a day early. We don't have to worry about being late for the first service, since all the promotions we've spread out are for Wednesday through Friday. Besides, the more times we do this, the smoother it will go. Be pleased with your handiwork."

Fischer pitched in with the remaining set up until everything was finished and ready for the next evening. Afterwards they all washed up and sat down to eat. Since it was a clear night and unseasonably warm, they decided to eat outside in the courtyard instead of inside the tent. After everyone had gone through the line and found a place to sit, Fischer stood up and gave thanks.

The dinner conversation was filled with anticipation of how their revival would be received in Jena and other cities during the summer. All were nervous but anxious to see what would happen tomorrow. After a while, some of the musicians in the group started an impromptu gospel sing along, which continued until the dishes were done and it was time to turn in for the night.

As Fischer was stepping up into his RV for the evening, he heard someone shout out, "Sleep tight, Preacher! You've got a big day tomorrow."

***

The first clue should have been the attendance at the three o'clock auditions.

Fischer had decided to take an afternoon nap in his RV and to wander over to the auditions a little later to see how it was going. So, being awakened by the furious knocking at his bedroom door startled him. "Preacher? Reverend Fischer? You've got to see this!"

Fischer hopped out of bed, slipped on his slacks and jacket and opened the door to find Slater staring him in the face with a grin from ear to ear. "So, what is it, Slater?"

"Preacher, the tent's full! It's just one and we've already got six bands registered and the tent's full!"

For a moment, Fischer just stood there not comprehending what Slater was saying. Then, with a blink, he realized that the auditions weren't supposed to start till three, the service wasn't supposed to start until seven, and they had no plans to keep a congregation occupied for two additional hours before the service. "Slater, where is Sister Jennifer?"

"She's out there, Preacher. We're all out there, just a glad-handing as best we can." Realizing he was blocking Fischer from leaving his bedroom, Slater stepped back into the galley of the cabin and started up a pot of coffee. "The choir is getting ready to sing some songs in between the audition numbers. That's Sister Jennifer's idea. At least we got the foot washing stations filled with fresh water and ready to go before they all got here.

"Glory be, this is going to be some kind of a revival for sure!"

"That's a fact, Brother Slater." Fischer agreed as he slipped into one of the stools by the galley bar, "This is sure going to be some kind of a revival."

***

The crowd kept coming. By the scheduled seven o'clock start of the service, the crew had removed the wall of the main tent, opening it to the courtyard area as a standing-room-only overflow area and moved around some speakers so that they better covered the unexpected crowd as well. Somehow, they also managed to convince the crowd to leave open a wide corridor from the entrance all the way up to the steps of the altar for the service itself. When the band walked on the side stage dressed in their purple robes, everyone started to quiet down and look to see what was going to happen next at this marvelous new up-time version of a gathering.

From behind them, suddenly they heard the choir sing out, "Get in touch with God (Get in touch with God!), Turn your radio on. (Turn your radio on!)," followed by the sounds of hands clapping in unison. As the crowd turned to see the source of this noise, the Pentecostal choir started to march into the courtyard through the hard won corridor, continuing to sing and clap all the way. As they marched past the congregation wearing their bright blue chintz robes with white collars, they looked like a river flowing down a dry streambed.

The band struck up its musical backup for the choir. By the time the lead singers reached the main tent, the congregation had joined in the singing of this very familiar song and was clapping along as well. When the choir finished filing into their places at the back of the altar, Sister Jennifer walked to the middle of the altar facing the congregation and led them through the end of the verse, then signaled them to silence. There was widely scattered applause at this, and after smiling and turning to various points in the audience, mouthing her thanks, Jennifer motioned the crowd to silence.

"Welcome, brothers and sisters of Jena!" Waiting till the new eruption of applause died down, Jennifer continued, "Welcome to our first Jena Christian Revival. We welcome you Lutherans! We welcome you Catholics! We welcome all of you; no matter what church you normally attend. The Lord brought us all here to share in His good will.

"Now, to help us get started, my choir and I are going to sing a song you might have heard us do on our morning devotional about the unity of the family of God. It's called, 'Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.'" Jennifer turned to her choir and raised her arms over her head and signaled the sopranos to start it off.

Another song followed that one, then Reverend Fischer was introduced. As he came up from behind the choir, two spotlights made from automobile headlights focused on him and his new up-time styled white suit. Again the congregation burst into applause and this time it was Fischer who raised his arms above his head to quiet them.

When they had returned to some kind of order, Fischer pulled his microphone out of his jacket, brought it close to his mouth and began, "Welcome, brothers and sisters! I am Reverend Dieter Fischer, and I am a sinner!"

Thus began his first revival without the comforting presence of John Chalker. Fischer confidently preceded through the touchstones of the message that Chalker and he had worked out as the best way to spread the Word through this land; a culture that was not used to differences of religious opinions-peaceful differences of religious opinions, that is. He praised the Lutheran faith and let it be known that he had been trained at the University in Wittenberg himself. He praised the Catholic Church for having spread the word of Christ around the world in the first place, and noted that even when they found themselves in error, they were just men doing what they believed was God's will. He praised the Anabaptists and the Calvinists, pointing out the many beliefs that were still shared by all of the differing Christian denominations. Then, he added, "If you want to be a Christian in your heart… if you find that you are being spoken to by the Holy Spirit inside you right here tonight… if you feel the need to spread the Word to the ends of the world, start in your church this Sunday!"

This was to be the central point of the revival. The intention was to get the converts they found to become more active in the official church of their own town in attendance and in giving. In this way, Chalker had reasoned that the established churches wouldn't be happy with them, but would find their offering plates filled so much more that they wouldn't know what to do about it.

The real continuation of the revival would be weeknight Bible studies held in the homes of the new converts to Pentecostalism. Just like the first century church, the Pentecostals planned on building their churches in the homes of the believers, and out of the prying eyes of the established religions.

Now finished with his opening, Fischer again turned the service back over to Sister Jennifer and her choir for the more emotional, gospel song portion of their service. Several of these songs were choreographed to be sing-along, and the rest of the Grantville church members who weren't in the blue choir robes or purple band outfits, were dressed in scarlet robes handing out flyers with the words and verses on them so the new visitors could follow along.

Again, Fischer took command of the service, "You can only die once if you are born twice."

