1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 49

After the meeting was over and everyone had left the conference room except Stearns, Nasi and Lang, Mike turned to Francisco.

"The one thing we really don't want is any kind of premature confrontation with the Crown Loyalists. I don't know whether it'll come to a civil war of sorts next summer or fall, but what I know for sure is that if it does I want all our ducks lined up in a row, not scattered all over East Jesus because they got disorganized during some second-rate squabble in the spring."

Nasi nodded. "Yes, I understand."

"So. Are there any flash points you can see? If there are, I'd like to make sure they're squelched ahead of time."

"Outside of the usual problems . . ." Francisco turned to look at Lang. "There is the matter of whatever those Huguenot fanatics may be up to. The ones around Michel Ducos – his followers, I should say. We don't know the current whereabouts of Ducos. Cory Joe?"

Lang's sleepy look didn't quite vanish. But he certainly didn't look as alert as his ensuing words indicated him to be. "The don asked me to pull all that information together, Mike. So far, though, it's pretty ragged. Bits and pieces from Nathan Prickett in Frankfurt, which is where they've had a cell for a few months. And a few odds and ends from elsewhere."

"What does it all add up to?"

"Hard to say," replied Nasi. "The problem is that whatever the Huguenots are involved with here in the USE does not directly involve us. Or, it might be better to say, we are simply a means to an end. Their real target is Cardinal Richelieu."

"And why is that a problem – for us?"

"Because it makes it hard to predict exactly what they might do here. Since their aim is on Richelieu, they might do something that makes sense in a French political context but makes no sense at all from our standpoint."

"I'm not quite following you."

Cory Joe spoke up. "Here's an example, Mike. From the latest items we've gotten, it seems as if the Huguenots in Frankfurt may be getting involved with some of our own anti-Semitic groups. Yet there doesn't seem to be any logical reason for that. As fanatical as they may be, Ducos' Huguenots are not anti-Semitic themselves. Actually, that's part of the fanaticism, in a way, since they're extreme Calvinist predestinationists, if that's a real word."

Mike chuckled. "I don't think so, but I get the point. If there are Jews in the world it's because God wants them here and who the hell are you to question His judgment?"

Nasi shook his head. "Of course, one might wonder why the same principle doesn't apply to their political concerns. If Cardinal Richelieu is running France it's because God wants him to and who are you to question His judgment?"

"And it's still more complicated," Cory Joe added, "because it seems that we might be dealing with two different Huguenot outfits, not just Ducos and his people."

Mike cocked an eye. "And the other being . . ."

"Duke Henri de Rohan," said Nasi. "Probably France's most prominent Huguenot political figure. Now residing in Besançon, it seems. And the duke's younger brother Benjamin, the duke of Soubise."

"And to make things still more complicated," said Cory Joe, "we're beginning to suspect that some of the agents on the ground are working for both parties. If so, obviously, one of those parties is getting suckered by a double-agent. But we have no idea which one is which or who's suckering who."

Mike shook his head much the way Chad Jenkins had earlier, as if clearing away confusion. "Boy, I'm glad it's the two of you trying to keep track of this spaghetti instead of me." He scratched his chin for a minute. "All right, I think I get at least as much of the picture as there is to get right now. If so, it sounds as if things have developed enough that maybe Cory Joe should start going down to Grantville on a regular basis. Francisco, you don't really need his services as a bodyguard so long as you're residing in Magdeburg."

"No, I don't. As for the other" – here he smiled, very coolly – "I believe that expression you're over fond of applies here."

Mike chuckled. "'Don't teach your grandmother how to suck eggs.'"

"Yes, that one. We've already set up the premises, with Frank Jackson's co-operation. Cory Joe's heading down to Grantville the day after tomorrow."

For the first time, Cory Joe seemed to come wide awake. "You got any messages you want me to pass on to anybody, Mike? Like, y'know, to your favorite cousin my mother."

Mike made a face. Cory Joe laughed. "Just as well, since I woulda refused anyway. I haven't seen the worthless bitch in months and I'd just as soon keep the streak going." His hard face softened a little. "It'll be nice to see my sisters again, though."