1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 14:



Chapter 9





            “I’ll get it.”

            Annalise jumped up from the dinner table and dashed for the front hall. “Hello. Yes, Mrs. Piazza? They’re out! They’re out of Basel? They’re okay? Really all right? Not hurt or anything. You’re sure? Just a minute.”

            She left the receiver on the telephone stand and ran back into the dining room. “They’re out of Basel. Oma and Mrs. Simpson and the archduchess. They’re okay. Absolutely okay. Henry, can you come to the phone?”

            She turned right around and dashed again, so she could pick up the receiver again as fast as possible. She didn’t want Mrs. Piazza to think that she’d hung up before Henry could get there. “Don’t go away. He’s coming right now. Thea had to get his cane for him.”


            Denise Beasley spread out the morning newspaper on the kitchen table in her father Buster’s trailer. Her best friend Minnie Hugelmair read over her shoulder. “Isn’t that a hoot? Mary Simpson and the archduchess getting into a plane with the new king in the Netherlands so Jesse Wood could fly them off to Amsterdam.” The girl’s very pretty face twisted into a half-scowl. “I’ve never flown. I bet I would have, by now, if the Ring of Fire hadn’t happened. Maybe we still can, someday.”

            “Oh, sure,” Minnie commented. “I can see it now. We get so famous that a plane lands out in your dad’s storage lot to take us someplace exciting. Not likely. Just not. How about checking my algebra homework before we leave for school?”


            The noise in the Thuringen Gardens was deafening. But on the evening of a day that most people had spent talking about this kind of news, Henry felt like he had to show up. Flying the flag, or something. The Gardens were a kind of symbol for Grantville by now, he supposed. If you really had something to celebrate, you celebrated it at the Gardens. Not to mention—this was where he’d met Ronnie, in the first place.

            “Veronica’s still with Horn’s army, then?” Tony Adducci waved at Thecla to bring him another beer.

            “She’ll be on her way home by the end of the week, they tell me. Horn’s sending her by boat as soon as he can arrange to get her on one with all the necessary safe-conducts and such for passing through the region held by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. Down the Rhine and then up the Main.”

            Chad Jenkins nodded. “Bernhard’s being cooperative, they say.”

            “Just hope that it lasts.”

            Joe Stull grinned. “So, Henry, are you going to climb into that ATV to make the tour of the towns in Buchenland before the snow flies?”


            “We got a new message in from Fulda right before I left the office,” Ed Piazza said.


            “They’re suggesting that since Veronica will be landing at Frankfurt, you ought to extend the tour. Go on down the Kinzigtal and meet her there. There are bits and pieces of Buchenland County along the route until you get as far as Hanau.”

            Martin Wackernagel finished chewing a bite of pretzel. “Not a bad idea. It’s a pretty trip. Not a very good road, but a really pretty trip, especially in the fall when the leaves are turning. I go that road all the time. The Reichsstrasse.”


            “What a hellish racket.” Missy clamped her hands over her ears. “Maybe they should have waited and not had last month’s parade until they got Mrs. Simpson and Mrs. Dreeson back. That would have made for a few more floats.”

            “It would have saved a lot of beer, too.” Denise smirked. “Most of the guys are going to end up just as drunk tonight as they did after the parade. First they strut and then they swill. It’s not as if any of them here had anything to do with what was going on in Basel, but to hear them talk, you’d think that the SoTF Reserves rode into the city with Don Fernando—the king in the Netherlands, whatever he’s called at the moment—and raised the siege at the embassy.”

            “Maybe we should go home early. It’s not as if there’s anyone here we’re interested in, and we’re not close enough to Dad and Mayor Dreeson to overhear anything political.” Missy turned around and tapped Pam Hardesty’s shoulder. “Pam? Are you ready to go?” Then, “Pam? Is something wrong?”

            Pam shook her head, eyes narrow. “No. Not really. I just spotted one of Velma’s less pleasant old boyfriends, over there. Take a sighting past Wackernagel, then a little to the left and four tables toward the door. I don’t want to walk past him. Is there enough room, anywhere, that we could get out one of the other doors?”

            Minnie stood up, swiveling her head. “Not right now. We’d better wait a bit.”

            Missy frowned at Pam. “He didn’t…?”

            “He didn’t. But not for lack of trying. Talk about a nasty, nasty, man. Fish bait.”

            Denise’s nouns and adjectives were considerably more colorful than that, ending up with, “Maybe you’d better let Daddy give you some lessons in dirty fighting. You ought to see what Mom can do.”

            “Benny’s a good man,” Minnie said slowly. “His sister Betty’s husband seems to be a good man, too, but he’s been so sick ever since we came to Grantville that it’s hard to tell what he’d be like if he wasn’t coughing all the time. Betty likes him, though. Her son David’s nice, and so is Louise’s husband, but they’re both about fifty, I guess. How do you tell if someone young is going to turn out to be a good man?”

            “Wait until they’re old,” Missy suggested.

            “Where’s the fun in that?” Denise asked. “Just arrange things so you’re in the driver’s seat.”

            Pam looked at Minnie. “Reputation, I guess. Pay attention to what other girls say. Sometimes it does pay to listen to gossip.”

            “Hell,” Denise said. “Listen to what the guys say. Oh, sure, men say they don’t gossip. They do, though. They just call it ‘shooting the breeze.’ There were a bunch out in Daddy’s welding shop the other day. Older guys, not our age, but it’s all the same. One of them asked, ‘Who did Bobby Fitz marry, anyway?’ That’s what they called Austin O’Meara’s brother—it wasn’t his name, but everyone called him that. I don’t know why. None of you probably ever met him, since he moved away a dozen or so years before the Ring of Fire. But you remember Austin—the one who got killed in a fight here at the Gardens last year. Well, first one of them said it was Obie Conway’s sister down in Kentucky and then they started talking about the job corps and when Bobby Fitz met her and how her folks interfered and she married someone from her dad’s snake handler church instead, but after he died, Obie dropped a word to Bobby Fitz and he gave notice at his job that same afternoon and headed for Pikeville with everything he owned in his pickup.”

            Missy raised her eyebrows. “So?”

            “There wasn’t a one of them who doubted that when Bobby Fitz tore out of town, he had a respectable marriage on his mind, even if it did come with three half-grown stepsons attached. Or that he’d be good to Sandy Jo and her kids. There’s a lot to be said for listening to guys who work with a man. They know how he acts if it’s one of those days that started by dropping an anvil on his big toe and ended by having a big weld go wrong at the last minute.”

            “Yeah, maybe. But Buster’s friends are old enough to tell the difference. I don’t think guys our age really are.” Missy looked at Minnie. “My advice is that you don’t even try to tell the difference now. Just hold back for a while. I’m not planning to get serious for another ten years, at least. Not until I’ve finished all my education and worked for a while. Maybe not until I’ve traveled some, if things settle down.”

            Denise grinned. “No fun and games along the way.”

            Missy shook her head. “I don’t need that kind of complication in my life right now.” She looked at them solemnly. “Neither do the rest of you.”

            Minnie stood up. “Thecla and her flying squad of waitresses have cleared a path along the wall, on the other side of the room from where Pam’s nasty man is sitting. Let’s get out of here while we can.”