Striding rapidly to the front edge of the altar, he continued, "In Revelations, Chapter Two, Verse Eleven, it is written, 'He who overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death. You can only die once if you are born twice.'"

Holding up his Bible as he hurried to the other side, he thundered, "Are you saved tonight? Are you safe from the second death? Who is to know when Christ will come? Are you guaranteed a tomorrow?

"The Lord wants you to know that he feels your pain. The Lord is talking to me tonight!" A number of the Grantville church members in scarlet and choir members in blue raised their right hands to the sky and shouted out, "Praise to the Lord!" and "You tell them, Preacher!"

Fischer lowered the Bible to his side, and turned his head quizzically, "What's that, Lord? There's someone here tonight who is hurt and needs to be healed?" Then, in a louder voice, he called out, "Is there someone here tonight who has broken a limb? Maybe you can't quite get the work out of it that you used to?"

Peering out into the crowd, shading his eyes from the spotlights that continued to track his movements on the altar, Fischer saw a movement. It was an older woman. As she made her way to the aisle, a church member ran over to her and helped her walk up to the stairs. Fischer came down to her and helped her up and asked who she was and what was her problem.

Anna was suffering from arthritis, she said and when she had heard that the Great Reverend Fischer was coming to town and had the power to heal the sick, she knew that God was sending him for her. As Fischer smiled and hugged Anna, encouraging her to continue to share her life story, he could practically feel the emotional response of the gathering before him.

"Anna, do you believe? Do you believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have the power to make a true believer well?"

With tears beginning to stream down her face, Anna cried out, "Yes, Reverend! I believe, I believe!"

"Anna, do you believe that you have to be born twice so as to only die once?"

"Yes, Reverend!" Dropping to her knees before Fischer, she pulled his hand holding the Bible to her cheek and cried out, "Please, help me, I believe, I believe, I believe."

Looking up at Fischer's face, Anna was startled to see a pale white scar almost jump out from the normal skin color of his forehead and for a moment, thought she saw fire gleaming in his eyes.

Handing off his microphone to a church member who appeared at his side, Fischer placed his other hand on the afflicted shoulder and lowered his head. "Then, Anna, the power of the Holy Ghost is already inside you. It has heard your cry and in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, you are healed!"

Fischer pulled his hand off her shoulder, raised it over his head then slapped it back down tightly around Anna's arthritic shoulder.

Screaming, Anna slumped to the ground. As Fischer knelt down to help her up, she screamed again, " I'm healed! My arm, my shoulder, they are no longer locked."

Anna jumped up, and flapped her arms up and down, all the time crying out her thanks to the Lord and Reverend Fischer for having cured her. In the congregation, you could have heard a pin drop. Many just stood there dumbfounded, but as Anna made her way back to her seat, others started to come forward with their own disabilities.

Taking back his microphone, Fischer looked out at the congregation still standing in shock throughout the tent and the courtyard outside. "Are you ready to accept the power that the Lord shows you tonight? Are you ready to pledge your life to your Lord? Are you ready to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in your heart? Then come to this altar tonight. Come and be born again. Come and accept the second birth and be confident in your eternal life!"

Many were healed that first night. Many more came forward to accept the invitation that Fischer offered. Fischer turned none away, but made sure the credit was given to the Holy Spirit and It's power in the individual life, so no one could say that Fischer was a miracle healer himself. Some, who came up with missing legs or severe wounds, were disappointed when Fischer told them that they were not to be cured that night, but that the Lord had a different plan for using that injury to His will.

Finally, at the end of the service, Fischer pointed to the courtyard outside, "Now, tonight's revival is over. But, we'll have Elder Johann Friedrich and his team of church members outside at foot washing stations to help you shake off the dust of your old life. We'll have church members there to hear your needs and to add you to our prayer list. We'll have church members there as long as we need to go to make sure that when you travel home tonight you know that you are safe from the second death.

"Just do one thing for me, though." Fischer placed his right hand over his heart. "The spirit has told me he has great things planned for you. Yes, you! If you will only surrender to His will. We will be here every night for the rest of the week and maybe the revival will continue into the week after that. If you truly want to become a spirit-filled prayer warrior here tonight, place your right hand over your heart like I'm doing now."

As seemingly everyone in the crowd placed their hands over their hearts, Fischer continued, "Now say it with me as we raise our hands to the sky, 'We are born twice, to die once.'"

The crowd took up the chant as Fischer repeated it, moving their right hands smoothly from their left breast to straight overhead. "Born twice… To die once!"

After several minutes and repetitions of this, Fischer wrapped up. "Now, join me in praying that the sinners present will return tomorrow. Join me in praying for the lost who are leaving here tonight at the risk of eternal damnation because they have hardened their hearts to the word of God. Join me in praying that they might have just one more chance to come to the loving Savior. As you rise up in the morning, join me in praying that the men and women who need to hear His Word will find their way to our gathering.

"Now, I am not going to dismiss, because the revival is ongoing. Bring a neighbor with you when you come back tomorrow night. Come back praying and expecting great things. Since I am not closing in prayer, lets sing our way out the door.

"Sister Jennifer. Lead us off into 'Amazing Grace' if you would." The musicians fell silent, and the clear voice of the song leader started with the words "Amazing Grace…" which was picked up by the congregation as they passed into the night.

Chapter Sixteen

April 1634, Grantville,

State of Thuringia-Franconia,

United States of Europe

"Has Jen heard anything from Roy about how people over at Fulda are taking the outcome of the election?" Belle spooned drippings over the top of the lamb shank roast while Susannah finished draining the Swiss chard pot liquor. The fresh baked biscuits and steamed carrots were already on the table as was the tossed salad. "I was talking to Marc Kronzburg. He was very excited that Franconia voted to join the state."

Susannah shook her head. "She hasn't said anything. Jen's not really interested in politics. Ready, Belle?"

Sybella nodded.

"Okay, boys! Soup's on!" Susannah called out as she finished ladling her greens into the serving bowl. "How can it be that almost two years have gone past since the first time I called these friends to this table with those words?"

Belle laughed. "Time flies. Pete was just so excited to find an unopened jar of mint jelly after all these years. He said we were going to 'freak out' on just how good this stuff tastes on lamb."

By the time the ladies placed their loads on the dining room table, Belle's children, Tony and Vicky had, as usual, found their places and tucked their napkins into their collars. Susannah called the men for the second time, "Pete, Dieter, Anton, get in here right now before we throw it all to the hogs!"

