1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 13:
“Come on in. Good lord, Ed. You’re sopping wet.” Claire Hudson, Mike Stearns’ executive assistant and all-around handywoman, threw a towel at him.
Ed Piazza started patting himself dry. “Evening, Claire. How’s Duke? How are Stoffel and the girls? It’s not cold out and I was nice and dry till a half hour ago, so don’t worry. The roof of the litter that I hired at the train station had a leak that collected the water and poured it down on the seat through a little hole. Looked to me like someone had tried to stub a cigarette out on the canvas. The world is full of assholes. Before I go up and change, what’s the word from Amsterdam? Considering that I’ve been on the train all day.”
“Nothing exciting this evening. I told the operator that if he got word on army radio and he didn’t send a runner right over to tell me, I’d make him sorry. So I guess Rebecca hasn’t had the baby yet.”
“Mike must be wearing out the floors, pacing back and forth.”
“Wearing Becky out too, I expect. She’s probably thinking that she had it easy with Sephie, him being off fighting a battle when she went into labor. Talk about a worrywart. You’d think she’s the only woman in the world who ever had a baby.”
“He’s not in love with the rest of them.” Ed yawned. “I’ll go up and change into something dry before we eat. Same room?”
“Same room, and your clean stuff is in the trunk. Put the wet clothes in the bin at the top of the stairs. Trina will take it down to the kitchen. That’s one of her chores.”
“Any hint about names yet?”
“He’s been so closemouthed you can’t believe it. National security has absolutely nothing on how tight he’s been playing this to his chest.”
Ed put down the tote bag he was carrying. “Here’s something for you from Annabelle.”
“Orange carrots! God bless the woman. The white and purple ones I can buy here taste pretty much the same, but I can’t convince myself that they look right on my plate. It’s weird to get carrot flavor when you’re looking at a vegetable that resembles a turnip. Kiss her for me when you get home.”
“Be glad to.”
Ed put down his fork. “It’s not as if everyone hadn’t expected it. Constantin Ableidinger is definitely running for the USE Parliament from Bamberg district on the Ram Platform. He’s coming through Grantville on his way back from Fulda, to work on developing a common slate of candidates in the upcoming election. We want to have one worked out and ready to go the minute Mike names the date.”
Arnold Bellamy scribbled something on the clipboard lying next to his plate. “Are Ableidinger and his people going to merge into the Fourth of July Party?”
“They’d rather keep some level of independence. ‘Closely allied’ and agreeing not to ever run candidates against each other in the same race is good enough for me. I sure wouldn’t want to see the Crown Loyalists picking up a seat on a plurality because we split the vote between us. Mostly, I guess, they’ll run their people south of the Thüringerwald and we’ll run ours north of it. One thing we’ll have to work out is what will be happening around Suhl and thereabouts. Not to mention Buchenland. I expect that’s one reason he’s been up there, touring around with Henry. Sounding things out.”
“Who are we putting up for Becky’s seat if she’s willing to bow out?” Claire asked. “I swear that I haven’t heard anything. Not a word. Or don’t we know yet?”
“Well, we haven’t approached Becky and Mike about it yet. That’s one of the reasons I’m headed to Amsterdam next. But a lot of the up-timers would like to run Chad Jenkins if the seat opens up.”
“We could do a lot worse. He supported Simpson in 1631, so he might appeal to some of the conservative-side-of-the-middle-of-the-road types who are skittish about Mike. He’s pretty conservative himself. In fact, I was always surprised that he wasn’t a Republican, up-time.”
Ed chuckled. “Given his druthers, I’m sure he would have been. But Chad knew better to think that being a Republican would help him much in the middle of Bobby-Byrd-Land.”
“How would it go over with the new majority in Grantville, though, having an up-timer succeed to a down-timer’s seat?”
“Chad’s good at schmoozing. And there’s no really suitable down-timer in West Virginia County who’s both available and willing to run. They’re…”
“All still too busy making money. Recouping their war losses.” Arnold put a word into the conversation. “Give it five years before one of them starts to eye Becky’s seat. What about the House?”
“Don’t know yet. I want to float a few possibilities past Mike while I’m here.”
“UMWA people?” Claire asked.
Ed shook his head. “Actually, they’re all down-timers I’ve been working with. I don’t know if Mike has even met any of them. He sure hasn’t worked with them, not closely at least. I was talking to Chad and Henry the other day. Henry said, ‘You know, my grandpa used to have a saying. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been hung out on a line to dry and then plumb forgot.’ That’s the way it is, this year. Even looking at it from the province-wide level, sometimes I feel like Grantville’s been hung out on a line to dry and plumb forgot. All the Fourth of July Party bigwigs are in Magdeburg now, busy with Gustav, busy with national politics. International politics, when it comes to the Congress of Copenhagen. They don’t even have time to think about the town long enough to give Henry and the others the okays that they need to move on.’”
Claire sighed. “Henry has a point, you know. As mayor. Before the Ring of Fire, our town was dying. Slower than the other little towns around Fairmont, but dying. All the ambitious kids leaving after high school—well, the way Duke did, and our kids. That’s why they were left up-time. We came back when Duke retired. Then it came back to life after the Ring of Fire, and he got to oversee that. Now it’s dying again. The ambitious people, a lot of them, moving out. Turning into a backwater. He’s having to watch that happen, too. He’s got to be hurting.”
“He has a point about getting the okays. We talk a lot about politics from the bottom up. But the truth is, as far as the party is concerned, Mike and the UMWA have kept it pretty tightly buttoned up from the top down, when it comes to nominations and such. He just…” Arnold’s voice trailed off.
Claire finished the sentence. “Wants to work with people he trusts. Can’t blame him for that.”
Things went on from there.
“And that’s the last I’ve heard from Steve Salatto about the way things are falling out in Franconia.”
Someone knocked on the door. Francisco Nasi glanced up, pushing his glasses back to their proper place on the bridge of his nose. “What is it?”
Samantha Burka poked her head into the room. “You and Mr. Piazza have to finish up now, Sir. The Gustav taking him to Amsterdam will be leaving in less than two hours.”