"Mama, I'll eat it," Tony cried out as his face signaled to one and all that he didn't want to be passed over for some smelly pigs.

Susannah was barely able to avoid laughing out loud as she said, "Tony, you and Vicky are the hogs we might just have to throw it to!"

Six-year-old Vicky was very upset at this, "Aunt Su-Su, I ain't no hog!"

"No, you're my little piggy and don't you forget it!" Anton said as he rounded the doorway holding their newest addition, one-month-old Michael Magdeburg Beyer. Anton just beamed with pride at his little girl and her prissy little personality. Truthfully, he beamed with pride over his entire family, wife and children included. They had experienced a very big turnaround in their fortunes since fleeing burning Magdeburg three years ago.

With Pete taking his place at the head of the table, and Fischer in his usual position at the foot, they all sat as Dieter said grace.

"Let me make the first toast," Pete announced, raising his wine glass. When the others raised theirs, he continued, "To our wonderful Reverend and friend, Der Fischer! May he save as many souls as there are stars in the sky!"

"Hear, hear! To Der Fischer!" Anton clinked his glass against Fischer's and the others. "I don't know what a revival was up-time, but I do know that nothing like this has been seen in this world since Paul was taken into Roman captivity."

"Thank you all. I've been blessed with good fortune and the wonderful mentoring of Reverend Chalker and the love and support of all my friends here in this church. I'm just the messenger for what you all are doing," Fischer responded before draining his glass. "You know, I feel funny being here tonight and not at Bible study.

Pete smiled, "I'm sure Johann will do fine. If we're going to expect laymen to start teaching Bible studies in all the towns we're about to move into, we've got to start learning how to do it here."

Johann Friedrich was a member of the Elder Class of 1633 who worked as a caregiver at Manning Assisted Living Center.

Conversation continued as dinner was served. Little Michel fell back to sleep in his mother's arms. Miracle of miracles, Tony and Vicky failed to get into a food fight with the lettuce salad.

"So, Fischer, where's the tour taking you next?" Pete asked between bites.

"Reverend Chalker believes we should schedule along the rail line to Magdeburg first, one revival stop per week. That way, the choir and roadies can have enough time to rest between stops, and we can have the time to work with our newly recruited Bible study group leaders here at the church in between. Sister Jennifer and Brother Slater believe they can find enough substitutes to cover for cast and crew members who can't take that much time off from their regular jobs." Fischer cut a second helping of lamb for his plate before continuing, "With this schedule, Reverend Chalker believes we should be able to build towards a big event crowd in Magdeburg by late April or early May. That depends on how close the rail company keeps to their construction schedule, of course.

"After that we'll take a break, then start working the other rail line out to Eisenach. By September, we should have covered the major points on both lines and we'll see what God wants us to do then."

"It's an ambitious schedule, Fischer," Pete said. "But I know that God's been with you ever since I've met you and this is what He wants you to do."

"Changing the subject…" Pete stole a quick glance at Susannah. "I think it's time…" Pete pushed back his chair and dropped to one knee next to Susannah's chair. "Susannah, you've been the salt in my life ever since the Lord guided you to me. Would you make me the happiest man in the world and marry me?"

He pulled a small blue box out of his shirt pocket, and opened it to reveal a small gold band.

Susannah covered her mouth with both hands and tears began to roll down her cheeks. "Peter, I don't know what to say…"

"For God's sake. Say yes, woman," Anton blurted out.

Susannah practically leaped into Pete's arms as she replied, "Yes, yes, yes, yes! Oh my God, yes!"

Once he was able to disentangle himself, Pete took Susannah's left hand and placed the engagement ring on her finger, looking very much like the cat that had eaten the canary.

After the turmoil and congratulations, Pete and Susannah delivered explanations (largely involving her Mennonite family) of why they had taken so long to make the decision. Then Susannah caught Fischer's attention. "Dieter, could you please help me bring in the desert?"

Fischer nodded as he stood up and followed Susannah into the kitchen.

"Congratulations, Susannah! I'm so happy for both of you." Fischer grinned as he watched Susannah pull the pies out of the oven and place them on the hot pads.

Susannah smiled, seemingly never taking her attention from her work as she brought up her primary goal of the night, "Thank you, Dieter. Now, when are you going to do something about Constanzia?"

"Wha…" Fischer was speechless at this unexpected topic.

Susannah put her oven-mitt-covered hands on her hips, then looked Fischer right in the eye. "Now, Dieter Fischer. You know that girl is in love with you. Why else do you think she's been hanging around helping all the other church ladies during the Bible studies? Why else do you think you always found her within a few paces of wherever you were when Hans left on the train that day? Have you even called her since you got home?"

"Well… ah, no."

"You're a good man and a preacher needs to be married. Constanzia is a good woman and she loves you. You must take care of this." Sternly, Susannah added, "This week. Before you leave for your next revival. Now, take one of these pies and let's say no more about it."

Jena,

State of Thuringia-Franconia,

United States of Europe

The Collegium Jenense had been the center of the University of Jena since it's first two professors, Stigel and Strigel and their one hundred seventy-one students moved into the old Dominican monastery in 1548. In his third floor office just under the bell tower, a gray-bearded man dressed in a black vest and robes sat at his desk studying.

"Dean Gerhard?"

The Dean of the College of Theology rose from his chair, bidding Dean Werner Rolfinck, his counterpart from the College of Medicine to enter.

Gerhard asked, "Well, Rolfinck, what's your conclusion concerning those that participated in the healings?"

"I've examined a good number of the patients, Professor. What's more, I've verified their previous history of suffering from the ailments they claim to have received relief from." Shrugging his shoulders, Werner Rolfinck concluded, "All seem to be valid. From what we've learned so far from our up-timer colleagues, some seem to have suffered from one form or the other of arthritis, some may have had nervous disorders, and some may have had other diseases of the mind or body, but as far as my examinations have been able to determine, the outward symptoms seem to be in remission now."

With a small smile, Rolfinck added, "I've seen the inflammation of the cartilage around joints of arthritis sufferers in my autopsy work. If I were able to get any of these subjects into my anatomical theater, I would be able to verify to what degree those conditions have indeed disappeared, but alas, I doubt if we could get that permission from the patients."

Gerhard let himself smile for a brief moment. It was an open joke that no student without a Bible in hand was safe in Rolfinck's presence. The doctor had received permission from the church to perform his autopsy studies on any body the church refused to bury. "No, I'm sure they wouldn't. Unfortunately, that leaves us with yet another unsolved mystery."

"Have you heard anything from Wittenberg yet?"

"No. We are becoming so used to this telegraphy that the Americans have brought us that we become impatient with waits for responses of only a week or so. And, since Saxony chose not to join the USE last year, AT amp;L has found adequate reasons not to extend their lines to Wittenberg.

"However, we have located correspondence with one of our professors from a Dieter Fischer. It was from the right time period for this Fischer to have been of the age to hear lectures in the Faculty of Theology there."

"Then, when do you expect to hear from your colleagues in Wittenberg?" Rolfinck asked.

"I sent a personal courier out Friday, a young theological student to whom I entrusted this responsibility. More than likely, he should be able to bring us a response by the end of the week, Monday at the latest."

"I see." Rolfinck nodded. "And what is your opinion of the theological substance of Fischer's Pentecostal message?"

"Well, it's all based on extrapolations from the first century church, in that it seems valid. They seem to reject the bulk of Christian scholarship from the intervening centuries. They do acknowledge the major creeds, but strongly reject any arguments that the age of miracles ended with the passing of the Apostles."

"Frankly, with the Ring of Fire, they have good supporting evidence."

Gerhard nodded in agreement, "Still, as with all the rest of the future Christian philosophies that flow out of the Ring of Fire, including the Grantville Roman Catholic for that matter, this Pentecostal belief system is heavily influenced by our current day Protestant doctrines. These Pentecostals have gone much further in removing priests or even pastors from the role of intermediary between mankind and our God. They very clearly believe that the third member of the Holy Trinity exists to this day as a direct conduit for God's instructions.

"We noted that Fischer was very careful to disclaim any personal credit for any of the healings that took place last week. Plus, in every theological matter, he always deferred his interpretations of scripture to the interpretation that this Holy Spirit would be offering direct to the congregant, once they had opened the ears of their souls to what It was trying to tell them."

"Then there's this Pentecostal Commentary and Concordance." Dean Gerhard picked the book up off his desk and absent-mindedly began to flip through its pages. "The concordance section seems to be a straight derivative translation of the up-time Thomas-Chain concordance that is standard in a number of the Bibles we've acquired from Grantville since the Ring of Fire. Chalker and Fischer have made some interesting modifications in areas relating to their peculiar beliefs on the end of the age of miracles, of course. But all in all, it's a perfectly acceptable point of view from the Lutheran perspective.

"As far as the commentary goes…" Gerhard grimaced. "It's hardly what we think of as commentaries. It's more of a collection of remembrances or stories that one would tell to a child. I did find quite a number of surprising interpretations of scripture there, but nothing like what the Papists have tried to shovel down mankind's throats all these years.

"Of course, only a theologian would have a problem with that. For the average person, especially someone who had been kept from reading the Bible in his own language by his religion, this might be very powerful. All in all, as the Americans might say, it's a very plain vanilla theology wrapped in an extraordinary amount of emotional appeal."

The two professors looked at each other in silence for a moment, then Rolfinck added, "I can say one thing. It's clear that Herr Fischer is not as confident in his power to restore the wounded and disabled. The students I sent to observe his tent meetings all reported that he would pray for amputees but send them away unchanged."

"Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God," Gerhard quoted from Luke. "You remind me of something. At services yesterday, our chaplain observed a number of our students place their hands over their heart, then raise their open palms to the sky during prayers."

When Rolfink's eyes widened at this information, Gerhard added, "I've instructed him to strictly reprimand any future participants from this sort of behavior.

"This faith apparently rose from a period in the future which had large numbers displaced from their homes due to wars and depressions. It's sure to be very appealing to the displaced thousands upon thousands throughout Europe due to our current wars. It even threatens to be a tool for a concerted demagogue, if that were the Pentecostals' intent. However, I see no theological evidence that it must be opposed at this point. Let's watch how the Reverend Fischer's future tent meetings go, and keep a closer watch on their results."

Grantville

"Reverend Chalker? Ready for dinner?"

Ingrid Nemeth heard the squeaking of chair legs against the wood floor, then, "Come on in, Mrs. Nemeth!"

Ingrid opened the door, and carried her wicker basket into Chalker's office. She placed it on a chair so she could clean off the table to serve Chalker his evening meal. "Well, how have you been today, Reverend?"

"Fine, fine." Chalker set aside the sheaf of papers he had been studying, "I was just going over the figures from young Fischer's Jena revival. I am so proud of that boy."

"He's truly a gift from God, Reverend. We needed someone to continue our faith in this world and He provided Reverend Fischer. I remember Paul's vision that Fischer would be the answer to our prayers."

"Amen to that, Sister." Chalker slowly made his way over to the table and sat down. Then he waited for Ingrid to take her seat and gave thanks.

"I don't know if you've heard," Ingrid said. "At work today, one of our customers came in saying that Fischer was teaching the Nazi salute in Jena. Isn't that ridiculous? I mean, the Pentecostals weren't the only evangelical group to hold our hands up to God during prayers. Just because Reverend Fischer is a German… It's just not right to slander a man like that."

"Many are the places in the Bible that say that the devil saves his strongest attacks for the souls that are doing the best work, Sister Nemeth."

"Amen to that, Reverend. It just burns me up. Attacking our minister for teaching people to reach out to God when the biggest atrocity is that rag that's been forced on us by the new government. What were they thinking?"

Ingrid was referring to the newly adopted United States of Europe flag. That it was a St. Andrews cross was not a problem. That had been the basis of the Scottish and other European flags for generations. However, the display of individual stars on that cross representing the states of the USE and using the background color red had been a point of controversy amongst the up-timer community since it was announced. With that dominant color, from a distance it was impossible to differentiate the USE flag from the old Confederate States of America battle flag also known as "The Southern Cross."

Even the black cross with the added golden crown in the center didn't offset the agitation that some up-timers felt. In fact, a good number of up-timers refused to display it.

"I understand that black, red, and gold are historically German national colors, I do." Ingrid continued, "But they could have used the black as the background color with a red cross just as easily, couldn't they?

"After all the evil things that have been done under that flag, how could Mike Stearns ever agree to let it be used? It puts us in the same camp as Hell's Angels and Ku Klux Klanners. I wrote Terrell and told him that I understood he had to take orders, but I didn't want him to go out of his way to pay any other respect to that piece of filth."

Using this opportunity to change the subject, Chalker asked, "How is Terrell? I've been expecting to hear from him on how his latest studies for the ministry are coming along."

Ingrid beamed, "Oh, he's wonderful. He is really enjoying this telephone and telegraph training he's been assigned to up in Erfurt. The warrant officer who he reports to is from Grantville, but I never met him. Art Berry. I understand his wife still lives off of High Street near the middle school.

"Oh, that reminds me, Terrell said to tell you and Reverend Fischer that Mr. Berry had told him about a way to transmit a radio signal over long distances. Something about linking up two CB or cab radios to form a relay or something like that. Terrell seemed real excited about the idea. I'll bring the letter over tomorrow. He thought Reverend Fischer might be able to do a live remote broadcast from the next revival stop."

Chalker chewed on his fried chicken for a moment longer, then wiped his mouth with his napkin and mused, "A live remote. My, my, wouldn't that be something? They worked real well for Billy Graham, didn't they?"

***

Constanzia was exhausted by the end of the school day. How these up-timers call themselves civilized and not teach their children Latin, she would never know. Every time she brought up a rule derived from Latin, her up-timer students showed the same blank stare as the down-timers scribbled the lesson in their notebooks.

She really didn't pay a lot of attention to who else was in the small crowd on the trolley stop just across the road from the high school. So she was surprised when she heard him call out her name.

"Fraulein Garb! What a pleasant surprise to run into you here."

Constanzia recognized the distinctive baritone voice and felt her face flush like a schoolgirl's. "Reverend Fischer! What brings you here?" Oh God, could I have said anything dumber than that?

"Oh, I was out for a walk and decided to catch the trolley home." Fischer decided that she didn't need to know that he'd been sitting on this bench re-reading the same page of yesterday's Grantville Times for the last forty-five minutes. "Since I've been given Monday nights off, I missed you at Bible study this week. What did you think of how Elder Fredrich handled it?"

"Fine, fine," Constanzia responded as she sat down beside him. "Of course, he's not you, but I think he handled the conversations well. And very importantly, he began and ended on time. As a teacher, I appreciate that."

Fischer was stuck on what to say for a moment, but then added, "That was very difficult for me when I replaced Reverend Chalker. I'm sure Elder Johann will do just fine."

Then he took the plunge. "Since we're here, would you like to share a bite to eat with me? I hate to eat alone. Pete is out of town bidding a new job and Susannah is having dinner with her family tonight."

Constanzia's eyes widened slightly. "Oh, I'm not dressed to go anyplace fancy…"

"Oh no, no place fancy. What do you think of the pizza place downtown? You do teach Italian, don't you?"

After continuing their conversation on the trolley ride downtown and while sharing a pizza, Fischer decided that the time had come for him to ask the question that Susannah had demanded he ask, "Constanzia

…"

As he paused, she thought, Is he about to ask what I think he's been leading up to? Surely not! What will I say? How will I tell Catharina, much less my father?

Finally, Dieter found the words he had been searching for, "Constanzia, as you know, I'm just a simple pastor, but God has been good to me since coming to Grantville… Well, I don't know if you have a boyfriend or not, and I was thinking… I mean… Would it be possible for me to ask your permission to call on you?"

Raising one eyebrow, Constanzia said, "You mean, like going out?"

Now it was Fischer's turn to flush, "Yes, like for going out and seeing each other regularly."

"Why Reverend Fischer! Yes! I'd love to see you regularly." Constanzia broke into a big smile and took his hand in hers.

"Well, in that case…" Fischer placed his other hand over hers. "I guess you'll need to learn to call me Dieter."

Chapter Seventeen

"What are you so damn happy about, Marc?"

Startled by the tone John Grover was using this morning, Der Kronz immediately became cautious, "Why it's the demonstrators, Mr. Grover. They're down the road below the station with their picket signs again."

Three weeks before, on a sales call, one of Marc's advertisers had convinced him that the seventeenth century was the perfect venue for a revival of disco. After dragging Marc into his basement, he pulled out eight boxes filled with the disco hits of the 1970's, albums and disco long playing records alike. Lovingly, he explained how, "… the disco dances. Well, they're just like the dances you dance here in this time period, only faster!"

Dubious at first, Marc agreed to listen to one song. As it played, the man flipped a couple of switches and suddenly, the main room lights went out and millions of small lights seemed to dance around the room, each reflecting a hidden spotlight off of a spinning ball covered with mirrors which was mounted on the ceiling.

If there was one thing that Marc understood, it was opportunity. This was definitely an opportunity. An hour later, Marc walked out of the man's store with a firm advertising contract for an eight week, one hour show to be named The Mirror Ball Disco Hour and a handful of records to take back to the station to convince Deanna Dee of the necessity and public need for a dance show such as this.

"Oh God, no! Not disco!" was Deanna Dee's immediate response.

It took several hours of Marc's best persuasion tactics before Deanna Dee would finally agree to allow the music on the air. And now, demonstrators and pickets outside the station begging for more! Marc could have kissed them all.

In fact, he made it a point to bring fresh pastries every morning since the demonstrators had first shown up, obtained through an advertising trade out of course. Why not? The news of the pro-disco demonstration had made all the local news outlets, except for The Voice of America. As far as Marc could tell, this new show was almost as popular as Live from Thuringen Gardens or The Ole Timey Radio Hour .

At least, his advertisers thought so, and paid for the time accordingly.

"What's wrong, Mr. Grover? Anything I can help with?"

"Maybe." Grover was definitely in a funk this morning. "Come on in my office, Marc. Maybe you can help with this situation."

As Marc followed Grover into his office, he saw that Conrad Mueller, GE head of the tube design project and station engineer Jennifer Hanson were already there. It was readily apparent that they shared John Grover's mood.

"What's wrong?" Marc asked in a worried tone. "Have we burned out another tube?"

"No, the tubes are fine." Jennifer answered.

"It's Art Berry… again," added Conrad.

"Who's Art Berry?" Marc asked.

"It's a long story," John replied. "He's this up-timer radio engineer that got screwed by some goddamned radio station up-time and ever since, he's bent over backwards not to get involved with any corporate politics.

"He's figured out how to set up a universal radio link." John picked a letter up off his desk and waved it in his hand. " Right now. Just as we've made a breakthrough on a solution to the Army contract, a better solution than what Art's come up with, but which won't be ready to go until this fall at the earliest."

"So. What's the problem?" Marc figured he obviously didn't understand something here. It seemed like having a solution now was better than a solution in the fall and while it would have been nice to have had it last year… Well, that was spilt milk.

John snapped out the answer. "The problem is that he won't license his solution to GE. The way I read this is that he's basically setting up his own company to provide long-range communications for private business."

Marc looked confused. "That's not the same thing as what we're doing here, is it?"

Jennifer handled this one, "No. Back up-time we called that 'narrow casting.' Point to point stuff. Here, look at his letter."

Taking a minute to comprehend what Art Berry's letter implied, Marc asked about the contract with the Pentecostals to provide a 'remote link' that Art made reference to.

After Jennifer explained the concept, Marc could feel an opportunity at hand. "If Art Berry can set up a live broadcast from the Pentecostal tent anywhere along the rail line, then he could set up a live remote from practically anywhere else in the USE, right?"

Jennifer looked confused that Marc would ask something that was so obvious. "Well, of course. So long as he's got the relay units to repeat the signal from the starting point to the destination, that's how it should work. Why?"

"It's just so simple. We don't need to license his solution. We just contract with him for live remotes for The Voice of America." Marc looked around to make sure they were all still with him. "Think of what we could do with a live remote broadcast from the main farmer's markets during the commodity reports. Or a live interview with a doctor who's trying to get vaccine to in an area where disease has broken out during The Medical Minute. Or for that matter, just live coverage of the Federal government meetings in Magdeburg, or the elections this fall.

"Who knows how much more advertising revenue I could generate with that kind of programming? Besides, if our contracts say unexpected third party discoveries are to be forwarded directly to the government without setting aside GE's rights, won't Art's say the same thing?" Now Marc knew it was time just to shut up until someone else spoke first.

John thought for a few moments. Finally, he smiled and looked up. "You know, Marc, I think you solved our problem. Let's figure out how to hire Art to start providing live remotes for VOA."

April 1634, Halle,

State of Thuringia-Franconia,

United States of Europe

Fischer was sitting outside the RV after the first night of the Halle revival watching the work being done on its exterior. The first two stops at Jena and Bad Kosen had both been madhouses. The area around the RV's had been crowded with local sightseers and others drawn to the strangers in their up-timer mechanical houses. Since Slater had added fencing around the back of the revival tents during the Naumburg revival last week, the number of local townspeople who were able to just drop in on the tents and RV's where the church members stayed had dropped dramatically. So, it was a complete surprise when he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned see the man dressed in a USE Army uniform with three stripes on the sleeves.

"Sergeant Terrell Nemeth. Reporting for duty!"

"Terrell, what a surprise to see you here! Welcome!" Fischer embraced the Pentecostal's newest minister-in-training. "Sit down and tell me what brings you to Halle."

After Terrell and Fischer had caught each other up on the latest news of Terrell's family back in Grantville, Terrell asked, "What's with the paint crew, Preacher?"

With a smile, Fischer explained, "Oh… well, the last night at Naumburg, that fellow came up to the altar and heard the call."

Fischer pointed to the older man standing on a ladder and painting an outline on the side of the vehicle. "Afterwards, he came back to the camp and introduced himself to me. He's a friend of Joachim von Sandrart, who's a really well-known painter around Europe. Since we set our tent up right where the railroad crossed the High Road, he saw us and the Lord brought him to us. He was so dazzled by our RV that he had an inspiration to paint a religious scene on its sides."

Terrell laughed. "Why not? Back up-time, us hillbillies wouldn't be caught dead at the NASCAR racetracks without some kind of a painting on our trailers. I was just a kid, but it seems to me most of them were ads for motor oil or gasoline, or almost nekkid ladies."

Fischer couldn't help grinning. "So, in the interest of getting the job completed before we get to Magdeburg, our artist and his two apprentices are traveling with us and working on the painting wherever we set up camp. He's laying out the grid and his apprentices are transferring his design to the side of the RV. Then he plans to finish up the faces and specific details. I think he's saving the faces till the end. It's a very fascinating process to watch."

They both watched the process proceed for a time, until Fischer asked, "So, what brings you to the revival? I thought you were still posted in Erfurt."

"I am, but I'm working with Warrant Officer Berry to set up the RCE relay for the test broadcast tomorrow night." VOA had agreed to sell an hour on Thursday night for a live broadcast from the revival coming up in Magdeburg. But, only if Art Berry's new venture, which he called the Radio Corporation of Europe, could successfully provide a live hour-long feed before any problems could find their way on the air. Since Art had planned for a relay to be set up in Halle anyway, the Pentecostals had agreed to pay for the test run from here.

"Art got here last week." Terrell grinned and spread his hands out wide. "Since I had to catch a late train, I decided to drop in on the revival and see the master at work. I didn't realize I'd be watching two masters!"

"Do you think the relay will work smoothly, Terrell?"

His face serious again, Terrell answered, "Absolutely, Reverend. Art is a real good guy and definitely knows his stuff. He's really taught me a lot since I transferred over in January. This point to point communication relay system he's devised is going to revolutionize coordination between the major hubs and VOA's broadcast facility."

Leaning forward, Terrell looked very earnestly into Fischer's eyes. "Keep it to yourself, Preacher, but this war should be over by July at the latest. I can't say a lot, but it's no secret that the fleet is getting ready to make its move soon. That means that Hamburg is still in the way and only Christian's capital at Copenhagen is between it and our army under siege in Lubeck."

Terrell paused. "I don't see how either of those strongholds can stand up to Simpson's navy. From there, it's game, set, match."

Fischer was stunned that the war that had been the background of his entire life could be so close to being over, but Terrell's analysis made sense. All those years of wandering, all the towns struggling with displaced refugees and plague and marauding mercenaries and armies stealing their food and supplies… all of it was almost at an end. It was truly a miracle. If he had not already seen the power of these people from the future to force their will on the world around them, Fischer would never have believed it.

After Halle, only two more stops at Kloster Mansfeld and Stassfurt and then, the Magdeburg revival that they'd been looking forward to was at hand. Fischer marveled at God's timing, bringing His message to the capital at a point in history like this. Peace at last at the end of sixteen years of war. What was God trying to tell him?

Chapter Eighteen

May 1634, Grantville,

State of Thuringia-Franconia,

United States of Europe

The early morning light illuminated the hilltops, creating the illusion of islands in the dark mists of the valleys below. Fischer couldn't sleep, so he got dressed and made his way up to his favorite spot by the old logging road overlooking the roofs of Grantville.

He was anxious about the journey he was to make today. Perhaps coming up here to pray and study would relax him before boarding the RV to Magdeburg.

The view had certainly changed since the first days he brought his notes up here to learn this up-timer doctrine rooted in the earliest days of Christianity. Then, it had been a collection of twentieth century, flat roofs downtown surrounded by nineteenth-century house roofs and spires. Now, most of the cheaper up-time houses, along with the previously vacant lots, were filled with seventeenth-century two- and three-story brick or daub and wattled half-timbered townhouses with good Thuringian red tile roofs.

Even the Five Hollows weren't the same. Where he had once only seen the steeple of his church below, now he also saw the barn that they had built, then converted to a Sunday School building and playground. The remaining part of the missing hollow cut by the Ring of Fire was now filled with a new lake. It was where Fischer himself had been ordained. Now, it was an outdoor amphitheatre built to handle all the new members flocking to the church.

So much was happening. So much was changing. Like the leather bound book Fischer held in his hands. In the last century, when Martin Luther had published the first edition of the Bible written in German, only a thousand copies had been printed. Now, this commentary that Fischer had translated into German from Chalker's lessons was already in its third printing.

Father would have been proud. His only son leading such an important movement.

It had overwhelmed Fischer when the revival first started to travel up and down the rail line after the Jena revival. The driver had called him to the window to see peasants in the fields stop their work and place their hands over their hearts, then raise them to the sky above as the caravan passed by. From the impromptu idea he had come up with at Jena, this new gesture was turning into a symbol of the "Born Twice, Die Once" doctrine that was gaining ground throughout the cities they traveled through. Another change was evident in the way that the USE as a whole was beginning to refer to itself just as "Germany." He heard this phrase more and more often.

Then there was the money. Not only did contributions continue to stream into the church coffers, but they were also hearing reports of Lutheran parishes also receiving greatly increased offerings. Offerings accompanied by the ever-present raised hands during prayers. If he knew his former colleagues in the Lutheran clergy, Fischer suspected it was driving them crazy to see the impact this little tent meeting of his was having amongst their congregants.

Later this morning, Fischer would be leaving for the national capital for nine services over ten days with one being carried live on VOA. For the first time, instead of having to ride back to Grantville in the middle of it all, Terrell and Maria had worked out how to do a live remote broadcast of the Ole Timey Radio Hour from Hans Richter Square.

Even Reverend Chalker was excited over the potential of the next two weeks to spread the word. He had decided that he was going to be at the first night's revival in Magdeburg and would take the altar next Sunday here in Grantville, so Fischer could spend the weekend spreading the Word in the capital city.

"That's final, I won't be talked out of it." Chalker had practically screamed at the Elders who gathered to dissuade him from taking on the grueling task of conducting all five Sunday services. "There's no reason I can't preach from this wheelchair one Sunday. If we're to continue to grow, eventually we're going to have to build a new church in Magdeburg. The more souls we bring to us this first trip, the sooner Brother Fischer will be able to lay the cornerstone of that church."

Fischer had eventually convinced Reverend Chalker to just hold three services, two in the morning and one in the afternoon, for that Sunday only. While this compromise didn't totally please the Elders, they reluctantly agreed that there was no stopping Chalker from killing himself if that's what he wanted to do.

It was Chalker's vision of Fischer founding a new church in the national capital that had obsessed Fischer ever since. Moving from his protected life here in Grantville to a town that had been burned to the ground only three years before. Not only that, but it had also experienced an unbelievable fire which burned even the river itself. He was nervous at the challenge of living in such a dangerous place, away from his friends.

Then there was Constanzia. Over the last few weeks, he saw her in a whole new light. Susannah was right. Fischer now knew that he had been blinded, not seeing her as a potential wife and soul mate. He'd met her older brother, Johann Martin Luther Sulzer and his family. Her brother was a little stiff, but "good people" as Roy Copenhaver would say. Constanzia also let Fischer know that she expected a visit from her father who still lived in Augsburg in a month or so, and asked Fischer to meet him.

Fischer wondered what it would have been like to grow up in such a large, well-established family. So unlike the life that he'd experienced with his father, fleeing Tilly's armies all those years ago.

The bright first rays of the sun breaking over the hills and directly in his eyes caused Fischer to wince, breaking him out of his contemplation. No matter. God has a plan and he's chosen me to accomplish it. So whatever happens will happen and I must accept it.

Then, opening his commentary, he started writing down additional ideas and revelations before getting ready to leave on his pilgrimage to Magdeburg.

May 1634, Magdeburg,

Magdeburg Province,

United States of Europe

The tent set up by the Magdeburg airfield was the same as always, but the canvas curtains surrounding it were quite different. Using the measurements from Exodus, Chapter Twenty Six, the curtained-in courtyard area was now one hundred fifty feet by seventy-five feet with its opening oriented directly to the east. The entrance gate itself was thirty feet wide. What's more, the curtains and tie ropes were now dyed in the same blue, scarlet and purple color pattern as prescribed elsewhere in the chapter.

Just inside the entrance was a brazen altar seven and a half feet square and four and a half feet tall, inside that was a bonfire powered by natural gas. Inscribed on the front of the altar were the words, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. Acts 2:1."

Just like the earlier revival stops, the foot-washing stations were set up on opposite sides of the courtyard, bracketing attendees as they came and left.

Inside the tent, Fischer pushed Reverend Chalker up the altar ramp that was put together especially for this night's service for Chalker's convenience.

"You know, Dieter, we might ought to just keep this ramp. There are a lot of handicapped folks as a result of this war. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Maybe we should build one in the church as well," Chalker said.

Now at the center of the altar, Chalker fiddled with the chair brakes, kicked the foot rests up, pushed himself into a standing position, and started walking around. "Give thanks, Dieter. You're about to come into your own."

Looking thoughtfully out at the rows and rows of benches, he continued, "I miss it, Dieter. I truly do. Sometimes, even with the lights in my eyes, I can see the people out there in the congregation as if the spotlight was shining on them instead of me. They are the ones that come up to accept their call."

"Anyway," Chalker's shoulders slumped slightly, "you'll see it as well one day. Yes, you will."

Then he placed his right hand on Fischer's shoulder and looked him straight in the eye. "Dieter, I want you to be open tonight. I want you to expect that the Holy Ghost is going to talk to you like He's never talked to you before. And when He does, I want you to be ready to hear him. I want you to make sure the congregation out there is ready to hear him through you as well. This is important!

"It might not happen tonight. It sure would be a blessing if it happened tomorrow night while we were on the air, but it might not happen tomorrow night either. You must be ready." Chalker was now gripping Fischer's shoulder with all his strength and almost shaking him. "I feel that there will be a prophecy given to you during this revival and it's going to be of major importance. I just know it."

All the strength fled Reverend Chalker and he let Fischer guide him back to his chair. As Fischer pushed Chalker's chair back to the RV, he felt the butterflies fluttering around inside his stomach and prayed that he would not disappoint this man.

Grantville

"Martin, Laura, the service is about to start!" Constanzia had just placed little Maria in her crib and was turning on the Sulzers new radio set before the revival broadcast began. Their oldest, nine-year-old Heinrich was over at a friends house studying and six-year-old Arnold was in his room playing with his younger brother Martin, Junior.

Laura Turettini, Johann Martin Sulzers' wife of eleven years, walked into the room from the kitchen wiping dishwater off her hands. "Martin, it's time to put your work aside. Constanzia's young man is coming on the air."

"All right, all right! I'm coming." Martin strolled into the living room smiling. "Well, I hope your Reverend Fischer is entertaining tonight. Who knows? Maybe he'll have a visit from his Holy Spirit telling him it's time he came back to the Lutheran faith."

"Now, you hush, Johann Martin Luther Sulzer!" Laura scolded him, adding her patented sharp look for emphasis.

Martin sat down and draped his arm around Laura's shoulders and the radio announcer came on. " At the tone, the time in Grantville will be seven thirty. You are listening to the Voice of America. "

This was followed by a high pitched beep, then the announcer continued, "Now we take you live to the Grantville Pentecostal Church Revival Tour coming to you from Magdeburg Air Field in the first remote broadcast in history. Are you there, Magdeburg?"

For a moment there was silence, then some clicking sounds and you could hear crowd noises and music playing in the background. Somehow, it sounded a little hollow. A voice announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Art Berry. We at the Radio Corporation of Europe are proud to bring you, on this historic occasion, the first live remote broadcast in history. Now, without further ado, let me present to you live the Reverend Dieter Fischer and the Grantville Pentecostal Church Magdeburg Revival!"

This was followed by thunderous applause and the sounds of the choir singing "Turn Your Radio On!"

Magdeburg

Fischer sensed that everything was going according to plan. They had changed the format tonight for the live broadcast. The choir's entrance song was "When The Saints Come Marching In" and another popular gospel song from the Saturday night radio show was added to the front end to get the crowd pumped up before the live relay started.

The new addition at the back of the altar had worked well in its first appearance. Slater and his roadies had set up a white curtain at the back center of the altar. When Fischer came to the point in his sermon that he wanted to jolt the congregation out of their seats, he raised his right arm and thundered out lines that cued the stagehands to be ready. "We were all lost in sin, condemned to everlasting hell fire, but through Jesus' sacrifice. He broke the locks and ripped open the gates to bring the Fire of the Holy Spirit into every man's heart!"

Hearing this, the roadies behind the altar ripped off the white curtains covering a ten-foot-tall glittering cross built out of crossed two by twelve's and painted with reflecting paint used to mark roads back up-time. One of the spotlight operators turned his amber-filtered light directly onto the cross, giving the attendees the impression that this cross was made of solid gold.

The electricity that surged through those gathered was palpable. Fischer knew that even though those who listened to the service over the radio couldn't see the cross, they would be affected by the reaction of the live congregation.

After giving his first invitation of the evening, and closing his on-air portion of the night's revival, Fischer signaled Sister Jennifer to take them out with the song she had chosen to end the broadcast.

While Sister Jennifer sang and the choir belted out their hymn just as they'd practiced, Fischer continued to stand center stage holding his microphone. Suddenly he froze, remembering Chalker's plea that he should be ready for the Holy Spirit to speak to him tonight. He had forgotten to be ready. He hadn't listened; he had been so wrapped up in making sure the broadcast timing was perfect that he hadn't even thought about what the Holy Spirit might be saying to him.

Now, it was almost too late! He would fail John Chalker. What could he do?

Sister Jennifer glanced over at him and saw the blood darkening his face and the scar on his forehead begin to stand out with its seemingly white glow. She walked over to him and called out, "Brother Fischer! Brother Fischer! Are you all right?"

Fischer jerked like a trout being pulled on a hook. Jennifer could see his widened pupils and the intense look that masked his face.

Then, he remembered Terrill. "All is well, Sister Jennifer. I've had a vision."

Jennifer signaled for the choir to stop and the congregation, shocked at this abrupt change, quieted.

Fischer strode forward and raised his mike to his lips, "I have seen a vision! I have seen seven hills of iron and wood cross the sea and circle a tower of blue flame. At the sight of this flame, armies of evil fled back to the far corners of the earth from whenst they had sprung."

Feeling the eyes of the congregation glued to him, and knowing that all over the coverage area of the Voice Of America broadcast, listeners were also hanging on to his every word, Fischer took a deep breath and punched out the rest of his message. "Brothers and sisters, the war is soon to be over! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!"

Bedlam broke out throughout the revival tent. Sister Jennifer seized the attention of the choir and started leading them in "Come Down, Angels."

"Come down, angels, trouble the waters

Come down, angels, trouble the waters

Come down, angels, trouble the waters

Let God's saints come in!"

***

"Well, I'll give it to the man. He sure knows how to lay it on the line." Martin got up to turn off the radio. "Now I understand why his following is what it is."

"Wasn't he wonderful?" Constanzia replied. She had been so worried that something would go wrong. That the wireless relay from Magdeburg would break down or something. "Do you think it's true? That the war will be over soon?"

"He's certainly positive, isn't he, Constanzia?" Laura smiled uncomfortably.

Martin paused, and then answered, "I don't know, little sister. But as my up-timer kids at school would say, he's got a fifty percent chance of having hit a home run. On the other hand, he's also got a fifty percent chance of having struck out in the bottom of the ninth."

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